On Monday, March 17th, three Progressive City Councilors and Progressive Councilor-Elect Selene Colburn issued the following open letter to CCTA management in support of the bus drivers’ strike.
We, the undersigned members of Burlington’s City Council, are writing in solidarity with the Chittenden County Transportation Association’s organized bus drivers and calling on management to deliver a fair contract that improves public safety and working conditions.
Earlier this week, what’s now being called snowstorm Vulcan delivered up to two feet of snow around Chittenden County. Schools closed, businesses delayed openings, food bank deliveries were canceled, and people struggled to get out of their driveways. The only thing it didn’t slow down was the bus drivers who got us where we needed to be, safely and soundly, as a blizzard raged all around.
A strike will have a major impact on Burlington and the region. Over 9,700 riders a day rely on the drivers to receive transport to school, to work, to medical care, to grocery stores and drug stores, to visit and care for relatives who live one town over. The loss of these essential transportation services will disproportionately impact low income Vermonters, who may not be able to avail themselves of other options.
And yet, the support for the bus drivers has been unwavering. Riders are standing up and announcing their solidarity, day by day. Earlier this week, Burlington high school students delivered a petition to City Council in support of the drivers. In one day, they amassed 500 signatures — almost half the student body. Environmental and social justice student activists at UVM are rising up with a unified voice. In a near unanimous vote, the Burlington school board voted to stand with the drivers in their efforts, rather than to hire non-union workers in the event of a strike. Working people are turning out to rallies and pickets on cold winter mornings and nights; sister unions including the Vermont NEA, the Vermont Federation of Nurses, United Electrics, United Academics and the Vermont State Employees Association are voicing unity.
Drivers are asking for basic rights that everyone understands: reasonable working hours, the security of full time work, and the right to collective bargaining in the face of management conditions that by many accounts include surveillance, bullying, and disrespect. Vermont needs more full time workers who can support families without having to juggle multiple jobs, not more part-time workers without benefits. Vermont and Burlington deserve drivers who can operate safely, without being pushed to the point of exhaustion or intimidation. We deserve a robust transportation system that helps us protect our environment, not one that undermines the principles of sustainability by devaluing the very workers who make it run.
When unionized drivers agree to strike in a unanimous vote, rather than accept the terms of a contract, despite the risks to their livelihoods and their families, it signals a deep concern for the existing working conditions. We call on CCTA to deliver a fair contract to drivers.
Councilor-Elect Selene Colburn, Ward 1
Councilor Max Tracy, Ward 2
Councilor Vince Brennan, Ward 3
Councilor Rachel Siegel, Ward 3