Milwaukee County Transit workers ratify new contract

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Milwaukee County Transit workers ratified a new contract for two years on June 11th. The contract begins immediately. The vote means slightly higher wages, but union members will be paying more in health care benefits.

Union President Alan Simonis represents 900 local workers who work for the Milwaukee Transport Services (MTS). Currently, the County has a contract with MTS. However next year, this could change Simonis said.

"The County Executive Chris Abele has the final say in all labor agreements," Simonis said.

With the expiration of MTS' contract at the end of 2013, Simonis said that one of four other for-profit companies could end up managing his workforce in 2014.

If the county decides to work with one of the other four companies, hundreds of bus drivers could have a new boss and - possibly - hundreds would no longer be employed by that new management.

"We're not really sure," Simonis said about the situation. "That's a big grey area that we have. We're hoping that our membership will be re-hired by the new company."

Supporters of these for-profit companies believe they do a more efficient job of spending tax-payer dollars.

However, Simonis fears a private, for-profit management would put taxpayers last and their need to make a profit, first.

"When these private companies do come in, fares increase, service gets cut - they have to make a profit," Simonis said. "And they do it off the backs of the people that need it the most."

The County Executive's Office did not respond to requests for a comment at this time.

In a statement, MTS said: "It has been a privilege to deliver these services since 1975 and we hope to continue our dedication to Milwaukee long into the future."