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MTU bus drivers picket for raises at La Crosse bus station



La Crosse bus drivers picket at the Grand River Station on Jan. 30, 2023 (PHOTO: Brad Williams)

They want “respect,” and a higher raise.

La Crosse city bus drivers picketed for a pay increase on Monday outside the downtown MTU station.

Transit union Local 519 president Todd Strasser said drivers are seeking a 4.5 percent raise, compared to the city’s offer of 2.9 percent.

Strasser told reporters it’s tough to find enough drivers to keep the buses rolling.

“We’re competing with (employers), looking for help right now with a $20,000 sign-on bonus,” Strasser said. “We live in this community, we move this community, and let’s come together and get a deal done.”

Strasser, on the Democratic Voice podcast, said MTU management received what amounted to 14 percent raises over the past 24 months.

La Crosse Mayor Mitch Reynolds released a statement, saying four employees in the transit department received step increases as part of a department reclassification.

“Those same employees were part of a restructuring of Transit that led to a reclassification of roles and additional job duties and responsibilities and a necessary pay increase due to the reclassification,” Reynolds said. “These employees also received cost of living adjustments (COLA) of 1% for 2020, 0% for 2021, 0% for 2022.”

Reynolds added that all drivers union members received at least a 7.6 percent increase over a recent three-year period.

He, too, noted the city will not take part in “public negotiation” over a bus driver contract.

Strasser said the drivers should get more than what the city’s offering for all they do.

“Three, four years ago, we were ‘heroes,’” he said. “We moved people in this city during the pandemic, knowing we had people with COVID on our bus. Some of our last passengers’ rides to the hospital was on the La Crosse MTU.”

The mayor had been scheduled to speak at the onset of MTU Equity week Monday afternoon, just after the scheduled union drivers picket, but the event was postponed, in part because of the frigid weather downtown.

MTU buses leave the Grand River Station on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023 (PHOTO: Brad Williams)

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Jennifer Chase

    January 30, 2023 at 11:37 pm

    Our bus drivers are very important to us! They do a lot of extra things that are not required but they are great at their jobs and they don’t mind helping people, whether it be with directions, correct bus numbers, or just smiling and greeting riders. And they really do put up with a lot of personalities and issues on a daily basis. I don’t think it should be a second thought to give them the raise they are asking for! Those of us that rely on the bus for transportation to and from work, appointments, going to the groceries store, school, etc, could not be without our driver’s and we don’t think they are replaceable!

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