Skip to Main Content Skip to Side Navigation Skip to Top Navigation
Home>Transparency>Public Engagement>Labor Relations

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 (On 2/7/19, a 3-year successor labor agreement was approved and adopted by the VTA Board.)

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 the parties are unable to reach an agreement, either side may declare an impasse. If done by VTA, this requires Board approval. Under state law, either party may request, at any point during the negotiations process, 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

Negotiations with SEIU Local 521 concluded as of February 7, 2019. VTA is currently negotiating with ATU Local 265. As part of good faith bargaining, VTA and the union 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 contract expired on September 30, 2018, the terms and conditions of the expired agreement 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 

On January 23, SEIU held a ratification vote for a 3-year successor agreement. Currently, there are 250 active SEIU members on the VTA payroll. Out of those, 155 members voted with 134 voting 'yes' to ratify the contract or 86% of SEIU members who cast a vote. At the February 7 meeting, the VTA Board authorized the General Manager to approve and adopt the labor agreement between VTA and SEIU Local 521. 

ATU Local 265 Negotiations Update

As of March 6, negotiations are still ongoing with ATU Local 265. Multiple meetings have been held, and are scheduled in the future, to continue bargaining in good faith. Current proposals by VTA illustrate that the organization is poised to meet some of the needs of the ATU membership and include a cost of living increase for retirees, increasing the wage progression schedule, and a wage package that is competitive, fair and financially sustainable over the long term. 

Wages

VTA has offered the following wage increase and progression schedule for bus operators. The below table describes a proposed gross hourly wage before any withholdings and/or deductions:
   
 

Based on VTA's Proposal dated 3/6/2019

 
Current (March 2019)

Year 1
(1.5% to base)

Year 1
(1.5% bonus)
Year 2
(2.25% to base)
Year 3
(2.5% to base)
Incremental gross hourly base wages at the end of 3 years
(not including the 1.5% bonus in year 1)
Starting after training $21.03 $21.35 $656.14 $21.83 $22.37 $1.34
(Mid-point - Step 5) $28.04 $28.46 $874.85 $29.10 $29.83 $1.79
Top pay rate $35.05 $35.58 $1,093.56 $36.38 $37.29 $2.24

 

ATU would like to see a system that reduces the time it takes for new bus operators to reach their top salary which currently stands at 48 months after they successfully complete their training. VTA has responded to ATU by proposing a reduction in the pay progression period – the time it takes to move from the base salary step to the top step. Provided that a new operator meets certain qualifying criteria, they will be eligible to reduce their progression period from 48 months to 36 months. The criteria, in general, requires the operator to work their scheduled shifts, receive no substance abuse violations and avoid preventable accidents.

Pension and Retirement Benefits

Most public pension benefits provide for a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) tied to key economic triggers, including CalPERS and Social Security. ATU's pension plan, at the present time, does not have a mechanism to provide for a COLA. VTA has proposed that retirees receive this adjustment, providing a viable opportunity to add value to the retiree benefit.

Additionally, both parties remain far apart on the issue of the pension contribution. ATU union members are now the only employees remaining at VTA (except for ATU employees hired after January 2016), who do not contribute their fair share towards their pension. As of 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 (including ATU employees hired after January 2016) contribute from 6% to 7% of their wages, which is their full share of the employee pension contribution.

VTA is proposing that ATU members contribute to their pension benefit as does the rest of the workforce. VTA’s contribution to the ATU pension has significantly increased over the last five years, from $25.5 million in 2014 to $32.3 million in 2018 – an increase of over 26%. Given the demographics and the volatility of the stock market, this trend is likely to continue. VTA believes it is critical that ATU employees contribute their fair share to the pension plan consistent with the contributions made by all other VTA employees. ATU has rejected this proposal.

Below is a chart of VTA wages, benefits and pensions compared to other Bay Area Transit Agencies.
 
Agency
(Average Hourly Wage)

Wage Increases
(Current Proposal)

Health Benefits Pension
VTA ($35.06) 1st year
3%**
2nd year
2.25%
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

 

 
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.

 

Proposals Traded to Date:

  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
2.0%
3rd year
2.0%
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%
ATU Proposal on 1/25/19 $165 Million
1st year
10.0%***
2nd year
8.75%
3rd year
8.75%
VTA Proposal on 2/27/19 $18.3 million
1st year
3.0%**
2nd year
2.0%
3rd year
2.5%
ATU Proposal on 2/27/19 $147.9 Million
1st year
10.0%****
2nd year
8.5%
3rd year
8.5%
VTA Proposal on 3/6/19 $19.3 million
1st year
3.0%**
2nd year
2.25%
3rd year
2.5%
ATU Proposal on 3/11/19 $80.8 Million
1st year
7.0%
2nd year
5.0%
3rd year
5.0%
VTA Proposal on 3/14/19 $19.6^ million
1st year
3.0%**
2nd year
2.25%
3rd year
2.5%
* includes cost of wages, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment
** 3% total with 1.5% increase to base pay and 1.5% one-time lump sum payment
*** 5% initial increase with an additional 5% increase after 6 months
**** 5% increase retroactive to Oct. 1, 2018 with an additional 5% increase after 6 months
^ Total cost is based on a 5.5% contribution towards pension instead of 6%

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