By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
According to Neal Sacharow of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, “The MTA tried to create a second tier that would attrite the whole class of high-salaried drivers. In a short time, there would have been far fewer full-timers.”
Which accomplishes the archetypal management goal of getting more work for less pay and fewer benefits. Of course, a part-time–dominated bus system would also be easier to shatter into smaller transit districts, in the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys, in particular.
Certainly, there were other issues in this strike. In contrast to the last two job actions, this time the MTA played some serious hardball on the work-rule issues it apparently fudged in previous negotiations. The resolution of the 10-hour-day issue mentioned here earlier was sensible. If it came out behind on short-term wage increases, the union won a point on pensions.
Meanwhile, Contreras says he’s working with the local legislative delegation to seek an audit of MTA spending. He’s also supporting state Senator Richard Alarcon’s proposal to revisit how the MTA board members are selected.
“The MTA will never be the same after this,” Contreras avers.
But what ought most to be remembered about this strike’s outcome is that UTU chairman James Williams and his members turned down a short-term gain for a hope of longer-term continuity of the jobs UTU membership has come to symbolize. The same battle will be fought again in 2003, when this contract ends. That will surely be a tougher fight. But this time, at least, solidarity won.
It was 10 days since Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 660 had called off its not-so-general strike and gone back into bargaining. Now its leadership was declaring a victory. So was the county. But the funny thing about the dueling press conferences last week was that neither side could exactly say — let alone agree on — what had been won.
The SEIU may have made some substantial gains. The only problem is, it’s still not exactly clear what. But neither side seemed interested in settlement exactitude. Which may have been better for both.
When last we looked in, 660 was holding fast for 15.5 percent across the board. The county was offering 9 percent. Now, according to the SEIU’s own press release, “11 percent [goes to] nearly 90 percent of Local 660 employees . . . 12.75 to 14.5 percent or more to a majority of Local 660 employees, some will receive as much as 20 percent.” According to the county, however, that latter raise goes to a very small number of people. Okay, so what is the across-the-board average? With this range of figures, it’s hard to say. An SEIU rep guessed 12.5 percent. (My own guess is slightly lower.) County Administrative Officer David Janssen said he didn’t know. But it looks like the union got half of what it asked for. An even compromise, you might say. But you might also say that, by not specifying a figure for the average increase, the union (which still has to get ratification from more than 6,000 of its 47,000 members) could imply a bigger win while the county could imply that it had hung tough to the end.
The most positive single result of the contract struggle was for the lower end of the earning spectrum. All the county employees now earn more than the county’s own $8.36-an-hour living wage. And other lower-end employees are expected to benefit proportionally.
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