MCTS drivers to strike

As of 3 a.m. Wednesday, Milwaukee County Transit System workers will go on strike and MCTS service will be suspended.

Leaders from Milwaukee County and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998 negotiated all day Tuesday, but have been unable to come to a compromise. The union rejected the county’s contract proposal on Monday and authorized the strike.

According to a release from MCTS, the County made “significant” concessions to the union today, which included increasing the matching Flexible Spending Account for employees’ health care costs from $500 to $1,000; Putting a limit on the number of part-time drivers it would hire to reduce overtime; and giving some flexibility to mechanics on their personal time.

The union took issue with Milwaukee County’s use of retirees as part-time operators. It described the situation as a “work stoppage, not a strike” in a press conference this evening.

“We will return to work unconditionally at 3 a.m. on July 4,” said Rick Bassler, vice president of the union.

“Despite numerous recent statements from union leaders that their contract dispute was not over money, the union came to the bargaining table today to ask for $8 million in increased wages,” Milwaukee County said in its release.

MCTS has 65 routes that carry about 140,000 riders per day, and that number balloons by tens of thousands during Summerfest, which runs through July 5.

Spokespeople for the union and for Milwaukee World Festival Inc., which operates Summerfest, were not immediately available for comment.

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