About 100,000 bus drivers across Orange County were stranded Thursday after maintenance workers called a strike amid deadlocked labor negotiations with the Orange County Transportation Department.
The union, which represents about 150 mechanics, machinists and service technicians, accused OCTA of breaking off negotiations, while the transport agency said it had offered maintenance workers a contract that would include wage increases and lower healthcare costs.
Without workers to service the vehicles, the buses, which operate about 50 routes across the OC and serve about 100,000 passengers a day, remain out of service, with no comparable alternative for people who rely on public transit.
“We understand how this industrial action will adversely affect thousands of drivers who rely on the bus system for their transportation needs,” Eric Jimenez, secretary and treasurer of Teamsters Local 952, the union representing maintenance workers, said in a statement. “We did everything in our power to avoid a strike. They even rejected our suggestions that would save them money on members’ health care. But when OCTA left the table on Monday, they left us no choice.”
OCTA claims that union negotiators did not “walk away” from contract negotiations, but that the union presented a new health care proposal on Monday, the negotiators’ last meeting.
“We told them we needed time to review it and will come back to talk to us on Friday,” said Joel Zlotnik, spokesman for the OCTA.
On Wednesday afternoon, Zlotnik said, the union informed the agency that it was going on strike.
OCTA has urged commuters to look for alternative modes of transport until at least Sunday, as the union told OCTA on Wednesday the strike would last 96 hours, Zlotnik said.
On Thursday, the union called on workers to picket for 24 hours at maintenance yards in Garden Grove, Santa Ana, Anaheim and Irvine.
OCTA and Teamsters have been in negotiations since May, and a strike was averted in October after Gov. Gavin Newsom reached out to both sides and urged them to continue negotiations. But the healthcare negotiations continued to appear to be a crucial point for both sides.
“We reached out to OCTA board members and local political leaders,” Jimenez said. “We have complied with the governor’s request to return to the table and continue talks. We have asked our members to be patient and to continue working without an agreement with the utmost professionalism… only for OCTA to continually refuse to negotiate in good faith and to disrespect us by opting out of negotiations.”
As of Thursday afternoon, there was no sign the union and transport agency would meet again to resume talks.
OCTA claims it offered workers a 14.25% wage increase over three years while increasing health insurance contributions by 16%. The proposal would also include a contribution of 26.4% of employee wages to the Orange County employee pension system.
Zlotnik said OCTA contacted the union Thursday morning to set up a meeting on Friday, but had received no response from union officials.
“We are disappointed that the union has broken off negotiations and ask them to return to the table so we can find a fair solution that rewards our maintenance workers for a great job,” said Orange Mayor and OCTA Chair Mark A. Murphy in a statement.
Jimenez said the union will return to negotiations “only if there are significant changes.” [the OCTA’s] negotiation attitude. Otherwise another meeting would not be productive.”
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-11-03/buses-orange-county-strike-labor-contract Buses aren’t running in O.C. due to maintenance worker strike