LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – The Lake Transit strike will enter its second and final day on Tuesday, with transit workers and their employer expected to reenter negotiations later this month.
The strike, which started Monday, followed a break in negotiations that occurred last week between Paratransit Services, the Washington-based nonprofit that holds the contract for Lake Transit Authority operations, and Teamsters Local 665, which represents most of the company's local employees.
Randy Grove, director of operations and human resources for Paratransit Services, said it's Paratransit Services' understanding that the union intends to continue the strike through Tuesday evening and that employees will return to regular work schedules beginning Wednesday.
Lake Transit has scaled back services over the two-day strike, and also has delayed expanding services which it said it was implementing due to need in the community.
Don Staler, Local 665 shop steward, said employees picketed at three locations on Monday and would do so again on Tuesday: Ray's Food Place Clearlake, Lake Transit's headquarters in Lower Lake and the county bus yard in Lakeport.
“It was hot, but I think he was hotter for Lake Transit,” said Staler.
Staler estimated that most of the company's three dozen union-represented employees are participating in the strike. Strike support came from across the employee spectrum and included drivers, mechanics and dispatchers.
He also estimated that ridership was extremely low based on his observations. “We're looking at it as community support at this point,” Staler said.
Mark Wall, Lake Transit Authority's general manager, said things went “relatively well” on Monday.
He said buses were running on time on Routes 5 and 6 in Clearlake and Lower Lake, and Clearlake Dial-A-Ride and Lakeport Dial-A-Ride operated normally.
“We do have some customers that are unable to travel between Clearlake and Lakeport using the reduced schedules, and we have customers who have been stranded in Ukiah because they are unable to make connections from Amtrak to Lake County,” Wall said in an email message. “Still other customers who learned about the strike ahead of time have made alternate plans to travel to the Bay Area and elsewhere.”
The California Highway Patrol reported receiving a report from a member of the Teamsters about drivers who were not properly licensed being used to run the routes on Monday.
Wall said Paratransit Services has on file the records and credentials of all drivers, and all drivers are properly licensed and fully qualified. He said the drivers working on Monday consisted of several Lake Transit drivers who chose to work, supervisors and experienced drivers from other Paratransit Services locations in Northern California.
He also suggested that the report by Teamsters to CHP was “possibly a tactic to disrupt service, or it was a misunderstanding about the use of driver trainees as helpers on board buses.”
According to Wall, driver trainees were assisting passengers – particularly those who are elderly or have disabilities – with boarding the bus, loading groceries and other tasks. He said that assistance also was helping keep the buses running on time.
Staler alleged that the drivers who were driving the routes were driving too fast and not meeting appropriate standards. He also said that one striking Lake Transit employee was bumped by a bus driven by one of the replacement drivers, with law enforcement responding. He said the man was not injured.
The union and Paratransit Services are scheduled to hold another contract negotiations meeting on Wednesday, July 17, Grove said. At that point he said they are scheduled to meet with a federal mediator.
Scaled-back services to be offered on Tuesday, mirroring those on Monday, include: Clear Lake / Lakeport Dial-a-Ride (DAR) will operate from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Routes 5 and 6 will run from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Route 4 westbound will operate at 7:05 a.m. and 1 p.m.; Route 1 eastbound will operate at 8:31 a.m. and 2:21 p.m.
For more information call Lake Transit at 707-994-3334 or visit www.laketransit.org .
Email Elizabeth Larson at [email protected] . Follow her on Twitter, @ERLarson, or Lake County News, @LakeCoNews.