Fed Up: Fairfax Connector Workers on Strike

Fed Up: Fairfax Connector Workers on Strike

Union cites unfair labor practices and Transdev’s ‘slow-walking the talks.’

Bus drivers and mechanics from Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689, representing the 683 bus operators and mechanics for the Fairfax Connector, hold the picket line at the Fairfax County Herndon Garage at 268 Spring St., Herndon, one of three county garages.

Bus drivers and mechanics from Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689, representing the 683 bus operators and mechanics for the Fairfax Connector, hold the picket line at the Fairfax County Herndon Garage at 268 Spring St., Herndon, one of three county garages.

Workers from Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), Local 689, representing the 683 bus operators and mechanics for the Fairfax Connector, went on strike just after midnight on Thursday, Feb. 22. The Amalgamated Transit Union (AFL-CIO/CLC) is the largest labor organization representing transit workers in the U.S. and Canada. The strike is still going on as of Tuesday morning, Feb. 27. 

The call to strike came after months of talks, beginning in October 2023, about a new labor contract with the contractor, Transdev Services, Inc., which failed to produce an agreement despite 12 bargaining sessions. Fairfax Connector drivers and mechanics have been working under an expired contract since December 2023. 

“Despite 12 bargaining sessions, a vast divide between the Union and the company remains due to Transdev’s slow-walking the talks and, for the most part, its refusal to engage in meaningful discussions on key economic issues,” says the Union's press release dated Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024.

Two hours after the strike began, at 2 a.m., picketers took to the lines at the three Fairfax County-owned garages of the Fairfax Connector, the Herndon Garage at 268 Spring St., Herndon; the Huntington Garage at 8101 Cinder Bed Rd., Lorton; and the West Ox Garage at 4970 Alliance Dr., Fairfax.

ATU Local 689, said, “The Union remains committed to bargaining in good faith to reach a tentative agreement on a new contract and intends to continue to meet with Transdev even while on strike.”

Connector buses are not running, impacting commuters. 


Transdev Services, Inc. accepted a contract award from the County of Fairfax on April 17, 2019, for the operation and management of the Connector Bus System (a fixed-route bus service known as “The Connector") for five years from the date of the award, with the option to renew for an additional ten-year period. The contract expires on April 17, 2024, according to the county.

The Political and Communications Director of ATU Local 689, Matthew Girardi, said in an email that all bus service had stopped at 9:45 the morning of Feb. 22. “We hope that Transdev finally comes to the bargaining table with a fair offer and that Fairfax officials weigh in on the side of workers who have been operating under an expired contract for months. If not, we will continue to picket from 2 a.m. to 7 p.m.”

Jeff McKay, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, said in a statement the morning of Feb. 22 that he had communicated with the county executive Bryan Hill and his team during the negotiations and knew there was a deadlock. McKay said he did not know a strike would happen.

The strike left “almost 26,000 daily users of the Connector without the service they rely on,” according to McKay. “To be clear, the county is not a party to these negotiations, and it would be inappropriate for me to interfere,” McKay said.

The Union said on Feb. 21 that it had taken “extraordinary strides to avert a strike,” such as consistently providing fair contract proposals to both sides and the public, involving a federal mediator in negotiations, and meeting with Fairfax County officials. “However, because of Transdev’s unfair labor practices and regressive bargaining, as well as Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay’s refusal to weigh in, a strike was unavoidable.”

In his Feb. 22 statement, McKay said he fully supports “the ability of Connector drivers and mechanics to be treated and compensated fairly.” McKay added that he “supports the ATU Local 689’s right to advocate on behalf of their members and hopes the Union and Transdev can reach an agreement on a contract that is in line with similar transit services in neighboring jurisdictions and respects the exemplary work of drivers and mechanics.” 

“Additionally, while transit service is essential, the cost is ultimately borne by our residents and must also be considered in these negotiations,” McKay said. “Connector service needs to be sustainable, not just now but in the future.” 

The Union is demanding improved wage increases, 40 hours of scheduled work and pay at eight hours a day/five days a week, and a defined retirement benefit, not the 401(K) match system that has resulted in the majority of Fairfax Connector workers “having zero retirement,” according to its Feb. 23 statement. 

The Union cited Transdev’s failure to provide financial information to the Union during the contract talks and surveillance of employees during the strike authorization vote conducted on Dec. 27, 2023 as unfair practices. 

According to the Union, Transdev’s latest contract proposal at the end of January ignored most of the Union’s key priorities. While it included wage increases for bus operators, due to the high cost of living in Fairfax County, Transdev must provide more than wage increases to ensure an improved quality of life for its employees, the Union said. Local 689 insists on improved benefits for workers so they can live where they work and retire with dignity.

The Union reportedly has yet to hear back from Transdev on the latest proposal provided to the company earlier this month. The most recent bargaining session was Friday, Feb. 16.

On Friday, Feb. 23, John Costa, international president of the Amalgamated Transit Union visited all three Fairfax County picket lines in Herndon, Lorton and Fairfax. He was there to fire up the Union’s 650 Fairfax Connector bus operators and mechanics on the second day of their strike. Costa called out Fairfax County Supervisor Jeff McKay.

Liz Shuler, president of the AFL CIO, visited the picket lines. She posted on X, “Everyone should be able to live where they work and retire with dignity. Fairfax Connector @ATULocal689 bus drivers are essential workers who deserve retirement security, fair wages, and good benefits.”
Commuters seeking information about Fairfax Connector's operating status can visit the county’s website. Passengers can also receive updates by calling Fairfax Connector customer service at 703-339-7200.

Transdev did not respond to requests for comment for this story.