Mechanics’ Union Board Will Allow Vote on Metropolitan Transit Authority’s Contract Proposal
As expected, the board of the union representing striking mechanics employed by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority who began a strike last month decided Monday to allow members to vote on the MTA's latest contract proposal on Friday, the Los Angeles Times reports (Streeter/Bernstein, Los Angeles Times, 11/4). 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, which is now insolvent, and the plan's management by the union. 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 proposal, which was issued last week as a final offer after the MTA declared an impasse in negotiations, 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. Under a proposal made last month, 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, 11/3).
Neil Silver, president of the union, said the board is "confident the rank-and-file will turn down the deal," the Times reports. Silver added that the MTA might be pressured to accept the union's offer to return to work in exchange for the agency's concession to allow a panel of arbitrators to resolve the labor dispute if a majority of the union's 2,800 members' reject the plan. However, county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky (D), who also is the MTA's board chair, said, "There is no member of this board and no responsible member of our agency who believes we ought to be going to binding arbitration." Yaroslavsky declined to comment on whether the MTA is considering options such as hiring replacement workers if union members reject the proposal (Los Angeles Times, 11/4). If union members accept the contract, limited transit service in the county could be restored within 24 hours, and full service could be restored in 72 hours, according to Marc Littman, a spokesperson for MTA (Gentile, AP/Hartford Courant, 11/4).
According to the Times, Assembly members who are "sympathetic" to the union may pressure MTA to resume negotiations, Assembly member Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) said. Under one possible bill, MTA would be required to guarantee that there is a health care fund reserve for its employees. Nunez said that legislators would not be "too heavy-handed in their intervention" because they do not want to jeopardize federal funding for transportation projects, the Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 11/4).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.