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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Little progress in MTA / UTU strike talks


Labor talks continue in Los Angeles where United Transportation Union (UTU) bus and train operators continue to strike Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). But the strike, now in its 19th day, does show some signs of resolution.

On Sept. 30, California Gov. Gray Davis signed into law a bill (SB-1101) guaranteeing that operators would receive wages and benefits equal to MTA labor agreements if service operations were transferred to municipalities through the creation of transit zones. To create a zone, the municipalities would have to demonstrate that doing so would save 15 percent in operating costs. MTA’s board officially opposed the bill, although not unanimously.

"It’s clear from what proponents say, there’s no way to save money and create a transit zone with the bill," says MTA spokesman Edward Scannell. "The head of the UTU (James Williams, UTU general chairman for MTA drivers) was quoted last week as saying now that the governor signed the bill, the strike could be over in 24 hours. It’s been three days."

A sliver of light broke through the strike clouds Oct. 3 when Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), representing 1,860 mechanics, and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, representing MTA’s supervisors, advised their members to return to work for seven days as negotiations continue.

"Very few of the almost 1,900 mechanics did so," says Scannell. "Less than 10."

Clearly, several issues still need to be resolved — work rules and overtime among them.

Meanwhile, MTA is under a federal mandate to improve its bus system. New buses are arriving in the midst of the strike. But there are no mechanics to maintain them, no operators to drive them and no passengers to ride in them.

Kathi Kube

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/4/2000