Are MARTA Workers Headed To Strike?

BY DAVID STOKES

Contract negotiations between the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, or MARTA, have become so "shaky" and uncompromising the past several months that, in August, the talk of bus drivers and subway train employees of striking was imminent, according to two MARTA workers speaking anonymously to The Inquirer recently for this story. Today, however, the answer is still an unknown of possibility for walking out on the job as the lead union representative working for successful negotiations for MARTA's employees says he "will continue to fight and talk to everybody I need to" to make benefits and pay increase a reality.

While MARTA drivers and other labor workers have not seen an increase in paychecks since 2006, according to local ATU President Curtis Howard, the time is near ceasing for work to continue as usual. Negotiations for new contracts have dragged on for almost two years between MARTA and ATU—to no avail. Although MARTA has seen a change in top management With Dr. Beverly Scott resigning two years ago to take over Boston's transit authority, Keith Parker from Texas has come in as MARTA's new GM/chief executive and into a quagmire of sorts with the latest union-employer contract expiring last summer, in July of 2013. An additional stalemate involves employees' health benefits costs, as well as others, rising, along with Parker possibly preparing to outsource some of MARTA operations which could lead to layoffs or permanent job elimination. When reached last week for the latest developments of negotiation status, ATU's Howard was not totally enthused or optimistic with a reporter. "We didn't receive and have not yet accomplished much as I'd hoped for," Howard exclaimed. "Mr. Parker has chosen not to sit at the (negotiating) table yet, but we're working for a new date where we can hopefully resolve the issues as soon as possible with him." Howard continued, "we're close to making decisions with the monetary issue, but now, we're waiting to see what (Parker's) next step will be." When asked whether a strike continues to be imminent, Howard only said, "legally, we can't do that, and we're working to avoid it." To help the nation's ninth largest transit authority regain financial security, CEO Parker and his labor negotiations team is contemplating the outsourcing of MARTA's paratransit, payroll and information technology operations, among other units, after an audit of 2012 revealed overspending and probable savings of almost $65 million annually would occur if some services were outsourced to companies. However, ATU officials are skeptical of those projections due to their claims of top mismanagement of budget projections for previous years with funds for various MARTA departments. Furthermore, while the latest meeting, on Oct. 8, between MARTA and ATU officials was not beneficial, President Howard says he will forge ahead and "talk to anybody necessary to get some results" with MARTA. He continued, "we will go to the Fulton and DeKalb counties commission board meetings, as well as meet with the MARTA board as soon as we can. We have lots of labor issues that need to be resolved." (Fulton's commission board was scheduled to meet on Oct. 15, although Howard indicated he "has met" with commission Chairman John Eaves, and is prepared to meet again. DeKalb's next commission board meeting will be Oct. 28; however, at presstime, the meeting's agenda was not made and was undetermined whether ATU's Howard would be scheduled to address the MARTA issue.)

Nevertheless, MARTA's director of Labor Relations, Louise Jackson-Williams, indicated recently that despite Parker's absence at the negotiating table, it is ATU's Howard who has yet to formally respond to various proposals rendered by MARTA for the bus drivers and subway operators which is causing the delay of an amicable contract solution. Ms. Jackson-Williams emphasized to a reporter last week that 16 months ago, "we came to the table with a full set of proposals and no response has come (from ATU's Howard). We've made every effort to reach a conclusion for their issues to bring closure as soon as possible; yet, we continue to wait for ATU to be engaged and become serious about bargaining with serious proposals to negotiate with. Thusfar, there have been no responses to any (of MARTA's proposals)." Ms. Jackson- Williams did state that ATU's proposals "would increase MARTA's costs," which is why the need is now for bargaining and, if necessary, compromise.

While Howard admits that the relationship between he and CEO Parker is "not a good one," additionally, he is committed to continue working to eliminate the stalemates. Nevertheless, if the two sides cannot work out the issues at hand, a Fulton Co. or DeKalb Co. Superior Court judge could be instituted to help matters for collective bargaining process to commence. However, the process, two years later now, is wearing thin on some MARTA employees. "We need to get this (pay) issue resolved quickly. Can you imagine eight years without a raise?," said one subway train supervisor who wished to remain anonymous. "It's really unfair and ridiculous." Another worker commenting, but requesting her name not be published, said, "How would he (CEO Parker) have liked to have not received a raise in all these years? It's just totally disrespectful and shows how unappreciated we are." Nevertheless, "we continue to seek a quick and steady resolution while we watch out for MARTA's expenses," stated Lyle Harris, MARTA's chief spokesman. "We don't want to go to court for the collective bargaining process which is why we seek an immediate resolution." (Attempts to reach ATU President Howard for a follow-up interview were unsuccessful by presstime.)


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Booker T. Washington High School Celebrates 90th Founder’s Day

Helping to celebrate the 90th Founder’s Day at Booker T. Washington High School are Mable Thomas (Alum), Georgia House of Representatives; Atlanta Board of Education members Matt Westmoreland, Courtney English-chairman, Leslie Grant, Cynthia Briscoe-Brown and Byron Amos (Alum); Valerie Williams, president—Booker T. Washington Atlanta Alumni Association; Atlanta Board of Education members Jason Esteves and Steven Lee; Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen; Shannon Leslie Adams, president—Booker T. Washington Band Alumni Association; and Clyde Ali Wilson, Booker T. Washington Atlanta Alumni Association.

PHOTO COURTESY OF ATLANTA PUBLIC SCHOOLS

ATLANTA—Named for American college educator, author and civil rights pioneer Booker Taliaferro Washington, Washington High School opened its doors 90 years ago as the first Atlanta Public Schools campus built to provide secondary education to African-Americans.

September 24, 1924 marked the beginning of what would be the first day for thousands of African American students to attend public high school in Atlanta—52 years after a resolution calling for a high school for the city’s black residents. Atlanta’s first African-American City Councilman, William M. Finch made the resolution in 1872.

The school community celebrated its Founder’s Day on September 24, 2014, and it included notable alumni such as Dr. Louis W. Sullivan, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services and proclamations from the Atlanta Board of Education; the offices of U.S. Congressman John Lewis, U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, Georgia State House of Representatives, Governor of Georgia, Georgia Secretary of State, Mayor of Atlanta, Atlanta City Council, and others from the area.

“A very happy 90th birthday to Washington,” said Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen, superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools. “Washington High has been a cultural hub for the city and region since opening. Its alumni are passionate and proud. They have had an impact on Atlanta’s history, and they have changed our world through their successes in education, medicine, religion, and so much more.”

Through the years, the school’s stakeholders have worked to keep the school successful, and a key part of Atlanta’s changing landscape. Its famous alumni include civil rights leader Dr. Martin L. King Jr., renowned educator Dr. Pearlie C. Dove, comedian and entertainer Julian “Nipsie” Russell, and Ambassador Ruth A. Davis. Today, Washington continues its transformative role and offers its students a vibrant, high-performing learning environment that also prepares them for multiple post-secondary education options after graduation.

Currently, Washington High alumni are attending colleges across Georgia and throughout the country, including Agnes Scott College, Dartmouth College, Howard University, Morehouse College, Spelman College, Tuskegee University and the University of Georgia.

The school was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

Booker T. Washington was known as a national leader in higher education for his work at Hampton University and his leadership role in the development of Tuskegee (Institute) University in Alabama. He is also famous for his appearance and speech on race relations at the Atlanta Cotton States and International Exposition in 1895.

Atlanta Public Schools is one of the largest school districts in the state of Georgia, serving approximately 50,000 students across 106 learning sites. The district is organized into nine K-12 clusters with 87 schools, 17 charter schools and two citywide single-gender academies, where students are offered rigorous instructional programs that foster success in school and life. For more information, visit www.atlantapublicschools.us


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