The Rapid and union reach settlement in First Amendment case

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The ongoing contract dispute between The Rapid and its union leadership goes on, but a new development in federal court Tuesday reaffirms the union’s right to distribute literature in public spaces.

In August 2015, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 836 (ATU) filed a lawsuit against The Rapid, alleging that they infringed on their First Amendment rights by threatening to have off-duty employees arrested for distributing leaflets about contract negotiations on publicly available property.

In a press release issued Tuesday, the ATU says that they’re expecting the U.S. District Court to issue a final consent judgment ruling that The Rapid can not interfere with their union employees distributing leaflets on Rapid property that is open to the public.

Both parties agreed to filing the consent decree with the court, which in addition to allowing off-duty union employees to protest, also stated that The Rapid will be dropping its appeal of the court’s original injunction in August. The Rapid also agreed to pay the union’s legal fees.

FOX 17 reached out to The Rapid for comment, and external relations manager Jennifer Kalczuk said this:

“The Rapid agreed to settle the first amendment case so that we could secure control of our property. This agreement accomplishes that while preserving employee rights to free speech.

The ultimate objective is to reach a fair and reasonable agreement with ATU Local 836. With this matter fully resolved, it is our expectation that the Union will return their focus to the bargaining table and address the issues through a productive negotiations process, resulting in a new contract.”

Contract negotiations between The Rapid and the ATU continue.

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1 Comment

  • Patrick

    The Rapid’s future is looking darker and darker every year. Fortunately, the DeVos/VanAnderl political connections just came through with a $57 million grant to build the Laker Line, which they can funnel some of to cover losses on the Silver Line and pay some of these legal costs that they brought upon themselves. And maybe thee will even be some to divert toward sweetening the pot on the new contract for the union drivers, but I wouldn’t count on it amounting to much. The bottom line here is that you can’t put a fancy label on inner-city buses and have people think of them as modern transportation infrastructure in the same way that they think of subways or els. Especially if those buses don’t run everywhere that people want to go, when people want to go there.

    The Rapid’s system isn’t an infrastructure, it is a “cobble-job”. It has been mismanaged and horribly implemented from day 1, and all these years later it is paying for that by being completely unable to meet the needs of the public in anything close to a financially feasible manner. The whole thing ought to be scrapped and someone with successful experience in transportation infrastructure design should be brought in to redesign the entire thing and to negotiate cooperative deals with the neighboring communities which are currently unwilling to deal with GR. It is simply ridiculous that you can not take public transportation between the airport and downtown 24/7. It is idiotic that you can not take public transportation up and down the length of the Beltline, including to one of the area’s most prominent tourist attractions (Meijer Gardens). You can take public transportation between downtown and 60th st, 2 miles away from the nearest public attraction (the Outlet Mall), yet they wonder why so few people use it. And soon you will be able to take it all the way into the next county to GVSU’s Allendale campus, which is nice, but that actually serves more as a school transportation system than a public transportation system. It isn’t as though the non-student public will be using it to go to games (because the line shuts down for the day before the games get out), or to take tours of the campus just for fun. It will be a worse money-loser than the Silver Line is (currently losing $2 million a year), which the Rapid simply will not be able to afford and continue running.

    The math behind all of this indicates celarly that The Rapid can not avoid bankruptcy sometime in the next 5-10 years unless something changes fundamentally and radically, very soon.