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Rail News: Passenger Rail

LA labor talks linger


On Aug. 31, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority was teetering on the edge of a strike. A week later, the prospect of public transportation at a standstill has lessened, but not quite disappeared.

MTA contracts with United Transportation Union (UTU), representing 4,300 bus and rail operators; Transportation Communications International Union (TCU), representing 650 clerical workers; and Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), representing 1,860 mechanics, expired June 30. Gov. Gray Davis then imposed a 60-day cooling-off period, which expired Sept. 4.

But shortly before time ran out, UTU and TCU agreed to extend their old contract five days and to give five working-days’ notice before striking.

ATU didn’t agree to the extension or the notice. And, as of 4 p.m. (PDT) on Sept. 6, MTA officials hadn’t heard from ATU about resuming talks. But UTU and TCU did.

"They did meet across the table [the morning of Sept. 6]," says Goldy Norton, UTU spokesman. "Now they’re in caucus."

But it appears the contract signing remains distant for now, as several topics remain under discussion, including the "very large" cost of worker’s compensation.

"We need to find a way to jointly reduce that," says MTA spokesman Ed Scannell.

Another area of concern for both sides is whether operators would receive the same wages and benefits from MTA if service operations were transferred to the municipalities the routes serve.

Several cities in the San Fernando Valley want to create transit zones and operate bus services currently run by MTA — but MTA still would pay the operating costs. Before a municipality establishes a transit zone, it must demonstrate that doing so would save 15 percent.

A bill on Davis’ desk (SB-1101) would require new operators of bus or rail service to offer wages and benefits equal to MTA’s contracts. The governor has until Sept. 30 to take action on the bill, but MTA would rather resolve the issue without waiting for his decision. (Davis vetoed another version of the same bill several months ago.)

"We don’t think the bill is the way to go," says Scannell. "We’re afraid it would kill the idea of transit zones."

Meanwhile, negotiations are progressing, albeit slowly.

"We’re always optimistic when both sides are talking," Scannell says.

Kathi Kube

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/7/2000