The buses in Pittsfield are empty this week as those who are usually behind the wheel are forming a picket line.
Berkshire Regional Transit Authority (BRTA) services have come to a halt in Pittsfield as drivers are on strike. They are calling for higher wages, but it has left many people in the area without any way of getting around.
The group of operators has been picketing since Monday, which has left the BRTA no choice but to suspend some of its services. The strike is due to an ongoing contract dispute that has lasted almost half a year.
“The company is separating us like we’re toxic people, like we don’t matter,” said one picketer.
Robert Sawyer is just one of the dozen picketers braving the cold outside the BRTA offices on Wednesday. He says he’s part of the paratransit workers that provide bus services to the elderly and disabled.
“We have a lot of people with major health issues and they need to be transported everyday,” Sawyer said.
Without the workers, the transit authority had to hault those routes — a resource that has become a lifeline.
“I know all my riders on a first-name basis. I know their families, I know their kids, I know where they live, I know what doctors they go to. It gets personal,” Sawyer said.
The drivers say they decided to strike, demanding liveable wages. They have been working without a contract since June.
“What’s disturbing me is that we got guys here with kids. I think they’re playing us because it’s the holidays, plus the weather,” Sawyer said.
Sawyer says they barely make minimum wage, which is about half the pay for the fixed route drivers.
“I could speak for all my coworkers when I say we enjoy what we do. It’s not all about the money, but how about a little respect?” Sawyer said.
Those fixed route bus services are still up and running in Pittsfield. Spectrum News reached out to the BRTA numerous times Wednesday, but has not heard from officials.