Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba will mediate a conversation between JTRAN union reps and MV Transportation, the third-party company that manages the City of Jackson’s public-transit employees, he said at a press conference in Jackson on Tuesday.

It is the first joint meeting the mayor will hold with both parties a month after JTRAN drivers coordinated a mass call-out that left riders stranded for hours.

The call-outs also led the City of Jackson to modify or cancel services on April 27 and April 29.

“People want to work at JTRAN but not under the conditions that MV (Transportation) has provided,” ATU Local 1208 Union President Charles Tornes told WAPT on May 9.

Employees cited 29 grievances including long work hours due to under-staffing, WAPT reported.

“What I have committed to is to sit down with both sides collectively,” the mayor said Tuesday. “I’ve sat down with each side individually, and now we’re looking to bring them together so that we can act as a mediator, quite possibly, between any issues that they have.”

The mayor said he has gotten no indication that riders will have to deal with another mass call-out or strike. “Because the City has an interest in a productive and well-run mass transit system, hopefully we can come to some resolution to those challenges,” the mayor continued.

‘It’s a Major Problem Because I’m Disabled’

JTRAN riders gave impassioned speeches during a Jackson City Council meeting at City Hall on May 7, saying that the mass driver call-out on April 27 left riders stranded for hours at bus stops across the city.

“The vast majority of the bus operators, support staff and dispatchers called in sick, leaving all the vulnerable riders who depend on JTRAN stranded,” disability-rights activist Scott Crawford said at the meeting. “Many people, including myself, waited hours on the side of the road wondering what was going on.”

Disability-rights activist Scott Crawford said at the Jackson City Council meeting at City Hall on May 7, 2024, that several JTRAN riders called out sick on April 27, 2024, in a coordinated effort that led to hours-long waits for riders. Photo by Shaunicy Muhammad

The drivers that did work that day had to cover the routes that were left unmanned because of the call-outs and ultimately the City of Jackson ended all JTRAN routes hours ahead of schedule that day.

The call-outs also led to disruptions in service the following Monday, on April 29.

Will Devine, a disabled military veteran, said during the city council meeting that drivers should settle their grievances in a way that doesn’t affect riders who depend on JTRAN to get around the capital city.

“For me, it’s a major problem because I’m disabled. I don’t drive anymore for health reasons, and I totally depend on JTRAN for my transportation,” he continued. “If those drivers have issues with their contract or their company, take it out on them. Don’t take it out on us.”

MV Transportation, a private company, manages JTRAN drivers; the City of Jackson does not employ them.

A seated man with walking cane in hand, wearing matching red Marines tshirt and cap
Will Devine, a disabled military veteran, told the Jackson City Council during a May 7, 2024, council meeting that he depends on JTRAN to get around the city. “I don’t drive anymore for health reasons, and I totally depend on JTRAN for my transportation. If those drivers have issues with their contract or their company, take it out on them. Don’t take it out on us.” Photo by Shaunicy Muhammad

MV Transportation Vice President of Customer Success Terry Thompson read a prepared statement before the council on May 7, telling them at the time that he didn’t know what led the drivers to coordinate the call-outs.

“As of this morning, the company still doesn’t know exactly why the employees chose to violate the collective bargaining agreement and participate in an unsanctioned labor action,” he said.

Thompson continued, saying at the time that the company planned to take legal action against union reps suspected of organizing the call-outs.

But Ward 2 City Councilwoman Angelique Lee urged Thompson to be diligent about finding out why the employees called out and halted service. “They’re disgruntled about something,” Lee said. “What we cannot do is have another lapse in service; we have too many people that depend on JTRAN.”

MV Transportation declined to comment on this story.

City Unveiled New JTRAN Route-System, Mobile App in March

The sudden strike came nearly two months after the City of Jackson unveiled JTRAN’s newly designed signs, fixed-route system and mobile app on March 4, 2024.

“We have a new route system that was formed by the community. We’re really excited about what JTRAN offers today,” Lumumba said on Jan. 22.

The city installed more than 640 new bus-stop signs throughout the JTRAN route network this year. The mayor encouraged riders to use the JTRAN GPS-monitored mobile app to keep track of the new schedules.

JTRAN system map effective March 2024
The City of Jackson unveiled JTRAN’s new fixed-route system, signage and mobile app on Jan. 22, 2024. Map courtesy JTRAN

He reiterated his intention to make the City of Jackson a “multi-modal mobility” city that accommodates motorists of all kinds, which he first announced last year.

“However you travel around the city, we want to improve the infrastructure of what that looks like,” Lumumba said on Sept. 25, 2023. “It is important that as a city we continue to invest in our public transit.”

The mayor echoed a 2015 Harvard University study that found that commute time is the biggest factor in whether or not a person can escape poverty.

“The greatest statistical connection between generational poverty, more so than education, more so than a number of other factors, is actually commute time—the ability to get from point A to point B, the ability for people to get to the places they need and want to go.”

Capital City reporter Shaunicy Muhammad has an enduring interest in social-justice issues, class inequality, Africana studies and cultural storytelling.

Her educational background includes a journalism degree from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala. Her time as an undergraduate student culminated with the production of the senior research project “Black Unrest, Riots and How Newspapers Frame the Narrative of African American Social Protest,” which analyzed patterns in the narratives reporters used when explaining the social unrest and uprisings after the deaths of Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.

She is reporting on the capital city with a year-long focus on causes, effects and solutions for systemic inequities in South Jackson, supported by a grant from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Email her at [email protected].