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No new contract for Rapid employees as talks break down, lawsuit advances

Rapid Silver Line bus

Negotiations between Rapid management and union representation appear to have reached an impasse. It follows a lawsuit filed against the transit system, and an employee contract that expired this week.

The contract expired Tuesday at midnight, after negotiations held with a state mediator on Monday that were referred to as unsuccessful by both Rapid leadership and union representation.

Officials with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 836, which represents Rapid transit workers, say the heart of the dispute is changes to employee retirement. Under the Interurban Transit Partnership board proposal, employee retirement would go from a pension to a defined contribution model.

Local 836 President RiChard Jackson has said that would have a profound negative impact on current and former employees.

A statement posted by Rapid leadership on Tuesday says the board “fully intends to follow” previous contract terms while reviewing future options, with the exceptions of collecting union fees through payroll, and methods for employee grievances. It also emphasizes the need to address long-term financial issues.

In the courts, a federal judge again weighed in on a lawsuit filed against Rapid leadership alleging first amendment infringement. The suit accuses the Rapid of prohibiting the passing out of critical flyers at transit locations.

The Grand Rapids Press reports U.S. District Judge Janet Neff upheld an earlier injunction allowing flyer distribution to continue as the suit makes its way through the court system.

Hilary is a General Assignment and Enterprise reporter for WGVU Public Media. She joined WGVU in September 2014 after several years of experience as a local news reporter, anchor and photojournalist in Midland, Saginaw and Bay counties. She's also worked as a financial and business reporter and audio field producer.
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