As AVTA/Transdev bus drivers strike to demand an end to labor law violations…

AVTA Again Inserts Itself in Labor Dispute By Posting Inaccurate Statement on Website Threatening Disadvantaged Bus Riders

Unfair Labor Practices by AVTA

Teamsters Local 848

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, April 5, 2017

PRESS CONTACT: Barbara Maynard, 323-351-9321 barb@mcsonline.org

Lancaster, CA – Since March 2017, Antelope Valley Transit Authority (AVTA) bus drivers, who are jointly employed by AVTA contractor Transdev, have conducted Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) strikes to protest their employers’ flagrant and continued disregard for U.S. labor laws. After drivers’ current strike started on May 3, 2017, the AVTA put out a public statement grossly mischaracterizing the facts of the ongoing labor dispute, which they claim not to be a party to, and needlessly threatening disadvantaged riders with the permanent elimination of free service.

“The AVTA continues to claim that the drivers are striking for a pay raise and nothing could be further from the truth. The drivers are striking to protest AVTA/Transdev’s continual violation of U.S. labor laws and mistreatment of our members, ” said Eric Tate, Secretary-Treasurer, Teamsters Local 848. “It is disingenuous for the AVTA to show concern for their elderly, disabled, veteran, and student passengers who rely on free bus service as during this labor dispute they have not attempted to continue local service for them; instead, they have bent over backwards to cover service for their higher paying riders – the professionals who commute to Downtown Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, and Century City.”

In a direct threat to their most disadvantaged riders, AVTA management claims that in order to provide affordable benefits and a modest pay raise for drivers that would – over time – bring their wages up to what other transit drivers in the area make, they will be required to “gut service and eliminate our free-ride program for AV college students, seniors and veterans.” Meanwhile, the taxpayers of Palmdale and Lancaster are paying ever-higher sales and gas taxes to fund transportation services and projects (the State Transit Assistance (STA) program, an additional tax on fuel for transportation, and from Measure M, an additional sales tax for transportation).

“Anyone who knows anything about transit financing knows that bus fares only pay for a small percentage of the cost of operation. To threaten students, seniors, and veterans is dishonest and heartless,” continued Secretary-Treasurer Tate. “By their statement, the AVTA is implicitly declaring that the agency has absolutely no intention of compensating its drivers at a level comparable to other regional transit drivers, nor does it have the intention of using these revenues to provide subsidized transportation for the region’s most vulnerable residents. What then are their plans for this new revenue?”

Oddly, the AVTA has continued to talk publicly about the cost of the workers’ proposals while claiming that they have nothing to do with the drivers, who receive their paychecks from Transdev. On Aug. 18, 2016, a Federal judge ruled that the AVTA is a “joint employer” with Transdev. Clearly they’re fooling no one: On May 4, 2017, the Antelope Valley Press specifically stated that the drivers are “jointly employed by the transit agency’s contractor Transdev”! This is continued evidence that the AVTA is in fact a “joint employer” with Transdev and perhaps explains why the AVTA has remained silent as their contractor has continued to violate the National Labor Relations Act and mistreat employees.

The drivers’ union, Teamsters Local 848, has filed four sets of unfair labor practice charges against their employer at the National Labor Relations Board. The drivers’ current Unfair labor strike is a result of the two most recent set of charges manifesting driver frustration with the Employer’s latest unfair labor practices, including: 

  • Intimidating use of violence and force against drivers; 
  • Denying drivers their anniversary wage increases; 
  • Using replacement workers to do drivers’ work when there is no strike; and 
  • Refusing to process drivers’ grievances. 

These unilateral changes by the Employer, in retaliation for union and protected concerted activity, and without notice and bargaining with the drivers union, constitute egregious unfair labor practices in violation of the law.

Background

Antelope Valley Transit Authority (AVTA) bus drivers, who are jointly employed by AVTA contractor Transdev, have had enough with the company’s proposal to violate L.A. City and County minimum wage ordinances, low pay, lousy benefits, unfair and horrendous working conditions, and denial of our civil rights. The drivers, who negotiate their pay, benefits, and working conditions together as a community through Teamsters Local 848, have been bargaining for months – and working without a union contract since the extension expired on Feb. 28, 2017.

While the drivers have bargained in good faith with their employer, the same cannot be said for Transdev, which has repeatedly broken U.S. labor law – violations known as “Unfair Labor Practices.” The drivers have been left no choice but to escalate their demands for respect and justice, voting overwhelmingly to go on strike against the company. AVTA passengers should be prepared to find alternative means of transportation.

Pay and benefits have gotten so bad that since August 2015, Transdev has been unable to retain new drivers, leaving the company severely under-staffed. Drivers are being forced to fill in by working massive amounts of mandatory overtime, robbing them of needed rest before returning behind the wheel the next day. Many drivers are forced to work extra days every week and must beg for a day off to get rest and spend time with family.

And it’s not just the pay and benefits – the working conditions, specifically toxic buses that spew dangerous fumes into the bus interior, are horrific for drivers and passengers alike.

This under-staffing, mandatory overtime, and toxic buses have left current drivers exhausted, and both drivers and passengers physically ill. This has become a public health and safety crisis for the Antelope Valley, and the drivers are fighting to resolve these issues through contract negotiations. The open issues the drivers, represented by Teamsters Local 848, are fighting for are:

  • Cease and desist from Unfair Labor Practices violating federal law;
  • An end to mandatory overtime to protect from driver fatigue;
  • A healthy worker environment by replacing toxic buses;
  • Compensation in compliance with the law and equal to what other local transit drivers earn (e.g., Santa Clarita Transit and LADOT);
  • Progressive discipline;
  • Due Process Rights; and
  • Picket Line Protection (the right not to cross a picket line).

In addition to the unfair labor practice charges filed at the NLRB< the Drivers are also standing up and fighting back by:

  1. Filing complaints against AVTA and Transdev with Cal-OSHA for unhealthy working conditions and negligent maintenance of their buses. A class action lawsuit is in the process of being prepared on behalf of the drivers for damage to their health, including lungs and respiratory system. Passengers that are suffering from the same issues are encouraged to support the lawsuit.
  2. The drivers’ Union has filed a complaint against AVTA with PERB for bad faith bargaining because the AVTA is a “joint employer” with Transdev and needs to be held accountable for labor law violations.
  3. The drivers are standing strong to protect their right to progressive discipline and picket line safety.
  4. Drivers are striking to demand that the company follow labor laws. Transdev tried to pay drivers below minimum wage but, after the Union filed Unfair Labor Practice charges against the company, they have now increased their offer to at or just above minimum wage. Meanwhile, the Company is engaging in other egregious unfair labor practices and harming drivers’ health and safety from driving toxic buses to working mandatory overtime, and violating due process rights. Mandatory overtime is occurring because Transdev can’t attract or retain quality professional drivers. If the Company meets drivers’ demands, drivers will come and stay.

 

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