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Bus Drivers for Milwaukee County, Wisconsin’s transit system announced on Tuesday evening they will go on a three day strike beginning on Wednesday at 3:00 AM. News of a work stoppage could severely impact economic activity during the final weekend of the 2015 Summerfest music festival held in the city’s lakefront area.
The Amalgated Transit Union Local (ATU) 988 is striking over drivers being asked to contribute more to their health insurance along with hiring part-time drivers to cut down on overtime pay. The Milwaukee County Transit System offered the union a 2 percent pay increase and a 1.3 percent reduction in the employee contribution to pensions. The average bus driver in Milwaukee County makes $62,000 annually in salary, including overtime pay.
Roughly 150,000 individuals use the bus system every day in Milwaukee County. Daily ridership increases by about 20,000 during the 11 day music festival. Some people will take the bus to get home from Summerfest if they plan to have a few beers during an evening of music. With the bus off the table as a safe transportation option, some concertgoers will have to look at alternatives. Ride-sharing companies Lyft and Uber may see increased demand during the three days bus drivers are on strike.
County Supervisor Deanna Alexander warned of the potential of increased incidents of drunk driving during the strike. “This is a major public safety concern and I can hardly believe that the ATU would choose to take the thousands of people drinking at Summerfest hostage during this strike, increasing the risk that those who can’t find a bus they are accustomed to relying on, may get behind the wheel,” said Alexander.
Wisconsin, known for its beer drinking culture, is the only state in the nation that treats first offense drunken driving as a traffic citation. This results in a fine of $872.50 and a suspension of the offender’s driver’s license for up to nine months.