Tag Archives: bus drivers

How Do I Use the Bus When the Drivers Are on Strike?

OK, this will sound bizarre to all of you who believe in the stereotype of people in “The OC” speeding around in Hummers and Maseratis… But I often ride the bus here. That’s why I’m now worrying about
the bus workers’ strike that started at 12:00 AM today.

I don’t know what’s happening to the buses that usually glide down Bristol Street just outside my house. I don’t know if I can take the bus today to where I had been planning to go. I’m now wondering if my idea of being more eco-friendly by using mass transit was a stupid idea after all.

But more importantly, I’m worrying about all those hundreds of thousands of people who depend on the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) to get around. How do they get to work and to school and to the grocery store now? What the heck will happen to all these people?

Follow me after the flip for more…

Right now, OCTA bus drivers are paid between $13 and $21 an hour. That may sound good, but consider how much it costs to make do in a place with such a high cost of living as Orange County. And consider that they haven’t had a pay increase in years. And consider that the wage and benefit package that’s being offered by OCTA won’t meet the projected living standards offered by the county. The only reason why the drivers are going on strike is because they can’t keep up with inflation and the rising cost of living.

So OCTA is starting to budge. Why couldn’t they budge sooner? And why can’t they just agree upon a fair deal with the drivers? Some 220,000 riders depend on these buses to get around every day. And now that the entire Orange County bus system is in limbo, how can these people get around?

Maybe a few of these people have their own cars. Maybe some of these people have friends who can give them rides. But what about all those folks who have no access to a car? Are they just screwed?

So this strike isn’t a good deal for any one. The drivers need a living wage that will help them get by in such an expensive place to live as OC. The riders need buses to get them to where they need to go. And the OC economy depends on these workers and consumers who use the bus to get around.

So what happens now? I guess I’ll have a hard time getting around today. Perhaps I can bum more rides off my dad. But what about all those folks who can’t bum a ride off my dad? How will they get down Bristol Street to the mall now? How will they get to work at that sushi place in Newport? How will they get to the grocery store off 17th Street?

I guess that’s the way the strike blows.

Court Halts Orange County Bus Drivers’ Strike

The strike has been blocked. For now, at least, Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) bus drivers will NOT be allowed to walk off the job and begin striking over their labor dispute. So why has the strike been blocked? Arnold went to court. (From OC Register)

They determined that a bus strike would cripple the county’s transit system and disrupt the lives of thousands of residents.

In addition to affecting more than 200,000 daily bus passengers, a strike would have adverse economic impacts on businesses, with a potential loss of $800,000 in sales per day.

The findings of a state-appointed ad-hoc panel were sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who in turn asked state lawyers to seek an injunction to prevent a strike from happening Monday.

“He sees this labor dispute as a safety issue for the county,” said aide Sabrina Demayo Lockhart, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office. “We think this next step will help.”

So what happens next? Follow me after the flip for more…

So why can’t the OCTA drivers strike? The court agreed with the finding of the ad-hoc panel appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger that too many Orange County residents would lose their mobility.

A walkout would “significantly impair the health, safety and welfare ability of a sizeable portion of Orange County residents,” according to the report.

The board was appointed last week to gather information about the dispute between bus drivers and their employer, the Orange County Transportation Authority.

An Orange County Superior Court judge agreed with the board’s findings Monday and ordered a 60-day cooling-off period that bars 1,100 bus drivers from walking off of the job and potentially leaving thousands of bus riders stranded.

And what does this mean for the workers? How are they feeling about this? And is there room for an agreement between the bus drivers and OCTA that can potentially avoid any strike altogether? Apparently, $2.8 million can make a big difference.

Currently, OCTA bus drivers earn hourly wages of between $13.72 and $21.42. Currently, OCTA and the union are about $2.8 million away from reaching an agreement.

OCTA officials say the wage increase is based on economic projections prepared by Chapman University. Union leaders argue that Chapman’s projections were off three years ago during a previous contract negotiation, and were inaccurate during recent negotiations.

Patrick D. Kelly, principal officer of union Teamster Local 952, said union members will spread their message to the public and bus riders to drum up support.

In terms of negotiations, Kelly said the union cannot ask for less than the $210 million, three-year contract it requested. The OCTA has offered the union a $207 million contract, about a 13.3 percent increase in wages and benefits.

“I don’t think there’s much room for us to make a lot of movement,” Kelly said. “[The OCTA]hasn’t moved one iota in the last couple of months. … It might get to be a hot summer.”

Now that the court has ordered more time for negotiations, let’s hope that OCTA can reach an agreement with its workers. The economic well-being of these workers is at stake. If Chapman’s economic projections really are off, then OCTA needs to bridge the $2.8 million gap and pay the workers what they need to make ends meet.

Oh yes, and this is not just about the well-being of the bus drivers. This is about the economic well-being of the entire county. If OCTA cannot reach an agreement with the drivers, and if the drivers have no option left but to strike, then there will be way too many thousands of people who would suddenly be immobilized. They wouldn’t be able to go to work, or go to school, or go to the grocery store, or really go anywhere. We can’t let that happen.

Let’s hope OCTA uses this opportunity to make a deal with the bus drivers that all sides can agree to, because no one can afford to just not get around.