Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority To Make Final Offer To Unionized Mechanics
Officials for the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents the mechanics employed by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority who began a strike earlier this month, on Thursday said that the decision by MTA on Wednesday to declare an impasse in contract negotiations has "further alienated" union members because the move "legally opens the door for the MTA to impose a contract and hire replacement workers," the Los Angeles Times reports. MTA officials said that they do not plan to impose a contract on union members or hire replacement workers. However, union President Neil Silver accused MTA of "bargaining in bad faith" and said that "there was no end in sight" to the strike, the Times reports (Streeter, Los Angeles Times, 10/29). The mechanics had worked without a contract for more than a year before they began the strike Oct. 14. Contract negotiations resumed this month after a more than two-month delay, but the negotiations ended over a disagreement on the MTA contribution to the union health plan fund and the management of the plan. MTA contributes about $1.4 million each month to the health plan fund, and the union administers the health insurance policies of members. However, union leaders maintain that health care costs have increased to about $1.9 million per month over the last year because of health insurance premium increases. The health plan fund is currently insolvent.
On Monday, MTA CEO Roger Snoble said, "Virtually no progress has been made on any substantial issues" and the MTA board of directors had instructed him to declare an impasse and issue a final contract offer to the mechanics (California Healthline, 10/28). The contract offer will likely include a 5% wage increase over the about four years, a payment of as much as $4.7 million to make the health plan fund solvent and a increase in the monthly MTA contribution to the fund from $1.4 million to $1.9 million. However, Silver said that the contract offer is inadequate. He said that MTA must make a contribution of at least $6 million to make the health plan fund solvent and must increase the monthly contribution to the fund to more than $2 million. He said that he discuss the contract offer with other union officials before he decides whether to allow union members to vote on the offer (Los Angeles Times, 10/28).
- Los Angeles County workers: About 2,000 Service Employees International Union Local 660 and union officials held rally Tuesday to protest stalled contract negotiations and "proposed increases in employee contributions to health plans," the Los Angeles Times reports (Briscoe, Los Angeles Times, 10/29). The negotiations have stalled over health insurance and other issues. County negotiators have offered yearlong wage freezes and with health insurance premiums that range from $17.50 per month for basic HMO coverage to $24.71 per month for the most expensive preferred provider plan for individual employees and $40.50 to $85 per month for family coverage. In the past, the county had covered the full cost of employee health insurance premiums (California Healthline, 10/27).
- Grocery store workers: As a strike by grocery store workers at Safeway's Vons, Albertson's and Kroger "shows no sign of ending," more than half of pharmacists on strike at Vons and Kroger's Pavilions stores have crossed the picket line to return to work, the AP/Los Angeles Times reports. To date, 120 pharmacists have crossed the picket line, and as of Tuesday, 87 of the 143 pharmacies in Southern California Vons and Pavilions stores were open. Most of Albertsons' pharmacies have remained open because they are nonunion, according to company spokesperson Stacia Levenfeld. United Food and Commercial Workers union spokesperson Barbara Maynard said that many pharmacists returned to work because of their concern for "those who depend on them for prescriptions," the AP/Times reports (Gentile, AP/Los Angeles Times, 10/29). About 70,000 UFCW members at more than 850 grocery stores in Southern California on Oct. 11 went on strike after contract negotiations between the workers and store officials failed, in large part because of disputes over health benefits (California Healthline, 10/20).
- Orange County Sheriff's deputies: After a "terse confrontation over union control of a health care fund," Orange County supervisors have approved a one-year labor contract with sheriff's deputies, the Los Angeles Times reports. Under the contract, deputies will receive no pay raise because of county budget issues, but the county will increase the annual contribution toward health coverage for the deputies from $12 million to $14 million (Pasco, Los Angeles Times, 10/29).