Charlottesville Area Transit drivers hoping to form union

Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 4:15 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - New laws make it easier for workers to form their own union, and around 30% of drivers with Charlottesville Area Transit are trying to do just that.

Starting bus drivers make roughly $17 an hour, and many of them say they work more than one job to make ends meet.

Unionizing would mean greater bargaining power with pay, health care, benefits, and more.

John Ertl with Amalgamated Transit Union is a Charlottesville native who negotiates union contracts. He’s trying to get CAT workers on board.

“There’s no transit system in the country that have a full complement of drivers right now. There’s a driver shortage nation-wide, and the best thing we could do here to help expand and grow the system is to invest in the workforce, invest in the drivers, to give them the right to have a union so that they can have a say,” Ertl said.

Charlottesville must act first, though.

“It’s just the city taking a vote to allow their public employees to collectively bargain, and then the city beginning to work out what the specifics of the ordinance would be, and then from there working with employees going forward to negotiate wages and things like that,” City Councilor Michael Payne said.

Payne says Charlottesville City Council will likely be able to take action near September. The union then has a chance of being formally recognized.

“I think unionization and collective bargaining is really important. They give workers a voice on the job, help them get better benefits, and city employees keep our city running. I think it’s definitely a benefit for everyone,” Payne said. “I hope it can also be part of broader efforts to unionize in the private sector and repeal right-to-work in Virginia.”

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