Philadelphia Greyhound workers resist layoffs, speedup, attack on wages

By Osborne Hart
August 17, 2020
Greyhound workers, members of Teamsters Local 623, and union supporters picket at Philadelphia bus terminal July 28.
Teamsters Local 623Greyhound workers, members of Teamsters Local 623, and union supporters picket at Philadelphia bus terminal July 28.

PHILADELPHIA — Greyhound station workers here, organized by Teamsters Local 623, and other union supporters held an informational picket in front of the bus station July 28. The action, which included other Philadelphia-area Teamsters, was a step toward building solidarity as a contract battle with the bosses has opened up.

The workers are resisting company layoffs and speedup imposed under cover of the coronavirus epidemic, and the bosses’ proposal to slash wages to the state minimum of $7.25 an hour in their proposed new contract. Local 623 has countered with demands for expanded safety measures, higher wages and improved working conditions and schedules.

Local 623 representatives began negotiations with Greyhound management in March, as the contract was due to expire. With passenger loads tumbling, the bosses have cut the workforce from some 30 employees, all union members, to nine. They divided the remaining workers onto three shifts, insisting they perform all the jobs — ticket clerk, baggage handler, station cleaner and sanitizer. 

Jerrod Martinez, 24, told the July 28 Philadelphia Inquirer  that after working there for four years he had progressed from cleaner to baggage handler to ticket agent, and his pay had gone up to just over $13 an hour. Since March, he said, he is expected to work by himself on the overnight shift and to do the work of three people, while also cleaning and disinfecting the entire station.

A Pennsylvania state order mandates all businesses to disinfect high-touch surfaces frequently. The bosses promptly responded by loading the extra responsibilities onto the reduced workforce.

The company’s initial “offering” is to cut wages to the minimum wage and cap that at a top rate of $8.63 an hour. The top rate in the expiring contract is $14.77. 

Ashley Cox, a cleaner recently returned from layoff, told the Militant  her current wage is $9.71 an hour, a small raise from $9.49 after she cleared probation. “This is my first union job,” she said, adding she had previously worked in retail. 

This Militant  worker-correspondent met Local 623 Secretary-Treasurer Richard Hooker when I went to talk to workers at the station Aug. 3. Since the rally, Hooker said, Greyhound management agreed to resume contract talks Aug. 5. But, he noted, “there are no face-to-face negotiations. They happen by Zoom.” 

John Staggs contributed to this article.