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OCTA Bus Drivers Seek Vote to Oust Teamsters


Saying they are unhappy about their wages and union representation, bus drivers from the Orange County Transportation Authority on Monday stepped up their demand for an election to replace the Teamsters with a more transit-oriented union.

After a two-month petition drive, Teamsters opponents said they have at least 330 signatures from OCTA's 1,100 drivers--more than the number required to call an election if the state determines the names are valid.

"We want a transit union, not a trucking union," said Curtis Gamble, an OCTA coach operator who is coordinating the effort to oust Teamsters Local 952. "They don't really understand the issues bus drivers have to deal with."

Many OCTA bus drivers, Gamble said, are concerned that their pay is low compared with other drivers' around the state and that transit workers are underrepresented in the Teamsters' hierarchy.

Top pay for OCTA drivers is about $19 an hour; operators in Los Angeles County make $22.50 an hour. The local union's seven-member executive board, Gamble said, has only one bus driver.

The dissident group plans to file the petition Jan. 1 with the Mediation and Conciliation Service within the state Department of Industrial Relations. Agency officials will determine whether 30% of OCTA's drivers signed the petition, the amount needed for an election. A vote could be held as early as Jan. 10, Gamble said.

Teamsters Local 952 has represented OCTA's drivers for more than a decade. Any new union would take over after the authority's current labor contract expires April 30, 2004.

Patrick Kelly, secretary treasurer of Local 952, said there is a dissident faction within OCTA that would like to have the United Transportation Union take over. United Transportation used to represent the drivers, but was replaced by the Teamsters in a close union election in 1989.

United Transportation, which represents transit and rail workers across the country, has not decided whether it would represent OCTA's drivers if the Teamsters are voted out. United Transportation has asked Gamble to stop mentioning the union in literature his group is using for its campaign, and Gamble said he has complied.

There are two other national labor organizations for transit workers--the Amalgamated Transit Union and the Transport Workers Union. But Gamble said they are unlikely candidates for OCTA's drivers because they are members of the AFL-CIO and cannot represent workers until a year after a union is voted out.

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