While a Santa Clarita city official sought to address claims Tuesday that the city isn’t doing enough to end the bus strike, more than 30 drivers showed up to the City Council meeting to express their continued frustration over their lack of a new contract.
A pension for the workers and more movement on wages are two of the sticking points for Teamsters Union Local 572, according to Lourdes Garcia, president and general counsel for the union, which is now in its eighth week of a strike.
The union walked off the job Oct. 9, after nearly a year of contract negotiations.
MV Transportation has said it has offered a record wage increase. Union drivers have complained they can make competitive wages without a class B license and training in a fast-food restaurant.
But they’d rather get back behind the wheel, was the message from the drivers and their supporters during public comment at Tuesday’s meeting.
“As it relates to the ongoing bus strike, there’s a continuing theme that the city needs to resolve this issue,” City Manager Ken Striplin said, following the first round of public comment Tuesday. “There are two parties at the table, and my understanding is the parties are back to negotiating, they’re back to looking at items within a contract, which is within the scope of MV and the union.”
In a phone interview Wednesday, Garcia said negotiations briefly restarted with MV last week but had broken off again by Tuesday afternoon.
“So last week, we actually met in person (for) a couple of days,” Garcia said, but added she was told by MV that pensions for Santa Clarita’s drivers would be a nonstarter.
Garcia said MV’s stance on pensions would be more understandable to her if the company didn’t offer the same for drivers in other cities the union represents.
Only Santa Clarita Transit drivers are on strike because each city contract is negotiated individually, but the union also has drivers for cities in the San Fernando Valley and throughout Los Angeles County, she said. MV touts itself as the nation’s largest company of its kind.
An MV spokesperson was not immediately available Wednesday to respond to the union’s claims, but the company issued a statement Nov. 2 that addressed its previous offer.
“MV Transportation has been working to find a mutually agreeable contract with our valued union employees for over a year. We continue to seek such a contract and have offered record wage increases that average 18% over four years and recognize the challenges posed to all of us by recent high inflation,” Lea Campos, director of marketing and communications for MV Transportation, wrote in an email. “Our goal continues to be to work through the remaining gap with our employees and the city as quickly as possible.”
Garcia acknowledged the movement on wages but didn’t yet have the specifics on how more money would be available for drivers.
Striplin alluded to “creating efficiencies” within the current contract during the city’s Nov. 14 City Council meeting.
Garcia said the discussions she’s had involve a combination of these “efficiencies” as well as the city putting up some more money.
“The city has done quite a bit,” Striplin said. “I’m not going to get in the middle of contract negotiations, but I will say that the council has been supportive, the city has looked at the contract, we’ve met with MV and we have provided significant flexibility for MV to go back to the table with the union and hopefully resolve this issue.”