Texas Bus System Lays Off Drivers After UFCW Blocks Funding

The Texas branch of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW 1000) has filed a complaint with the Department of Labor to strip the Texoma Area Paratransit System’s (TAPS) federal funding, saying that TAPS had failed to abide by the terms and conditions of federal funding eligibility.

This has resulted in denial of $1.15 million in federal funds for the TAPS Bus System, causing them to shut down urban services effective last Friday.The Department of Labor had proposed a solution involving a Section 13(c) protective arrangement that would comply with federal and Texas law regarding labor negotiations between employees and a political subdivision, which TAPS agreed to but the UFCW opposed.

Complicating the matter is the fact that TAPS, as a political subdivision of the State of Texas, cannot be involved in collective bargaining under Texas State law.

Section 617.002 of the Texas Government Code states:

  1. An official of the state or of a political subdivision of the state may not enter into a collective bargaining contract with a labor organization regarding wages, hours, or conditions of employment of public employees.
  2. A contract entered into in violation of Subsection (a) is void.
  3. An official of the state or of a political subdivision of the state may not recognize a labor organization as the bargaining agent for a group of political employees.

The UFCW maintains that there was a previous agreement between them and TAPS, however it has not been produced and the TAPS lawyers are questioning it’s existence, as well as pointing out it would be void under Texas law regardless.

Ultimately, UFCW’s efforts to pursue a labor agreement in violation of Texas law has resulted in discontinued service for many customers in Texas. According to the TAPS Chairwoman Cary Wacker:

…the actions of union officials in Tennessee are harming thousands of Texoma residents who depend on public transportation and that the employees of TAPS will be laid off.

And that’s exactly what’s happening. According to local news station KTEN, “An estimated 70 drives will be laid off. Nearly 800 TAPS passengers will no longer get rides.”

Worse still, TAPS’ discontinued service affects many children in after-school programs. According to an email sent out by Tammy McNew Blanton, chief executive officer of Girls Inc. of Sherman:

Each day during the school year 50-75 school children (K-6th grades) ride TAPS to Girls Inc. These children are supervised and entertained until their parents get off work. Girls Inc. is only one of 10-12 local children’s organizations that are serviced daily by TAPS.

Most of our families cannot afford after school care for their children and they will be forced to leave them alone.

The UFCW’s insistence on tying up public funding in the courts is costing employees their jobs, customers their transportation, and, perhaps gravest of all, depriving children of their after-school programs.

Americans for Limited Government has called for the elimination of the entire Section 13(c) program. We believe that it is a waste of approximately $4 Billion, and is the root cause of this issue. The reason UFCW has taken issue with TAPS is because of their complicated relationship with Texas state law and Federal labor law.

Eliminating the Section 13(c) program would give TAPS the opportunity to privatize, avoiding all of these issues and allowing the service to resume, and new negotiations with the UFCW to take place without the same complications and issues.

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