Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) bus drivers threatened to go on strike due to unsafe working conditions, long hours and lower pay on Jan. 7. On Feb. 4, the strike was averted when drivers voted in favor of an improved contract. However, the company should have taken action sooner to bring justice to its employees. 

Bus drivers were further encouraged to strike after the company's lack of change and response after the murder of their fellow bus driver, Ethan Rivera. Rivera was killed in a road rage shooting on Feb. 11, 2022.

After more than nine months of failed negotiations, the threat of strike resulted in the company making a new contract approved by the workers.

The CATS managing company and RATP Dev took 11 months to agree with their workers. Ultimately, the company took action only after the bus drivers threatened to strike. CATS bus drivers had been waiting for action far too long, and this agreement should not have been prolonged as much as it was. After the murder of their colleague Rivera, bus drivers have gone months without feeling safe.

cats bus on campus

Photo of a CATS bus on campus

In light of the company's response after the threat of a strike, Beth A. Rubin, an interdisciplinary sociologist with a doctorate and published research on employment insecurity, speaks on why the company finally reached an agreement.

"What my research has always shown is that striking, or the threat of a strike, is often the only way employers will respond to workers' demands," Rubin said. "A year is not actually that long in negotiations, and employers won't negotiate with workers if they don't have to." 

CATS bus drivers threatening to strike put their company in a position where they needed to negotiate. Would the company have created a better agreement if there had been no threat? According to Rubin, it is unlikely. 

"Employers always want to give as little as possible. Labor costs are the biggest part of production cost, so they will always, always try to minimize what they have to give," she said. 

Although the company gave out a public statement after Rivera's death, no implemented change was made until 2023. If CATS and RATP Dev truly showed loyalty to their workers, this decision would not have been overdue.

This is not the only time the CATS bus drivers have threatened to strike. In 2014, a strike was averted after an agreement, but the stakes were much higher now, with the number of daily trips at a 75% decline. 

With the latest agreement, bus drivers have a pay increase of up to $3 more, better insurance and coverage. Additionally, there is further double-time pay for holidays and night differential pay. 

The fact that CATS bus drivers have gone without these benefits for so long makes it clear that the company does not have their best interests in mind. Although an agreement has been reached, it was long overdue.