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Talks Shift to Drivers

October 19, 2003|Caitlin Liu | Times Staff Writer

On the fifth day of a walkout that has hobbled Los Angeles County's transit system, leaders of the striking mechanics union sat in a hotel conference room watching television as Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials struggled to reach a deal with another union.

Leaders of the Amalgamated Transit Union clustered around a small TV set someone had brought from home to pass time during stalled negotiations at the Sheraton Suites Fairplex in Pomona.

MTA negotiators were down the hall in a separate room, trying to work out a contract agreement with the bus drivers union, which is not on strike but is honoring the mechanics' picket lines.

MTA Chief Executive Roger Snoble said that his agency was focusing on that union because it had "momentum" going with that group.

County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said that MTA leaders had made overtures to the mechanics union.

"Our negotiators sought a meeting with them to explain a critical issue, and they did not want to meet," he said. "It's frustrating in the extreme."

Union President Neil Silver said he had insisted that the MTA present a proposal before they met.

"You can always settle up" later with the bus drivers' union, he said. "We're on strike. If your right arm is bleeding, why would you want to put bandages on your left arm?"

Talks with the bus drivers appeared to be nearing a deal. Late Friday, MTA negotiators presented an offer to that union, which responded with a counterproposal the next day.

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