Wage freeze for Pierce Transit workers

Members of a local union representing more than 700 Pierce Transit employees voted Wednesday to ratify an agreement that has...

Members of a local union representing more than 700 Pierce Transit employees voted Wednesday to ratify an agreement that has no wage increases and redesigns medical and dental benefit plans over a three-year labor contract.

“We all worked hard to come together on a fair deal,” said Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local #758 President Don McKnight. “As I said before, this is about saving jobs, those of our customers and employees.”

“I am very pleased and proud our Pierce Transit employees/ATU 758 members ratified their contract,” said Pierce Transit CEO Lynne Griffith. “We knew employees would recognize the importance of holding down costs so we can keep buses rolling.”

The decision this week is the latest move in an effort to curb budget constraints facing the transportation agency.

Pierce Transit will host a series of nine open houses in September and October before voters decide on a ballot measure on Election Day on Tues., Nov. 6 that aims to help fund transit services. In June, the Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners determined that restoring access to essential services for seniors, the disabled, and people who rely on Pierce Transit required asking voters to approve Proposition 1 in order to utilize the remaining 0.3 per cent (three cents on a $10 purchase) authority.

In June 2011, more than 140 people attended a public hearing at Pierce Transit headquarters in Lakewood to express their concerns over proposed service reductions following a ballot proposal that was rejected by voters in February 2011. In addition, more than 350 people provided spoken or written testimony on the reduction plan. The majority of people told the Pierce Transit Board how essential public transportation is to their lives and how devastating the proposed cuts would be: keeping them from getting to work, attending school, shopping, going to church, and visiting friends.

Still, Pierce Transit riders began to experience significant service reductions in October 2011, when bus service underwent considerable changes throughout the county. Weekday and weekend service were reduced, segments of some routes were cut, and in some cases entire routes were eliminated. Yellow bags began covering signs at the bus stops slated to be closed. Approximately 600 bus stops, including 35 with shelters, were closed. Following that, Pierce Transit Facilities Maintenance crews began physically removing the bus stops, including the sign pole, shelter structure, or bench that may be at the site.

This overall 35 per cent reduction was necessary due to a $51 million budget shortfall brought on by the economic recession and the failed ballot proposal, according to a Pierce Transit spokesperson. Overall, Pierce Transit has made significant cuts in service since 2008 to mitigate the impacts of the recession. Nearly $111 million dollars has been cut or saved, including 43 per cent cut in bus service, elimination of special events service, sale of land and assets, and a 19 per cent cut in staffing — including 31 per cent in management.

Earlier this month, the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber announced its board of directors voted to oppose Proposition 1, arguing the proposed tax levels would push sales taxes for Pierce County to the highest in the state. According to Chamber officials, Tacoma and Pierce County sales tax are tied with Seattle, King County and other cities like Kirkland and Redmond for the highest sales tax rates before the proposed increase.

“The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber has long supported transit in Pierce County — even supplying the headquarters for the establishment of Pierce Transit decades ago,” said Tom Pierson, Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber President and CEO. “Unfortunately, the proposed sales tax levels are simply unacceptable. As the Chamber continues to welcome businesses and jobs to the area, we need to stay competitive with the communities around us. Having the highest sales tax rate in the state is not a distinction Tacoma-Pierce County would want to be known for. Being a community that preserves a reasonably business-and-economy friendly atmosphere is the sort of favorable distinction we should strive for instead.”

Pierce Transit’s first open house to discuss Prop. 1 will be held on Weds., Sept. 5 at 6 p.m. at University Place City Hall, located at 3715 Bridgeport Way West. More information is online at

More information is online here.

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