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Tulsa Transit workers talking strike

Tulsa's bus drivers and maintenance workers are threatening to shut-down the city transit system, but the Tulsa Transit Authority says if they go on strike, they'd be breaking the law.

News on 6 anchor Tami Marler looks at both sides of the issue.

David Teufel has been a Tulsa Transit bus driver for thirteen years. Lately, it's been stressful. “The time goes by so fast. But then the last four or five years, time is drudging. A bunch of us don't even know if we want to go to work that day, because of so much tension." Teufel is a member of the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 892, made up of 128 employees who could soon walk off the job.

Teufel hopes there's a better way, but he doesn't want to lose his rights. "I'd be willing to go stand behind my union. I'm a union man. Always have been."

Tulsa Transit officials say workers like Tuefel are public employees and that makes a strike illegal. Bill Cartwright says Local 892's current contract also prohibits a strike. He says Tulsa Transit will file an injunction in state court and that the court could levy fines against both the union, and the striking workers. He said they could even get jail time.

The union attorney tells the News on 6, there is no contract and there is no law against public workers striking. All the union needs, is an okay from International officials. "We did propose a strike, and we did ask for permission through International, and we will follow their lead and we haven't heard from them."

Tim Sutton says the two disputed issues are automatic dues assessments and dispute arbitration. "It's the meat and potatoes of the union. If you don't have a right to arbitrate correctly, if you don't have the right to assess your members to fight arbitrations, and that's what the assessments are for."

Dana King says federal arbitrators awarded union members tens of thousands in settlements against Tulsa Transit. "They want some kind of arbitration but they really want a watered-down version of arbitration and they want local lawyers instead of an independent arbitrator."

David Teufel says he just wants to enjoy his job again. "But when you got things to worry about, well am I gonna lose my pension lower my wages, because of money shortages, it makes it tough to do the job right."

Tulsa Transit officials say there will be no interruption in service, that he doesn't believe the union has enough support to make a significant difference if they do strike.

The News on 6 spoke with international officials. They say they are considering approval of a public transit strike in Tulsa.
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