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This week, back to a hot bargaining table for The Rapid bus drivers, mechanics

Aug 30, 2015

Aboard The Rapid bus.
Credit Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Union negotiators head back to the bargaining table Monday morning, on behalf of more than 300 bus drivers and mechanics in Grand Rapids.

“Obviously, things are hot right now,” Local 836 union president RiChard Jackson told me last week, at a packed board meeting of the Interurban Transit Partnership, also known as The Rapid.

About 50 people waited around outside the board room last Wednesday, while the board went into a private, executive session during the meeting.

The crowd became increasingly impatient, chanting “Let us in! Let us in!” after about half an hour passed.

They feel it’s just one example of how administrators have excluded them from talks about what to do about the current defined benefit pension plan. It’s underfunded by $2.6 million, according to a statement The Rapid’s CEO released late last week.

Last week a judge ordered management to allow workers to hand out flyers near the bus station after workers were threatened with arrest.

The contract was set to expire Saturday at midnight. But a spokeswoman for The Rapid said late Friday they’d extend it through Monday, to allow for further negotiations.