RTD drivers don’t have the right to strike, Colorado agency rules

Author: Kristen Meriwether, Colorado Politics - February 21, 2018 - Updated: February 21, 2018

RTD light railDenver RTD’s D-Line rolls into the 16th and California streets station downtown.. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The Colorado Division of Labor ruled Tuesday that the union representing Denver’s bus and rail drivers does not have the right to strike. The union had filed “intent to strike” paperwork on Feb. 1, while negotiating a new contract with RTD, which expires Feb. 28.

In addition to requesting wage increases, among other items, the union is seeking double time for mandatory overtime instead of the time-and-a-half currently offered.

Many drivers are working six days per week as there continues to be a driver shortage. The Regional Transportation District says it is understaffed by about 150 bus drivers, and it’s about 59 rail drivers short.

RTD and the union, ATU Local 1001, now heads to arbitration. According to the ruling, both parties must present a list of five arbiters by Feb. 27, with arbitration commencing no later than May 14.

The odds of negotiations taking that long are slim. Taking lessons from previous years’ negotiations, both parties began negotiations in October, giving themselves two additional months to come to an agreement.

“We are still negotiating. We have not gotten to economics yet. But we are very hopeful of negotiating a fair contract at the table,” William B. Jones, general counsel for the union said by phone Monday.

The contract between RTD and the union is set to expire on Feb. 28. and both parties said before Tuesday’s ruling they hoped to avoid a repeat of the week-long 2006 strike. Under the unique labor laws in Colorado, the union had to file “intent to strike” paperwork prior to the deadline as a measure of protection in case negotiations fell apart.

(Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story said a decision was expected Wednesday. It came down Tuesday afternoon, instead.)

Kristen Meriwether, Colorado Politics

Kristen Meriwether, Colorado Politics