This passage from today's Los Angeles Times speaks volumes about who's responsible for the OCTA bus driver's strike:
Art Leahy, the OCTA's chief executive, said talks broke down at 11:30 p.m. Friday, about 30 minutes before the court-ordered 60-day cooling off period expired.
He said transit negotiators increased their offer to $209 million in the afternoon, an $18-million increase from the three-year contract that has expired.
But just before midnight, Leahy said, the Teamsters countered at $209.7 million, a $200,000 increase from their previous demand.
Leahy said the 14.6% raise in wages and benefits in the OCTA deal would give younger drivers, those with five years or less of experience, an hourly wage of $14.27. Top drivers would make $23.87 an hour.
"The offer we made was 10% higher than the one we made two weeks ago," Leahy said.
So, with minutes to go before the cooling off period expired, Teamsters Local 952 (the bus drivers' union) president Patrick Kelly responded to an OCTA concession by increasing his demands.
Those are not the actions of a man seeking a solution, but those of someone seeking an expanded confrontation -- for what reasons is open to speculation. I've heard Kelly is concerned about holding on to his post and intent on showing his members that he's "tough enough" to do the job (I'm not the only one hearing that).
The OCTA Board of Directors should stand firm. Their offer is a fair, and the union responded to the last-minute concession in bad faith by ratcheting up their demands. Kelly obviously wants this strike, and now he's got it.
OCTA should begin replacing these drivers as quickly as possible. Striking drivers should be invited to cross the picket line and accept the wage-and-benefit package spurned by union prez Kelly. The rest should be given a deadline to return to work -- and any who return after the deadline should do so as entry-level drivers. Union demands are geared to the benefit of the senior drivers, so such a stance would be a powerful incentive to return to work.
Above all, an OCTA employees union cannot be allowed to dictate
policy to OCTA. If the bus drivers' union wins via a strike, you can
bet the union will resort to it more readily in the future.
As OCTA Chair Ccarolyn Cavecche pointed out, 70% of OCTA bus passengers don't have a car and half are from families earning less than $22,000. They are, unfortunately, dependent upon a government transit monopoly -- which is also the source of the coach operator union's leverage.
This strike should vividly illustrate the urgent need to create a transit marketplace in which we are not faced with such drastic choices by an intransigent public employee union. There is clearly a market for transit. As I posted on Friday and as John Seiler points out, allow entrepreneurs the opportunity to furnish transit solutions. 225,000 people ride the OCTA bus system everyday. I'd call that a market -- let's get government out of the way and let the marketplace respond.