The union representing Orange County Transportation Authority maintenance workers has announced the workers went on strike Wednesday.
Thursday morning, strikers with signs were up bright and early in Garden Grove, asking for reform as bus operations shut down for the second day in a row.
"We have done everything in our power to avoid a strike," Teamsters Local 952 Secretary-Treasurer Eric Jimenez said. "They have even rejected our proposals that would save them money on members' health care. But when OCTA walked away from the table on Monday, they gave us no other choice."
Joel Zlotnik, an OCTA spokesman, replied, "That's untrue. I won't discuss the details of the negotiations. There have been proposals back and forth, and we fully expected to continue those talks on Friday."
The teamsters started the strike at 4 p.m. near the Santa Ana and Garden Grove OCTA facilities.
A strike planned for Oct. 17 was called off when Gov. Gavin Newsom asked both sides to continue negotiations, but the talks fizzled when Teamsters Local 952 claimed OCTA negotiators walked away from the bargaining table on Monday.
The strike will force a shutdown in bus service.
"We cannot safely operate our buses without our maintenance employees," Zlotnik said.
The 150 machinists, mechanics and service technicians provide a variety of services from gassing up the buses to doing repairs.
"We understand how this labor dispute will adversely affect thousands of riders who depend on the bus system for their transportation needs," Jimenez said.
But union representatives feel they have done everything they can to settle the labor dispute, which has lingered since negotiations began May 25.
"We have brought in mediators," Jimenez said. "We have come up with ways to save OCTA money on health care. We have reached out to OCTA board members and local political leaders. We have honored the governor's request to return to the table and continue talks. We have asked our members to be patient and continue working with the utmost professionalism without an agreement ... only to have OCTA continually refuse to bargain in good faith and disrespect us by walking out of negotiations."
The union will not return to talks until the agency has "significantly" updated its bargaining position, officials said.
"They have asked us to meet with them again on Friday," Jimenez said. "We are willing to do so only if there are significant changes in their bargaining posture. If not, another meeting would not be productive."
The OCTA offered the union members a 14.25% increase in salary and a 16% increase in healthcare contributions, both of which were over the next three years.
Zlotnik said the agency was "very disappointed in the approach the union has taken in these negotiations. We have reached out to them and had asked to continue meeting on Friday, and, instead, it appears rather than meet they have chosen to go on strike."
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