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500,000 Affected by MTA Strike : Labor: Walkout by mechanics is honored by drivers and clerks, taking 85% of buses off streets. No further talks are scheduled.

July 26, 1994|RICHARD SIMON and NORA ZAMICHOW | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The bus system will operate only from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m in the initial days of the strike. Service on the Metro Red and Blue Lines will be virtually unaffected, but the trains will operate only on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Blue Line trains that ran from Downtown Los Angeles stopped at the Willow Street station in Long Beach instead of continuing to the southern terminus in Long Beach. Long Beach buses ferried train riders to the end of the line.

The Negotiating Stalemate

Contracts between the MTA and its three major unions expired June 30. The transit agency reached a tentative agreement at 3:15 p.m. Sunday with the United Transportation Union representing drivers and at 2 a.m. Monday with the Transportation Communications Union representing clerks.

But the Amalgamated Transit Union and the transit agency remained at loggerheads over the issue of subcontracting.

MTA officials want to contract out some work now performed by union mechanics, such as making parts.

At a news conference at MTA headquarters Monday, officials said it costs the agency more to have union workers make dustpans and mop buckets than to buy them at a store.

Union mechanics are skeptical of the transit agency's assurances that no employees will be laid off. They regard subcontracting as a union-busting tactic and say it could reduce their wages and result in poorer quality work.

"They put subcontracting on the table, which is definitely something we are not going to agree to--that's taking away our work and giving it to other people," said Mike Bujosa, president of the local chapter of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

MTA chief negotiator Gordon Krischer said, "There are items that we can purchase for less outside than it costs to make inside." He said that under the proposal on the table, union mechanics would be given an opportunity to bid on the work. "Let our own employees bid on this work," he said.

The union also opposes the MTA's desire to reduce the hourly wage for newly hired mechanics.

The strike drew attention in the governor's race.

State Treasurer Kathleen Brown, the Democratic candidate for governor, said she would have used the governor's power to order a 60-day cooling-off period--a move Republican Gov. Pete Wilson has refused to make.

"You've got thousands of people who are inconvenienced, who are not able to get to their work," she said. "That causes a ripple effect in the whole Southern California economy. . . . A cooling-off period would be most appropriate. That's what you have those laws for."

Wilson said Democrats and Republicans on the MTA board had asked him not to intercede. Mayor Richard Riordan had said he was concerned that delaying the strike until September would give the unions more leverage because the walkout would occur as more students were to school.

Nevertheless, the strike appeared to be affecting the Los Angeles Unified School District's summer program, in which about 65,000 students are enrolled.

Idelle Thaler, assistant principal of Birmingham High School in Van Nuys, said she was advising students "to call up all their friends and neighbors and family members--cousins, aunts and uncles--to try to get a ride here. The vast majority of these kids are here for very specific reasons and this is very difficult on them."

Contributing to the MTA strike coverage were Times staff writers David Colker, Aaron Curtiss, Sam Enriquez, Larry Gordon, Nicholas Riccardi, Tim Rutten, Beth Shuster, Amy Wallace and Timothy Williams and community correspondent Simon Romero.

The MTA Strike: Day 1

The region's first transit strike in 12 years began at 12:01 a.m. Monday. Here's a look at Day One:

* THE ISSUE: Dispute between the Amalgamated Transit Union, representing 1,900 mechanics and service attendants, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. About 5,000 bus and train drivers and clerks honored the picket line. The major sticking point is the MTA's demand to contract out work. Union members say they believe that subcontracting will eliminate jobs and result in poorer quality work.

* THE STATUS: No negotiations are scheduled.

* WHAT'S OPERATING: About 300 buses on the 30 busiest routes, out of the usual 1,900 buses on 200 routes. Some routes will use school buses, operated by private drivers, identified by "M" logos in the front and back. Service on the Blue Line and the Red Line subway is continuing, as will the Metrolink commuter rail and municipal or private operators.

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