MBTA rally held in front of State House Thursday

BOSTON (WHDH) - A rally was held at 3 p.m. in front of the State House Thursday afternoon to show support for those who oppose the T’s potential privatization.

Mayor Walsh and other elected officials will join transit workers at the rally.

Transit works argue that privatization of T operations is being pushed largely without public scrutiny.

MBTA officials and Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, determined to pursue options before negotiating an agreement with the union or considering other alternatives, have  hired a consulting firm to explore outsourcing options for bus operations and maintenance.

Seven members of a union representing Boston-area transit workers, including its president, were arrested two weeks ago on Oct. 6 while protesting plans to privatize the system’s cash handling system. The MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board  voted 4-0 in support of a five-year, $18.7 million contract with Virginia-based Brink to oversee the money room, a move expected to save the agency about $8 million annually.

Carmen’s Union president James O’Brien and other members of the executive committee were charged with unlawful assembly, union spokeswoman after padlocking a gate outside the building during the pre-dawn protest. The seven pleaded not guilty during court appearances and were released on personal recognizance.

“We are dealing with a broken system that needs investment, end of story,” the MBTA said in a statement the day of the arrests. “We don’t need to hand the keys over to a private company seeking to make a profit off of our public tax dollars and riders’ fares.”

The MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board was created last year in the aftermath of a severe winter that crippled the MBTA and exposed widespread managerial and financial weaknesses. The Legislature also gave the transit system a temporary exemption from a state law that sharply limits privatization of government services.

After the arrests, Baker said he supported the union’s right to protest unless it interfered with MBTA operations.

“You can’t lock the gates or get in the way of the trucks. At some point we have to be able to serve the public,” Baker said in defending the decision by transit police to arrest the picketers.

Labor leaders had said they expect the Brink’s contract to be the first of many privatization deals for the nation’s fifth-largest transit system, which has struggled with chronic operating deficits and aging infrastructure. The board recently acknowledged in a report to lawmakers that outsourcing of bus drivers and maintenance operations also is being considered.

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