Metro Transit workers overwhelmingly approved a new contract with the Metropolitan Council on Monday afternoon, avoiding a strike that would have paralyzed the Twin Cities' transit system during the Super Bowl.

Members of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1005, which represents about 2,500 bus drivers, light-rail train operators, mechanics and other Metro Transit staff, voted Sunday and Monday to ratify the contract offer after a series of heated negotiations and demonstrations before the Met Council. Last week, union leaders recommended approval.

A transit strike would have created a major disruption for the thousands of people expected to crowd into downtown Minneapolis in late January and early February for Super Bowl LII in U.S. Bank Stadium.

"We reached this offer after many months of negotiations with union leadership," Met Council Chairwoman Alene Tchourumoff said in a statement. "It is respectful, reasonable and responsive to what the members needed. We value our drivers, who are the backbone of this region's transit system."

More than 90 percent of union members voted in November to reject the Met Council's initial contract offer and authorize a strike. They homed in on bus driver safety and inadequate restroom access as key problems they wanted to see resolved.

The contract that was approved Monday stipulates that two committees, made up of union members and managers, will be formed to work on the driver safety and toilet issues. The contract also increases wages by 2.5 percent a year over three years.

"I think it is a fair compromise, as compromises go," said Mark Lawson, ATU Local 1005 president. "Not everybody gets everything they want, but I think at the end of the day, our membership vote is indicative of the fact they felt it was a fair … offer."

More than 80 percent of union members voted to ratify the contract, according to Lawson. And now, he said, they're ready to move on.

"We're ready to keep serving our regular customers day in and day out," Lawson said.

"And then when the Super Bowl arrives, [we'll] be proud to be a part — an integral part, really — of the transportation plan and showcasing Minnesota to all these visitors from around the country and around the world."

Emma Nelson • 612-673-4509