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Labor Relations

VTA has over 2,200 employees, and approximately 90% of them are represented by four bargaining units, or unions. The VTA Labor Relations Department is responsible for negotiating and administering collective bargaining agreements with representatives from those unions regarding wages, hours, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment.

VTA currently has collective bargaining agreements, or contracts, with the following four unions:

AFSCME Local 101 (American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees) AFL-CIO
            227 AFSCME employees as of December 6, 2018
            AFSCME Contract 2016-2019 (current)

ATU Local 265 (Amalgamated Transit Union)
            1,569 ATU employees (bus and light rail operators, mechanics, etc.) as of December 6, 2018
            ATU Contract 2015-2018 (in negotiations)

SEIU Local 521 (Service Employees International Union)
            254 SEIU employees as of December 6, 2018
            SEIU Contract 2015-2018 (reached a tentative agreement as of 1/16/19)

TAEA Local 21 (Transportation Authority Engineers and Architects Association)
            38 TAEA employees as of December 6, 2018
           TAEA Contract 2016-2019 (current)

VTA employees represented by these bargaining units are subject to the terms and conditions of their respective contracts and the administrative policies and procedures applicable to their position.  VTA is currently in negotiations with ATU Local 265 and SEIU Local 521 for new agreements.
 

Benefits at VTA

VTA offers its employees a generous benefits package which varies by representation unit and employee group. The specific elements of the benefits package depend on each group’s collective bargaining agreements and benefit policies. 
 

The Bargaining Unit Negotiation Process

The goal of a negotiation process is to bargain in good faith to ultimately achieve a sustainable bargaining agreement (contract) that is fair to employees and the public alike. As a contract approaches its expiration, each bargaining unit engages in negotiations which provide a forum for frank and open discussions. These discussions are not typically done in public to maximize the opportunity for a free exchange of proposals and views.

Even after a contract expires, the parties must continue to bargain in good faith for a successor agreement, while the terms of the expired contract continue.

VTA’s Board of Directors provides guidance to VTA management on the overall framework for bargaining. This direction reflects concern for our employees balanced by consideration of VTA’s financial position, review of compensation in comparable transit organizations, and other expenditures VTA must consider in order to provide quality transit service with long-term stability.

It is typical for both management and union leadership to actively trade, review, and respond to proposals from each other during negotiations. Contracts must be ratified by the membership of each union through a secret ballot process. The contract must then be approved by the VTA Board of Directors during a public meeting.

If an agreement is not reached, either side may declare an impasse. If done by VTA, this requires Board approval. Under state law, either side may request that a state mediator be assigned to assist in reaching an agreement.

In the event of an imminent labor action or work stoppage that would have a negative impact on the public, VTA or a union can appeal to the Governor’s Office for what is known as a “cooling off” period. The Governor may then appoint a board to investigate the issues and make a report within seven days. The board may hold hearings and review documents. Strikes and lockouts are prohibited during this seven-day period. 

If a finding is made that a labor action would “significantly disrupt public transportation services and endanger the public’s health, safety or welfare,” the California Attorney General may petition a court for a 60-day “cooling off” period.

Negotiations Underway

VTA is currently negotiating contracts with ATU Local 265 and SEIU Local 521. As part of good faith bargaining, VTA and these unions have been actively trading, reviewing, and responding to proposals. Many elements of these proposals have already reached a point of tentative agreement. Even though the ATU and SEIU contracts have expired (September 30, 2018 and August 5, 2018, respectively), the terms and conditions of the expired agreements remain in effect throughout the negotiation process.  

It is not uncommon to reach a new agreement after the prior agreement’s expiration date. Throughout the negotiation process, there have been multiple proposals that require extensive research, cost analysis, and information from external third-parties. Negotiations can also extend past the expiration date when initial proposals are far apart. 

SEIU Local 521 Negotiations Update 

As of January 16, negotiators for VTA and SEIU Local 521 have reached a tentative agreement. This tentative agreement will go before the SEIU Local 521 membership for ratification. The expectation is that a contract will be ratified by union members by the end of January and approved by VTA Board of Directors at their February meeting. 

ATU Local 265 Negotiations Timeline

As of January 16, negotiations are still underway with ATU Local 265. A meeting is scheduled for next week to continue bargaining in good faith.

ATU Local 265 submitted their first proposal on September 24, 2018. Local 265 initially proposed wage increases of 15% each year for three years, for a total of 45%. In addition, the ATU proposal included other changes to benefits and work rules. The total cost of ATU’s proposal, which includes wages, benefits, and other work rule changes, would be $248.8 million over three years. VTA responded to ATU’s first proposal with a 1.5% raise increase each year, for a total of 4.5% for three years, plus other benefits, in exchange for work rule changes towards improving service and cost efficiencies. VTA’s proposal has a total three-year cost of $11.7 million.

The table below outlines the parties’ proposals over the past four months:
  WAGE INCREASE PROPOSALS TOTAL COST*
ATU Proposal on 9/24/18 $248.8 million
1st year
15.0%
2nd year
15.0%
3rd year
15.0%
VTA Proposal on 11/26/18 $11.7 million
1st year
1.5%
2nd year
1.5%
3rd year
1.5%
ATU Proposal on 11/27/18 $231.18 million
1st year
13.7%
2nd year
13.7%
3rd year
13.7%
VTA Proposal on 12/10/18 $14.49 million
1st year
1.5%
2nd year
1.5%
3rd year
1.5%
ATU Proposal on 12/10/18 $208.98 million
1st year
12.0%
2nd year
12.0%
3rd year
12.0%
ATU Proposal on 12/18/18 $193 million
1st year
11.5%
2nd year
11.0%
3rd year
11.0%
VTA Proposal on 1/11/19 $18.3 million
1st year
3.0%**
2nd year
2.0%
3rd year
2.5%
* includes cost of wages, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment
** 3% 1.5% increase to base pay with a 1.5% one-time lump sum payme

Wages in comparable transit agencies

According to a nationally recognized report from John A. Dash and Associates, ATU Local 265 Operators are the third-highest paid out of 234 transit agencies in the country. Mechanics are the second-highest paid out of 207 agencies. Both job categories are among the highest paid in Bay Area and California transit agencies.  
 
Top 30 for September 2018

Operators
VTA Overall Rank: 3/234

Rank

Mechanics
VTA overall rank: 2/207

$36.40 Boston, MA 1 $46.35 Chicago, IL
$36.05 San Francisco, CA 2 $44.44 San Jose, CA
$35.06 San Jose, CA 3 $42.58 San Francisco, CA
$35.01 Chicago, IL 4 $42.09 San Rafael, CA
$34.07 New York (NYCT) 5 $41.36 Monterey, CA
$33.67 San Mateo, CA 6 $41.26 Boston, MA
$33.44 New York (NICE) 7 $40.93 San Mateo, CA
$33.08 Seattle, WA 8 $38.96 Santa Monica, CA
$32.80 Washington DC 9 $38.77 Santa Rosa, CA
$32.09 Champaign, IL 10 $38.16 Everett (C.T.), WA
$31.61 Rockville, MD 11 $38.08 Oakland, CA
$31.57 Oakland, CA 12 $37.86 Seattle, WA
$31.18 Rochester, NY 13 $37.40 Washington DC
$30.97 Everett, WA 14 $37.34 Los Angeles, CA
$30.21 Pittsburgh, PA 15 $36.25 New York, NY
$30.19 Portland, OR 16 $35.80 Las Vegas, NV
$30.10 Tacoma, WA 17 $35.73 Tacoma, WA
$30.09 Oak Park, IL 18 $34.28 Miami, FL
$29.92 Santa Cruz, CA 19 $34.02 Culver City, CA
$29.78 Santa Monica, CA 20 $33.94 Santa Cruz, CA
$29.66 Hartford, CT 21 $33.71 Tri Cities, WA
$29.60 Los Angeles, CA 22 $33.60 San Diego, CA
$29.48 Honolulu, HI 23 $33.29 Bremerton, WA
$29.47 Providence, RI 24 $33.20 Olympia, WA
$29.46 Baltimore, MD 25 $32.85 State College, PA
$29.34 Everett (C.T.), WA 26 $32.74 Rochester, NY
$29.34 Worcester, MA 27 $32.63 Sacramento, CA
$29.10 Philadelphia, PA 28 $32.63 Hartford, CT
$29.03 Bellingham, WA 29 $32.40 Bakersfield, CA
$29.00 Culver City, CA 30 $32.32 Portland, OR



 

ATU union members also have a highly competitive benefits package. Most members are now the only employees remaining at VTA (except for employees hired after 2016), who do not contribute significantly to the employee share of their pensions. Starting October 2017, the majority of ATU members (1,285) started contributing 1.9% of their wages toward their pension contributions. VTA pays for the share of the employee contribution that is not paid by employees in addition to paying the employer share of the pension contribution. All other VTA employees contribute from 6% to 7% of their wages, which is their full share of the employee pension contribution.

Agency
(Average Hourly Wage)

Wage Increases
(Current Proposal)

Health Benefits Pension
VTA ($35.06) 1st year
3%**
2nd year
2.0%
3rd year
2.5%
Agency pays 100% of the premium (up to Kaiser Bay Area Family Plan); plus $100 towards a more expensive health plan option if ATU member so chooses. ATU Classic Employees (1,285) pay 1.9% toward the 6% employee contribution (effective Oct. 2017).
ATU Employees hired after 1/1/2016 (284) contribute 6% (effective June 2018).
** 1.5% base pay increase with a 1.5% lump sum payment

Below is a comparison chart of wages, benefits and pensions across Bay Area Transit Agencies.
Agency
(Average Hourly Wage)
Wage Increases Health Benefits Pension
SFMTA ($36.05) 1-Jul-16
3.00%
1-Jul-17
3.00%
1-Jul-18
3.00%
Agency pays 93% of plan for Employee.
​Agency pays 83% of plan for Employee +2.
Employees pay their own employee Retirement contribution to SFERA, pursuant to City Charter.
AC Transit ($31.57) 7/1/2016
3.25%
7/1/2017
3.25%
7/1/2018
​3.25%
Effective 1/2014, employees contribute $120/month for benefits. ATU employee pensions are 100% funded by the employer.
SAMTRANS ($31.74) 26-Jun-16
​3% + $300/employee*
Employee contribution is 10%. Effective June 26, 2016, employees pay 6% toward their PERS retirement system.
Santa Cruz Metro ($29.92) 15-Jun-17
0.00%
14-Jun-18
0.00%
13-Jun-19
0.00%
Metro agrees to pay 95% of the CALPERS HMO premium. Effective June 26, 2008 payroll deduction of 8% for entire portion of employee contribution.
Santa Rosa City ($27.93) 2017
3.00%
2018
3.00%
2019
​2.50%
Employee contribution is 12.5% (lowest), 15% (middle), or 20% (highest). Employees contribute 10.5% to their pension, with an effective date of 2016.
* SAMTRANS acknowledges that they are still in the current contract which expired on June 30, 2017.