Striking Santa Cruz Metro bus drivers approve contract
- Published Tuesday, November 1, 2005, in the Santa Cruz Sentinel
It's a deal: Striking drivers approve contract, buses to roll Thursday
By Genevieve Bookwalter
SANTA CRUZ -- County bus drivers voted Monday to end their 35-day
strike, approving a tentative three-year contract and making way for
buses to roll again beginning Thursday.
Although drivers for the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District did
not get all they wanted, most expressed elation the ordeal was over.
"The best thing for us is we can go back to serving our customers,"
said Gary Blair, 58, who has been driving for 21 years.
The vote was 108-14 to accept the tentative contract and return to
work. About 145 drivers are represented by United Transportation
Union Local 23.
The drivers had been pushing for higher wages, lower medical premiums
and help with pension costs.
These demands were met at the expense of safe driving bonuses,
vacation time accumulated while working overtime hours and some
general leave -- a month off without pay but with benefits.
Also, higher wages will only happen when tax revenues grow more than 3
percent each year, according to the tentative contract.
"We all know it wasn't a win-win contract, but it's one we can live
with," said driver's union chairwoman Bonnie Morr.
Metro General Manager Les White said the deal was made within the bus
district's financial parameters.
"I'm very pleased. I think it's good to have this thing done and that
it's good to have the buses back on the road and start serving the
community again," White said.
The Metro board approved the tentative contract Sunday night but must
give it a final nod Wednesday.
Drivers walked off the job Sept. 27 after the board vetoed a tentative
contract agreement that would have kept buses rolling through June 30.
Drivers said they would not return without a three-year contract.
Metro directors cited a $1.4 million deficit and said there was only
so much they could give.
Normally 37 routes run from Davenport to Watsonville, up San Lorenzo
Valley and to San Jose. The buses serve about 23,000 daily riders.
Buses should be on the road Thursday, after the district completes
inspections and maintenance.
After Monday's vote, driver Doug Grosjean, 56, said he was "savoring
A driver for 21 years, "It's been a long hard battle," Grosjean said,
"a rather formidable foe and some ultimate pride in the solidarity of
this group of people."
Contact Genevieve Bookwalterat gbookwalter@...
Details of the Deal
As Metro drivers reach a contract and end their 35-day strike, both
sides say they compromised.
* Drivers traded benefits like safety bonuses, baby bonuses and
optional 32-hour work weeks to pay for lower medical premiums and help
with retirement costs.
* General leave -- an optional month off without pay but with benefits
-- was reduced from two to five drivers every month to one to three
drivers, eight months of the year. In return, family medical premiums
dropped from more than $400 a month in the old contract to $116.46.
* Drivers compromised on vacation days, and instead of accumulating
time off by the hour -- meaning those who work overtime receive more
vacation -- all drivers will receive standard time off based on
40-hour weeks. The money saved will help pay for increased pension
* Drivers will receive no raise this year, and for the next two years
wages will be tied to district income. Drivers will receive pay
raises only if district sales tax revenue grows more than 3 percent from
2005-06. The effect will be cumulative, meaning revenue must increase
6 percent after two years for drivers to qualify in 2007-08.
* Instead of waiving a state-required lunch break, as originally
planned, drivers decided to keep it and drop lawsuits and legal
charges filed during the strike against the district. In return, the
district agreed to pay each driver $1,000 instead of penalty pay they
could have owed for beginning the breaks in mid-September instead of
SOURCES: United Transportation Union Local 23 and Santa Cruz
Metropolitan Transit District.