News

Strike possible

If Clallam Paratransit workers strike next month, riders needing critical medical treatments still will be served, said Paul Bachtel, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

The union's Local 587 represents employees for both Clallam Transit System and Clallam Paratransit, which is part of Paratransit Services Inc. of Bremerton.

Bachtel said prior to the Dec. 31 deadline, the union informed both Clallam Transit and Clallam Paratransit it wanted to renegotiate its three-year contracts.

The union seeks a 3-

percent across-the-board pay increase and step pay raises like those given to Clallam Transit workers.

"Bargaining is going very well with Clallam Transit. We've signed 13 tentative agreements and also signed extensions to keep bargaining. We have a very good relationship.

"But with Clallam Paratransit, we have a poor relationship," he said.

Bachtel said Clallam Paratransit canceled a Nov. 13 meeting and then refused to respond to economic proposals and bargaining rules presented at a Nov. 19 meeting or provide their own proposals.

One of the proposed bargaining rules was that neither side would contact the press.

But when the company did not respond to the union's proposals, the union didn't feel obligated by that and sent out a news release about a possible strike, he said.

Bachtel said the options are filing an unfair labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board or striking, or both.

A meeting for union members scheduled for Jan. 4 is required by the union's bylaws after a contract expires, he said.

At the meeting, union leaders will update Clallam Transit workers on their contract negotiations and then conduct a strike authorization vote with the Paratransit workers, Bachtel said.

"I can't tell you when a strike might occur until the meeting," he said.

The union represents transit workers in Jefferson, Clallam and King counties and the last strike was by King County's Metro Transit in 1977.

Bachtel said unions usually don't make exceptions during strikes but because of the nature of Paratransit's ridership, those who need critical medical care, such as kidney dialysis, will be transported.

The union represents 28 drivers, dispatchers and schedulers, he said.

Reach Brian Gawley at bgawley@sequimgazette.com.

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