Orange County bus drivers may go on strike as soon as next week after contract negotiations between employer Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) and its union, Local Teamster 952, failed to agree on a new contract.
Over 600 bus drivers represented by the union could be part of the strike, causing OCTA to put out a warning to Orange County bus passengers that they should “begin to plan for alternate ways to travel.”
“Everyone at OCTA wants to avoid a strike because nobody wins. Any bus service disruption hurts those in our community who can least afford to be hurt at a time when access to transportation is critical,” OCTA Chairman Mark Murphy, also the mayor of Orange said in a statement. “There’s no reason we can’t continue negotiating in good faith and reach a resolution without putting a tremendous burden on OC Bus riders.”
Since the OCTA contract expired in April 2021, the transportation service has met with teamsters over 35 times to negotiate a new contract, with no luck. The details holding up the contract negotiations were not immediately clear, though compensation is part of it.
A strike could have a rather large impact on those who depend on the transit system to get around. Around 85 percent of riders use the bus as their primary means of transportation, and more than half of riders have a total household income of less than $50,000, according to OCTA.
“OCTA has exceptional coach operators, and we have provided them with a very generous offer that compensates them for the essential work they perform,” said OCTA CEO Darrell E. Johnson. “All of us at OCTA realize the hardship a strike would cause for the thousands of riders who depend on the bus every day, and we are doing our best to reach a successful resolution.”
The agency warned that if drivers do strike, they plan to send a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking the state to institute a “cooling off” period where drivers would continue to work while negotiations continue due to “the significant impact a strike has on the health, safety and welfare of the public.”
OCTA touted another recent union negotiation with employees in OCTA’s Operations Division, where those employees received a 12 percent wage increase over the next 14 months and a $1,000 signing bonus, noting they hope to do the same with the bus drivers.
Teamsters 952 was not immediately available for comment.