BEAUMONT, Texas — In a response sent to 12NewsNow from the First Transit’s subsidiary, Transit Management of Beaumont, management said that they manage transit operations within the contractual agreement executed with the city.
That does not include setting the budget.
"The additional funding request by ATU 1031, right now at more than $1 million, is not within the approved budget issued from the City of Beaumont and used by First Transit, Transit Management of Beaumont," Beaumont Transit management said.
Management said that the City of Beaumont is responsible for the financials, capital and budget for the Beaumont Municipal Transit System, including all funding requests above the budgeted amount set for the current fiscal year, ending on Sept. 30, 2021.
Also that as the owner of the budget and funding for the Beaumont Municipal Transit System, the City of Beaumont is responsible on how any CARES Act funding is allocated.
Transit management said they have met with the union, Alma gated Transit Union Local 1031, almost ten times since October 2020, the start date of the transit management contract with the City of Beaumont.
After the December 2021 proposal, Transit management said they agreed to additional terms and were continuing to negotiate in good faith without knowledge that ATU 1031 was asking members to vote.
Beaumont Transit workers represented by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1031 said that after after Transit Management of Beaumont First Transit walked away from the negotiations table, they unanimously voted to reject the employer’s final offer and authorized union leadership to call a strike if necessary.
Local 1031, including bus operators, mechanics and cleaners, said prior to the vote, Transit Management of Beaumont First Transit also refused to set any additional dates for negotiations.
This negotiation attempt comes after the Union for Beaumont Transit workers called city buses 'unfit for service' amid safety concerns.
The union said it has been complaining about this issue for two years.
“We have been going to the table with Transit Management of Beaumont First Transit for almost nine months, asking for a fair contract only to get told time and time again that they have nothing to offer us,” Arlon Jackson, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1031 president and business agent, said. “Our members have been coming to work faithfully under terrible working conditions only to continue to be treated as if they and their families don’t matter.”
Jackson said that Transit Management of Beaumont First Transit and the City of Beaumont’s lack of respect for the workers has united the workforce and set the stage for a potential strike.
Sixty nine percent of eligible voters turned out, and 100 percent voted against the offer and in favor of authorizing a strike.
Beaumont City Council awarded First Transit, a private multinational corporation, the contract to manage the system back in October 2020.
“The Union has tried going to Beaumont City Council to get assistance during the contract dispute, but the buck continues to be passed,” Jackson said. “When we proved that this company cuts corners on safety, with 89 percent of buses unfit for service, the city remained silent.
“When we delivered a petition to Kyle Hayes signed by nearly 300 Beaumont residents supporting our request for a fair contract, the city remained silent. As the saying goes, ‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.’”
Jackson said that the Union is in no rush to disrupt service, but the vote grants union leaders the authority to do so when necessary.
“The last thing we want to do is impact our riders,” Jackson said. “However, if that’s what we have to do to get city leaders to stop treating us like dirt, we are prepared to do so.”
ATU played a key role in helping the City of Beaumont to secure grants worth $6.2 million for the CARES ACT and an additional $670 thousand from the American Rescue Plan Act, for which the leaders of ATU International lobbied in Congress.