March 02, 2010

Tuscaloosa SDS Supports Striking Crimson Ride Bus Drivers

Tuscaloosa SDS at the University of Alabama has been playing a big role in offering support to drivers of the school's shuttle buses, the Crimson Ride, as they fight for a living wage. Despite joining Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1208 last May, the drivers have been unable to get a fair contract with First Transit, a corporation notorious for unfair labor practices. In January, students in SDS began riding the buses to talk to passengers about the drivers' struggle and collecting petition signatures to present to University president Dr. Witt and First Transit. Encountering overwhelmingly positive support, the students also began an online petition as well to reach out to national supporters including other SDSers across the country, collecting hundreds of signatures urging Dr. Witt and First Transit to negotiate with the drivers to give them job security, a living wage, and benefits as well as respect on the job. After hearing of student support, First Transit agreed to negotiate on February 18, and so Tuscaloosa SDS and the Network to Fight for Economic Justice set up a national call-in day for the day before the negotiations. Despite hundreds of calls, Dr. Witt said that the negotiations were not in his control and he said he would not make a statement about them. Once again, negotiations stalled when drivers were offered an insulting 17 cent raise. In order to put more pressure on their employer, Crimson Ride drivers decided to strike. Students made signs and stood beside the drivers on the picket line starting at 5am on March 1st. Later in the school day, they handed out flyers to students and urged them not to get on the few scab buses that were running or the scab vans driven by university office employees after Dr. Witt called them to drive under threat of job termination. Students also boarded these scab vehicles briefly to talk to drivers and pass out flyers to passengers. After a few hours of striking, First Transit agreed to come back to the negotiating table. Though the drivers will be back at work on March 2nd, students will be keeping up the pressure on Dr. Witt as the negotiations begin and ask that their supporters in solidarity with the Crimson Ride drivers do the same. Call Dr. Witt at (205) 348-5103 and tell him that these drivers deserve a fair wage!