After contract negotiations between maintenance workers and the Orange County Transportation Authority failed, bus services in Orange County stopped, leaving some Orange Coast College students without transportation.
Since the potential Orange County bus strike that nearly happened on October 17, OCTA maintenance workers have officially begun striking after OCTA continued to be intransigent in its decisions regarding contract negotiations.
On November 2, Teamsters Local 952 announced that more than 150 maintenance workers would go on strike over another failed negotiation with OCTA, delaying service to thousands of bus passengers. to go to school and work.
“The straw that broke the camel’s back to get us out here was Monday,” said Teamsters Local 952 Secretary-Treasurer Eric Jiminez. “We entered into negotiations with OCTA and came up with a package that we believe would be fair to the union, the company and the members. »
In a press release, OCTA said it remained “committed to reaching a resolution and expected to resume negotiations on Friday, but the union has announced a strike. OCTA is ready to meet with the union at any time. »
Despite Governor Gavin Newsom’s request to finalize a new contract, OCTA ended negotiations and “went home” around 6 p.m. on October 31 to “consider the union’s offer”. It was “unacceptable” for the workers who had agreed to stay overnight, according to Jiminez.
“For them, leaving at six o’clock was unacceptable. We were as a union waiting to stay as many hours as possible. And they chose not to,” Jiminez said. “After walking away from the table, they offered to come back on Friday, but that was after they had already walked away.”
Jiminez cited the cost of workers’ health care as the main reason for the contract negotiations that ultimately led to the strike.
“Right now they’re asking our members to pay more for health care,” Jiminez said. “Of all the units in Orange County, this is the single unit that pays the most for health care, averaging about $350 per month.”
Although OCTA does not know how long the strike will last, they said they were negotiating in good faith.
“The union has said health care is one of the biggest sticking points,” said OCTA communications specialist Megan Abba. “OCTA offered to help reduce health care costs by offering maintenance employees the same health care plans as all other OCTA employees.”
OCTA also offered an immediate 5% increase, another 4.75% increase on October 1, 2023, and an additional 4.5% increase beginning October 1, 2024.
“OCTA remains 100% ready to resume talks. The union chose to strike this week, ending negotiations and blocking passengers,” Abba said. “The union is now demanding commitments outside the bargaining table. If the union comes back to the table, we are ready to continue our negotiations.
Teamsters Local 952 has expressed its decision to remain on strike until OCTA returns to the bargaining table and significantly alters its bargaining proposal, according to Jiminez.
“OCTA came back and said they stood by their position, ultimately saying they wanted to negotiate but they didn’t want to change their position,” Jiminez said. “So all we’re doing is being able to put on a dog and pony show for the public as if they’re trying to work with us.”
According to a maintenance worker on site who asked to remain anonymous for fear of losing his job, not all of the strikers are maintenance workers. Some are drivers and others in the company are in solidarity with their colleagues.
“Every time there’s a little wiggle room and they give us something, they take it away from something else,” the anonymous maintenance worker said. “We can’t give up now. We are in the middle of a fight.
They will strike on a four-day-on-one-day-off schedule to allow people who desperately need to travel somewhere to schedule an appointment on a set day so OCTA can get them where they need to go.
Due to the service delay the strike will cause on all Orange County routes, OCC students should take advantage of their chance to schedule any necessary appointments during this window which will occur on Sunday.
After initially going on strike 24 hours prior, the maintenance workers and their relatives were still energetic and eager to take to the streets in their cause.
“They asked us to meet them again on Friday,” Jiminez said. “We are only prepared to do so if there are significant changes in their negotiating posture. Otherwise, another meeting would not be productive.
An assortment of refreshments have been distributed to strikers to ensure they are fed and well taken care of during the strike.
The strikers continue to be in high spirits as various cars and bystanders honk their horns in support of their cause, fueling them with passion and uplifting their spirits as they picket and prevent entry of vehicles to the bus base of the city. ‘OCTA in Santa Ana.
“The ball is in their court,” Jiminez said. “They can settle this strike, but they have to come to the table and negotiate with us.”