Our View: UA should reconsider First Transit

Our View

In short: If First Transit cannot come to terms with drivers on a new contract, UA should consider finding another company to run its buses.

It took a day of strikes to get First Transit to finally accept the fact that drivers were serious about demands for higher pay and better benefits.

It shouldn’t have even taken a strike in the first place.

Workers have recently spent plenty of time trying to get the company to come to the bargaining table, and the threats of a strike became a reality Monday. It was not spontaneous: First Transit was well aware that drivers would strike if not recognized, and it ignored them anyway. The reduced bus service on Monday wasn’t the fault of the workers and it wasn’t entirely UA’s fault. It all could have been avoided if First Transit had merely sat down with workers.

The strike only lasted one day. Once First Transit realized that workers were willing to fight, they offered to talk.

They didn’t have to make concessions to avoid this strike. They didn’t have to pay drivers $15 an hour. All they had to do was listen, but they refused.

When First Transit refused to listen, students paid for it. Not only did an abbreviated bus system mean more people had to walk everywhere, the University needed to use its vans and personnel to assist. Students are paying the salaries of those UA employees who drove those vans, and that is in excess of what students were already paying for First Transit.

The fact that the entire strike could have been avoided by the simple courtesy of talking to workers demonstrates that First Transit is not putting much emphasis the interests of its workers or UA students. First Transit’s first priority is to run an effective bus system around the University of Alabama, and allowing workers to strike and cripple service is not the way to fulfill that responsibility. When workers complain, the company should not give them the cold shoulder. It should pull out a chair at the bargaining table.

If First Transit is going to put its own power trips ahead of its responsibility to the University of Alabama, UA should find a company to run the transit system that will put enough emphasis on doing its job that it will at least sit down and listen to workers before letting a strike cripple the system. They don’t have to give in to workers’ demands. They just have to hear them.

Our View is the consensus of The Crimson White’s editorial board.