LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – Lake Transit Authority workers on Sunday voted to strike until they settle their new contract, a move that's expected to result in curtailed services for the county's transit riders.
Paratransit Services, the Washington-based nonprofit has operated Lake Transit since 2007, has been in ongoing negotiations for a new three-year contract with members of Teamsters Local 665, which represents 35 Lake Transit workers, as Lake County News has reported.
But with the two sides continuing to disagree on wages, on Sunday morning union members met to discuss their next steps, said union spokesman Ralph Miranda.
“We called the strike on an indefinite basis,” Miranda said.
The strike begins at midnight Sunday, with picketing to begin in front of the Lower Lake bus yard on Monday morning, according to Miranda.
However, the action on the part of the union membership wasn't unanimous.
Miranda said at least three drivers submitted their membership resignations and are expected to be driving during the strike.
Randy Grove, Paratransit Services' director of Operations and Human Resources, could not be reached on Sunday for comment.
The two sides have met with federal mediators to get past sticking points in the negotiations, which had led to a strike just weeks ago, on July 1 and 2.
At a July 17 meeting the two sides agreed to resume negotiations again in September to work out details of a health care plan, according to a statement released on Saturday by Grove.
However, Paratransit Services also asked for an extension in negotiations, which Miranda said would have put union members at a disadvantage.
Grove said in his Saturday statement that Paratransit Services has offered a 2.2-wage rate increase to Lake Transit workers.
Miranda said that 2.2-percent increase is based on a cost of living index for transportation workers and is lower than a 2.4-percent cost of living index for clerical workers and urban wage earners the union is using as the basis of its request.
Miranda said the union's negotiating committee proposed the indefinite strike.
On Sunday, during Local 665's membership meeting in Lower Lake, members “overwhelmingly” rejected Paratransit Services' 2.2-percent wage increase offer and discussed the indefinite strike before ultimately taking the vote, Miranda said.
He said the strike carries some serious potential ramifications – with union members permanently losing their jobs being the largest potential risk.
“They just had to weigh that while making their decision,” said Miranda.
Miranda said the union members have “a pretty thorough understanding” of the risk to their jobs.
They also don't believe Paratransit Services can easily replace them, as Miranda said employees have reported that the company has difficulty filling positions as it is.
Grove said Saturday that Paratransit Services will work to continue services to the community members who rely on them, but several routes will not be running during the strike.
The company said the Clearlake and Lakeport Dial-a-Ride will operate from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.; intercity routes 5 and 6 in Clearlake will run from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.; the westbound Route 4 from Clearlake to Lakeport will operate at 7:05 a.m. and 1 p.m.; and eastbound Route 1 from Lakeport to Clearlake will operate at 8:31 a.m. and 2:21 p.m. only.
Other services would be canceled until further notice, including the westbound Route 1 from Clearlake to Lakeport; Route 2, which runs between Kit's Corner and Middletown; Route 3, from Clearlake to Deer Park; eastbound Route 4 from Lakeport to Clearlake; Route 4A from Kit's Corner to Lakeport; Route 7, Lakeport to Ukiah; and Route 8, an intercity Lakeport route.
Service updates will be posted at the Lake Transit Web site at www.laketransit.org .
Email Elizabeth Larson at [email protected] . Follow her on Twitter, @ERLarson, or Lake County News, @LakeCoNews.