August 14, 2015
By Steve Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Labor unions traditionally display a giant inflatable rat to protest employer abuses at job sites. But transit workers in Grand Rapids, Michigan, who are fighting to keep their pensions from being eliminated displayed a different mammal: A 15-foot inflatable camel set up outside the Rapid Central Station on Aug. 12, with “It’s Hump Day” printed on its side.
The city’s Interurban Transit Partnership, nicknamed the Rapid, wants to eliminate defined-benefit pensions and switch all workers to a 401(k)-style defined-contribution plan, saying that “is consistent with trends in the public and private sector.” Amalgamated Transit Union Local 836 President Richard Jackson told the City Commission Aug. 11 that the Rapid’s CEO is becoming "increasingly hostile,” and ATU field organizer Todd Brogan suspects that management will impose the pension changes “unilaterally” when a 60-day contract extension runs out on Aug. 29. Read more