Santa Cruz Metro workers to vote on strike today
- Published Saturday, July 30, 2005, in the Santa Cruz Sentinel
Metro workers to decide whether to strike today
By Genevieve Bookwalter
Sentinel Staff Writer
SANTA CRUZ -- Metro officials presented a group of union employees
their "last, best and final" contract offer Friday, and that group
will decide today whether to strike or accept the deal.
Contracts for 100 members of the Service Employees International
Union Local 415 expired last month at the Santa Cruz Metropolitan
Transit District but were extended through Friday.
That extension ran out at midnight after an all-day session with a
state-appointed mediator failed to yield a new contract.
Members will decide in two meetings if they want to accept Metro's
offer, or vote on a strike.
"It's up to the employees now," said Gary Klemz, spokesman for
SEIU's Metro chapter.
Wage increases and rising health-care costs are two of the biggest
issues facing negotiators, though neither side would discuss the
sticking points. SEIU employees last received a raise in 2003, when
salaries went up 4.25 percent.
Both sides said Friday's session didn't go as planned.
"I'm disappointed. I thought that we were within reach of an
agreement, but obviously that didn't happen," said Metro General
Manager Les White.
The SEIU contract covers about 100 district employees, including
mechanics, administrative staff and supervisors. Salaries range from
about $27,000 for workers who wash, clean and fuel buses, to $70,720
for longtime supervisors.
Metro's nearly 160 bus drivers belong to United Transportation Union
Local 23. They are in contract negotiations as well, and have a
mediation session scheduled for Tuesday. That union has said it will
not cross the picket lines if the SEIU strikes.
The unions are bargaining with a district carrying a $1.4-million
deficit. Over the past five years, agency health-care costs have
increased 112 percent, and diesel costs about 100 percent, White
said. Meanwhile, the sales tax revenue that pays for many Metro
services has not rebounded from the economic crash of 2001.
Metro representatives presented SEIU negotiators with their last and
final offer about 5:30 p.m. Friday, after starting mediation at 8
Neither side released details of Metro's offer, saying employees
needed to learn them first at today's meeting. Klemz declined to say
if SEIU had decided when members would walk, should they approve a
"We'll see what the union does tomorrow with their strike vote,"
Mark Stone, county supervisor and Metro board member, said Friday.
"It's kind of in their hands now, and what they think they really
need or not."
White said he hoped the union would think of riders when planning
"I would hope they would give the people who rely on the system
notice so they can make alternative plans," White said. "But there
is no assurance."
Contact Genevieve Bookwalter at gbookwalter@...
[BATN: See also:
Santa Cruz Metro bus strike looms; unions need new contracts