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MCTS Offers Open Arbitration to ATU Ahead of Summer Events and DNC


MILWAUKEE - With summer festival season around the corner and DNC planning in full swing, the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) has agreed to offer open arbitration requested by Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 998, the union that represents MCTS bus operators and mechanics. This move helps ensure that MCTS’s full attention is focused on making transit a success for both the historic convention and the busiest bus season of the year.  

“We want to put closure on the contract so we can focus on delivering excellent and uninterrupted service for 100,000 passengers a day,” said Kristina Hoffman, spokesperson for MCTS. “Upcoming service improvements, special events and DNC planning all require our immediate attention. We hope ATU recognizes the urgent need to move forward together for the benefit of the community.” 

MCTS had previously offered arbitration on wages and healthcare after more than 14 months of unresolved negotiations.

Offering open arbitration to settle the remaining issues is a major concession for MCTS, as this type of arbitration could result in significant cost increases for MCTS in future wages and benefits. The arbitrator could, for example, give MCTS employees a larger raise than what ATU proposed if the arbitrator determines that doing so is fair and reasonable. Under MCTS’s last economic contract proposal, employees were offered a base wage increase of 4 percent, retroactive to January 1, 2019.

An arbitrator is an independent, third-party consultant who considers facts presented from both sides at the negotiating table. The arbitrator bases his or her decision on a variety of factors, including the interest and welfare of the public, employee morale and comparisons between MCTS and similar employers. Open arbitration means that the arbitrator would not be limited to deciding terms presented in either MCTS’s last offer or ATU’s last offer. 

MCTS remains committed to providing bus operators and other employees with competitive wages and benefits while keeping the focus on delivering safe, reliable and customer-focused transit service to 30 million riders every year. Ultimately, MCTS is seeking a labor agreement that respects employees and ensures that Milwaukee County has a strong transit system now and in the future.

Future negotiation meetings between MCTS and ATU have been scheduled for mid-May but would not be necessary if ATU were to move forward with the offer of open arbitration.