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PSTA workers petition union

Some employees of the Pinellas bus system want to form a separate union local because they say the existing one is too friendly with the bus system's managers. Bus driver Bill McGoey, leader of the campaign, said he has more than 175 signatures on petitions that call for a new local to represent employees of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA).

Local 1220 of the International Brotherhood of Firemen and Oilers (IBFO) now represents about 300 PSTA employees.

Local 1220 leaders "do deals behind our back in favor of management," McGoey said. "We feel the union is not representing us."

The local negotiates for about 300 PSTA drivers, mechanics and customer service representatives.

McGoey also said that Local 1220's leaders spend so much time representing employees at other government agencies that they don't have time for PSTA workers. Local 1220 also represents more than 800 city employees in St. Petersburg.

The new local would represent PSTA workers, while Local 1220 would continue to negotiate for city employees.

Fred Winters, president of Local 1220, said in a letter that McGoey's campaign was part of a "lunatic fringe" that opposed the IBFO when it was elected to represent PSTA employees six years ago.

"These fanatics are recklessly putting everyone's head on the chopping block," Winters wrote to the union's international president. "At a time when unions are shrinking up and disappearing all over the country, these fools want to divide and weaken one of the few growing locals in existence."

A countywide bus system was created in 1984 when the systems of St. Petersburg and the PSTA merged. That merger also led to an employee election to decide between two unions _ the IBFO, which represented St. Petersburg transit workers, and the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represented the PSTA employees.

The IBFO won. But the election led to a simmering north-south rivalry between drivers of the two systems. Some drivers reportedly would not even wave hello to a driver from the other system when they passed on the street.

PSTA and union officials now say the controversy has died down, but there is still some parochialism.

McGoey, who said he was a union official until he was fired by Winters last fall, said the campaign to form a new IBFO local is driven more by unhappiness with Winters than parochialism. Although his campaign is strongest in the Clearwater division of the PSTA, he said he has more than 70 signatures from the St. Petersburg division.

"The amount of signatures that came out of the south would indicate that there is a problem other than a north-south rivalry," McGoey said.

If the IBFO does not agree to a new local, McGoey plans to file a petition with the state government to form an independent union.