Mechanics’ Union Board To Decide Whether To Allow Vote on Metropolitan Transit Authority Contract Proposal
The board of the union representing mechanics employed by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority who began a strike last month will meet Monday to discuss whether members should vote on the MTA's latest contract proposal, union President Neil Silver said, the Los Angeles Times reports (Streeter, Los Angeles Times, 11/3). The mechanics, who are members of the Amalgamated Transit Union, had been working without a contract for more than a year before going on strike on Oct. 14. Talks resumed last month after a more than two-month delay in negotiations, but negotiations dissolved over MTA's contribution to the union's health plan and the plan's management. MTA contributes about $1.4 million each month to the mechanics' health care fund, and the union is responsible for administering members' insurance policies. However, union leaders say health care costs have risen to about $1.9 million a month over the last year because of health insurance premium increases. The fund is now insolvent (California Healthline, 10/28). The proposal includes a 3% wage increase over the three-year period of the contract and a 44% increase in MTA's monthly contributions to the union's health fund (Los Angeles Times, 11/3). The proposal was issued Tuesday as a final offer after the MTA declared an impasse in negotiations. Under a proposal made two weeks ago, the MTA offered a 5% wage increase over the course of the contract, a payment of up to $4.7 million to make the health fund solvent and a monthly increase in MTA's contribution to the fund to $1.9 million (California Healthline, 10/28). Silver said a vote on the contract seems likely, adding, "If the membership accepts the offer, we will return to work." However, Silver said he would discourage members from approving the contract because it "does not go far enough to protect health benefits," the Times reports. If union members reject the offer, Silver said that they would return to work "immediately" on the condition that the MTA agrees to allow an outside panel of experts to draft a new labor contract, the Times reports. However, MTA spokesperson Marc Littman said "arbitration is not an option" because millions of dollars in taxpayer money are at stake.
Meanwhile, First Transit drivers, who operate 12 bus routes under contract with the MTA and have been on strike since Oct. 15, approved by a two-thirds margin a three-year contract between their union, the Teamsters Union Local 572 and First Transit. Under the new contract, drivers' wages will increase by about $2 to as much as $13 per hour, and health benefits will be administered by First Transit instead of by the union. Service on the routes, which altogether carry about 10,000 passengers daily, is expected to resume on Tuesday (Los Angeles Times, 11/3). NPR's "Day to Day" on Friday reported on how the rising cost of health benefits is affecting negotiations between workers and employers. The segment includes comments from Ron Blackwell of the AFL-CIO and Mark Edwards, an attorney specializing in employee compensation at Gardere Wynne Sewell (Grigsby Bates, "Day to Day," NPR, 10/31). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.