BEAUMONT — Public transportation in our region’s largest city could soon be in jeopardy.
Beaumont bus drivers are threatening to strike.
They’re the men and women who keep the city moving.
Beaumont’s bus drivers weren’t behind the wheel Sunday. They were on foot outside the Beaumont Transit Headquarters, carrying picket signs and chanting.
They’re threatening to put the brakes on the city’s public transportation system with a strike, If they don’t get what they call fair pay and safer working conditions.
“Safety is well at the top,” said Amanda Haynes, VP of the local Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents city bus drivers. “We have vehicles that have been operating that are below standard. Really they shouldn’t be on the road.”
She says they work in risky conditions and do so while underpaid.
According to Haynes, Beaumont bus drivers don’t make as much as Port Arthur drivers.
“We have longer service than they do,” said Haynes. “They don’t work on weekends. We’re here, some of us are hear 16 hours a day, five days a week. Some six days a week. We’re not asking for anything we don’t deserve. We worked a whole pandemic.”
Haynes says for too long, city government has ignored the bus drivers’ loyal service to the community, and while they don’t want to abandon those who rely on them daily for transportation, these drivers say the time has come for their voices to be heard at city hall.
The city of Beaumont says it cannot get involved in the negotiations with the management company and the bus drivers, but the drivers say it’s the city that holds the purse strings, so they hold city leaders accountable for their situation.
Haynes says Sunday’s picketing is a practice run, since the drivers have never had to do this in the past, but she says with negotiations stalled, a strike seems imminent.
The union would have to give the management company seven days notice before officially calling a strike.
Written by ANGEL SAN JUAN