Following 2-day transit strike in the Antelope Valley…

Bus Drivers Return to Work After AVTA CEO Len Engel Breaks Promise to Not “Leave Passengers Stranded”

Teamsters Local 848

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Saturday, March 18, 2017; 2:15 PM PST
PRESS CONTACT: Barbara Maynard, 323-351-9321 barb@mcsonline.org

Lancaster, CA – Antelope Valley Transit Authority (AVTA) bus drivers, who are jointly employed by AVTA contractor Transdev, launched an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) strike on Friday, March 17, to protest their employers’ flagrant disregard for the U.S. labor laws that govern labor-management relations. The action’s impact surprised drivers, as they had provided AVTA/ Transdev ample notice an impending ULP strike and fully expected the company to continue service with replacement drivers. In fact, AVTA CEO Len Engel published a letter in the Antelope Valley Press (March 16, 2017, Page B4) signaling to the public that the agency was prepared, stating “AVTA won’t leave passengers stranded.” Engel broke that promise by canceling 95% of AVTA bus service, leaving passengers who rely on local service stranded.

“AVTA CEO Len Engel was well aware that drivers were taking action and had ample time to prepare, even going so far as to place a letter in the Antelope Valley Press personally thanking me for the information we provided to the public and vowing, in print, “AVTA won’t leave passengers stranded.” To Mr. Engle I say, ‘You are welcome – always happy to help the ridership when you fail to do so’,” said Eric Tate, Secretary-Treasurer, Teamsters Local 848. “We were shocked that the agency “temporarily suspended” all local bus service, breaking Engel’s promise to the public and leaving them stranded. In order to restore service for the public, the drivers have elected to return to work to give Transdev and the AVTA the opportunity to clean up their act and resolve the serious issues raised by the bus drivers. And to Mr. Engel, I say, ‘You are welcome a second time – in advance – for saving your hide and restoring bus service to AVTA riders rather than leaving them stranded until Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.’”

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).

The Drivers are standing up and fighting back:

  1. Drivers are 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 is considering filing a civil suit against the AVTA because the agency 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 went on strike 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 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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Social Media Links

– Websites: www.Teamsters848.org and www.ToxicBus.com     
– Twitter: @Teamsters848
– Facebook: Teamsters Local 848 and AVTA Health Alert