Drivers Win Dignity by Forming Union, Striking for Fairness


Right in the heart of tourist season on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, visitors and residents alike now will be driven around the island by union bus drivers who just won their first contract.

Bus drivers represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1548 on Martha’s Vineyard approved their first contract, which raises drivers’ pay by $3 per hour. The new contract with Martha’s Vineyard Transit Authority also recognizes seniority among the drivers, provides for double pay for holidays and gives protection to the drivers during layoffs.  

After a courageous 28-day strike, members of ATU Local 1548 voted to approve the new contract 32–1.  “This is a historical day for VTA drivers and a great day for the island. We can now better provide for our families, our jobs are more secure, and we can get back to safely transporting our riders, friends and allies, whose support on the picket lines and year-round was critical in achieving this fair contract,” driver Richard Townes said after the vote.

The agreement follows years of conflict between VTA drivers, the VTA administrator and Transit Connection Inc., the private contractor that operates the island bus lines. The bus drivers were motivated to form a union by concerns about bus safety, a severe driver shortage, wage stagnation, a dangerous reliance on overtime, and abusive management tactics by both TCI and VTA supervisors. TCI fought the union election and refused to recognize the union. The National Labor Relations Board and, eventually, the federal court of appeals ordered TCI to recognize and negotiate with the ATU. 

“After several years without a contract, the Vineyard Transit Authority strike has produced an inspiring victory for Massachusetts,” said Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Steven A. Tolman (TCU/IAM). “There was a great show of leadership from the ATU International as well as a groundswell of support from labor leaders from many unions—they came together united in support for the VTA drivers’ struggle for justice.”