MO: Metro Workers Picket Outside Transit Agency's Headquarters, Demand New Contract

Aug. 28--ST. LOUIS -- Dozens of Metro workers picketed outside Metro headquarters Thursday afternoon to demand the agency finalize a new contract with their union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 788.

The union represents about 1,500 bus and communter train drivers, mechanics and clerical workers, who have worked without a contract for about three years. Its members say they are angered that Metro President and CEO John Nations was recently given a contract extension through 2020 and a $75,000 raise. Nations will earn a salary of $325,000 starting in the fall of 2015.

"If you can get a raise, why can't you give us a fair contract?" asked Pandora Holman, 49, of East St. Louis, who said she had driven a bus for Metro for 26 years. "We need to feed our families."

Tension between the union and transit agency intensified this week when members said they had been barred from distributing leaflets to the public. The leaflets were critical of Nations.

Metro and union workers have been at odds over a proposed retirement plan. A neutral mediator last year said Metro should raise workers' wages and keep their traditional pension plan, with some revisions, instead of putting it in a 401(k)-style plan for future hires.

Nations said the pension model was not financially sustainable.

He said Thursday that the union has been without a contract because union leaders had not allowed members to vote on a proposal nor had they proposed a financially viable plan. He said he hoped the agency and union could resume contract talks soon but said there was nothing scheduled.

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