By Cody Mello-Klein | [email protected]
Alexandria bus drivers gathered on Saturday to vote on the ability to authorize a strike. The vote passed unanimously.
“We’re not voting to actually go on strike on any date certain,” Chris Townsend, a representative from the Amalgamated Transit Union, said. “We’re voting for the members to authorize the leadership of the union at the bargaining table, which includes some of the members, to authorize some kind of job action, up to and including strike.”
DASH drivers voted to unionize under ATU, a nationwide union that represents transit workers, in November. Since then, workers have been trying to bargain with the DASH administration to increase wages for drivers.
“Our goal in bargaining is to move [wages] up to equality with some or most of the [drivers] around here,” Townsend said.
The wages for Alexandria’s bus drivers are some of the lowest in the region. DASH drivers earn from $3 to $10 less per hour than other drivers in the DMV, according to data collected by ATU.
In addition to increasing wages, DASH drivers aim to address several other key issues, including the lack of a pension plan and the extended progression cycle that prevents them from getting top pay until they have worked for at least 22 years for the company. The standard progression cycle is five to eight years, according to Townsend.
Their vote to authorize a strike comes ahead of the workers’ next bargaining session on May 16 and the start of the summer Metro shutdown on May 25.
“We’re sorry that it doesn’t come on a convenient schedule, but that’s tough,” Townsend said. “We’re going to put on a full court press between now and the shutdown.”
Moving forward, DASH drivers and ATU will lead a series of events to reach out to politicians, members of the media and passengers, increase representation at local government events including DASH board meetings and city council meetings and begin putting in place the “machinery to spend some time in the street,” Townsend said.
“Our goal as a union is to right a lot of really historical wrongs here with these workers and to get them on the path to the future,” Townsend said.