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Bus drive on verge of strike

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About 50 bus drivers throughout SLO may be going on strike if their union isn’t recognized.

Drivers for the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) were scheduled to vote on July 30 whether to begin a strike on Aug. 3. The drivers work for the SLO County Regional Transit Authority, which provides connecting routes between incorporated cities in the county, as well as the trolley service in the city of SLO.

Drivers were previously contracted through MV Transportation. The RTA leadership decided to change the contract and bring all the drivers in house. Although the same drivers will continue to drive the same RTA buses, RTA leadership has not yet recognized the drivers’ existing union: Teamsters & Warehousemen Union Local 381 out of Santa Maria.

The contract change will become official on Aug. 1, but only after the drivers vote whether to strike. Driver Alan Fields said the RTA board of directors and staff members have so far been unwilling to negotiate.

“And we’re angry enough that tomorrow [July 30] we’ll be taking a strike vote,” he said.

RTA Executive Director Ed King said his organization hadn’t recognized the union because the drivers weren’t even official RTA employees, they were still considered MV employees. He said RTA is willing to sit down if the drivers want to bargain collectively, but only after Aug. 1.

“We’re anticipating right now that all of our bus operators and all of the other employees are going to be coming on Aug. 1,” he said. “So that’s the plan.”

But Teamsters Principal Officer Lynn Swenson believed the RTA was being much more intentional in ignoring the union.

“Ed King is saying, ‘Go take a hike,’” Swenson told New Times. “So that’s what we’re going to do Monday [Aug. 3] morning.”

If there is a strike, a resolution may be far off. The RTA board was scheduled to meet Aug. 5, at which time they could negotiate with the drivers, but the meeting was canceled. The board won’t meet again until early September and King couldn’t say how it might delay negotiations if the strike vote goes through.

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