AUBURN — Fixed route transit drivers at Western Maine Transportation Services’ Lewiston-Auburn citylink bus service won their union election on Wednesday to form a union with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 714. WMTS has a contractual agreement with the Lewiston-Auburn Transit Committee (LATC) to operate the Lewiston-Auburn citylink bus service. The transit operators made the decision to unionize after the firing of a well-respected road supervisor for advocating for drivers.
“We decided to unionize because we didn’t feel like we had any representation at the company,” said WMTS driver Jessica Anderson, who helped organized the new union. “Our road supervisor was fantastic. She had a strong background in transportation, was well-organized and understood our jobs very well, but they fired her for sticking up for us. When they got rid of her and one of our coworkers who had always bent over backwards to fill in wherever she was needed, we all knew we had X’es on our backs and could be picked off willy nilly. When we saw that happen, we knew we needed the protection of a union. As much as management says their door is open, in reality their doors are always closed, their curtains are always shut and they did not listen to our concerns. We just felt that without a union we’re not safe here."
Earlier this year, the company got rid of driver’s paid personal days and dropped the number of their paid holidays from eleven to six. Anderson said the union’s main priorities will be to negotiate higher wages, improve the company’s lines of communication, and restore personal days and paid holidays.
“Things have been taken away and taken away and there’s only one way to stop that — get a union contract,” Anderson added. “We know we still have a battle to fight, but we’re one step closer to getting there.”
ATU 714 now represents nearly 150 transit drivers, mechanics and other staff at the Biddeford Saco Old Orchard Beach Transit, Community Connector in Bangor, the Greater Portland Metro bus line, the Regional Transportation Program in Portland and Western Maine Transit.