King County Metro union increases salaries, training with new 3-year labor deal

Aug 21, 2023, 10:33 AM | Updated: 11:36 am

king county metro union...

King County Metro bus stop (Joe A. Kunzler Photo/Flickr)

(Joe A. Kunzler Photo/Flickr)

King County Metro and its largest union, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587, finalized a new three-year labor contract that increases wages by approximately 17% over the life of the contract.

The agreement also includes a lump sum retroactive payment, a retention bonus of $2,500, and a one-time $2,500 ratification signing bonus. The deal was ratified August 15 after both parties reached a tentative agreement in June. Negotiations started in May 2022.

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“King County Metro, one of the nation’s most successful transit agencies, provides essential service to the people of King County, day in and day out, linking residents to work, school, play, and everywhere in between,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “None of that outstanding service would be possible without the people who drive the buses and maintain the fleet, and we’re excited to have this new agreement in place.”

The contract also shortens the pay step progression and vacation accrual time for part-time transit operators, with those policies now aligning with what full-time employees earn.

Staffing has been a critical hindrance to King County Metro’s efficiency, as the department has had to cancel and suspend multiple weekday routes and bus routes over the summer. Due to being understaffed, King County Metro suspended routes 16, 232, 273, 301, 304, and 320, with some alternative routes created in their place.

The King County Council’s Transit Committee met earlier this year to come up with solutions to keep the public transportation service viable despite the department’s staffing issues. According to the committee, service reductions would ensure that King County Metro Transit’s schedule would not exceed its operational capacity.

More on King County Metro’s staffing: King County Metro suspending 20 bus routes due to lack of drivers and mechanics

To help mitigate the lack of a full staff, the adopted union contract is providing incentives for new hires, including a $3,000 recruitment bonus in key positions — transit operators, mechanics, and information specialists, among other roles.

“These are opportunities that current transit workers deserve,”  Ken Price, President of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587, wrote in a prepared statement. “And they will help us bring more workers into the workforce to meet the needs of our county.”

The Amalgamated Transit Union is the largest labor organization representing transit workers in the U.S. and Canada, with Local 587 representing King County employees who operate and maintain Metro buses, Sound Transit’s Link Light Rail, and the Seattle Streetcar.

An audit published earlier this year from the King County Auditor’s Office found that the department consistently failed to meet deadlines on significant capital projects, leading to extended deadlines and delays, as well as King County Metro routinely going over budget. The Auditor’s Office flagged the department’s lack of estimation standards, not tailoring its processes to the variety of Metro Transit’s capital projects, and failing to collect and record the processes involved in past projects to analyze the mistakes made as some of King County Metro’s most immediate issues.

But one of King County Metro’s most immediate goals was to finalize an agreement between itself and its Local 587 employees, and with that agreement now in place, the department can look to further work towards its simple ambition: Make public transportation come more often, take people farther, and drop them off faster.

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“The ratification of this agreement marks a key milestone in our longstanding partnership and demonstrates our shared commitment to invest in the members of the country’s finest public transportation workforce,” Metro General Manager Michelle Allison said. “We are proud of this partnership and the work we’ve done together. This agreement strengthens that foundation as we move forward.”

The contract awaits final action by the King County Council.

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King County Metro union increases salaries, training with new 3-year labor deal