DETROIT – Speaking about the recent contract victory for locked-out Detroit Tunnel workers, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1564 President Don Mathis said, “The labor community, the labor movement is still active and alive.”

Mathis commented on a May 9 labor rally called by the Metro Detroit Labor Council to support the tunnel workers, who had been locked out since April 24. Until that rally, the Detroit Tunnel Corporation, recently bought by an Australian multinational, refused to negotiate with members of the ATU, instead demanding onerous concessions.

The rally, which brought together hundreds of transit workers, auto workers and public employees, played a large role in pressuring the company back to the bargaining table, as recently reported in the World.

Mathis told the World that the transit workers had gained a victory because they were able to prevent further concessions demanded by the company. The company sought to take out costs incurred during the corporate takeover from workers’ pay and benefits.

The contract reached will freeze wages over the term of the contract, but will put accumulated cost of living allowances in 401(k) pension plans for the workers. Transit workers also saved a 30-minute lunch break that the company sought to eliminate.

Some concessions, such as a two-tier wage system, Mathis indicated, can be renegotiated in the future. The main point was to get the workers back into the tunnel.

“The victory,” Mathis concluded, “is that the employer did not get the concession he asked for in the beginning.”

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org

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