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Things get heated at Grand Rapids bus board meeting

Aug 30, 2017

Things got heated at a board meeting for a Grand Rapids bus company over union contract disputes.

One union member was arrested for trespassing, according to Grand Rapids Police officers, after inciting chants against the board members.

Peter Ricketson is with the union that represents drivers and mechanics for The Rapid.

He says the membership is upset they've worked for nearly two years without a contract they consider fair.

“Emotions are high because employees feel that they are being mistreated. We've actually had over 60 drivers alone quit since [last] October,” Ricketson said.

It will be two years this Saturday since the union representing hundreds of drivers and mechanics in Grand Rapids has had a contract.

The union recently voted against a contract proposed by the company.

One source of the conflict is whether to switch from a defined pension benefit to a 401-K style retirement plan. 

Richard Jackson is the union leader. He says the contract negotiations will affect a regional tax renewal that supports The Rapid.

“I think it's very safe to say if there is no fair contract, the chances of a millage are slim to none,” Jackson said.

This millage would support 34% of The Rapid's nearly $44 million annual budget.

Jackson believes both sides could have a reasonable contract agreement, but it just hasn’t happened.

“Workers could have the benefits we like and the transit millage could get funded, but two years later, here we are. Not having what we want,” he said.

There is no timetable for when a new contract will be agreed upon by union members and the board.

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