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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Friday LA transit strike appears likely


The Los Angeles transit-strike clock is ticking and set to go off Sept. 15, 12:01 a.m. Unless Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and United Transportation Union (UTU) can agree on work hours, public transportation — and with it, likely most of Los Angeles’ highway traffic — will come to a standstill.

The one issue neither side seems willing to budge on involves bus drivers working split shifts to cover peak periods, getting paid for 10 hours but available for 12. Employees then would work four days a week instead of five. Currently, drivers are paid for 8 hours over a 10-hour span.

Drivers in other metropolitan cities work similar shifts, says MTA spokesman Edward Scannell.

"Not only is our proposal consistent with the operations of cities such as San Francisco, San Diego, and San Mateo, it is well within the prescribed limits under law enforced by the California Highway Patrol," he says. "California state law allows bus operations to schedule continuous work shifts that are as long as 15 hours."

But neither side appears willing to concede, so stop-and-go negotiations continue.

MTA Chief Operating Officer Allan Lipsky spoke Sept. 9 at MTA’s Gateway Headquarters, issuing a challenge to union leaders to reach an agreement by Sept. 13.

On Sept. 11, ALF-CIO representatives held a press conference announcing solidarity with UTU, as well as Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and Transportation Communications International Union (TCU), both of which also are engaged in contract talks.

"As of 9 a.m. (PDT) negotiations had resumed with TCU. Bargaining with ATU is set to resume at 10 a.m.," says Scannell. "We’re scheduled to meet with the UTU team at 1 p.m."

But UTU representatives canceled a scheduled 9 a.m. bargaining session and were more than an hour late returning to the bargaining table Monday after the AFL-CIO news conference. When they did return, UTU negotiators canceled that session, deciding instead to return at 9 a.m. the following day.

"You can’t very well negotiate when one of the parties won’t even sit down at the table," says Scannell, adding that the parties made some progress at sessions held Sept. 12.

UTU spokesman Goldy Norton added that the proposed strike has been sanctioned by Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

"Time is getting short," he says.

Kathi Kube

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/13/2000