The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

On the road again

As talks continue between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the Amalgamated Transit Union, many bus riders fret at the possibility of another strike in 2004.

The 90-day arbitration process, to begin the day after the mechanics agreed to accept the contract and return to work, is still underway in an effort to resolve the union’s health care issues.

“From what I understand, they’re trying to hammer out who will be on the three-party panel for the nonbinding arbitration process,” said Manuel Criollo, lead organizer of the Bus Riders’ Union.

However, Criollo said he believes if the negotiations don’t go well by the end of the negotiation period, the mechanics could reject the offer and vote to strike again.

“It is solely on the shoulders of the mechanics if they don’t like the results,” Criollo said. “On one side, the mechanics are in a bind, and on MTA’s part a three-person panel can be considered very protective.”

Likewise, MTA media relations consultant Dave Sotero said the process of picking the council has to be done before negotiations can begin, but denies that another strike will occur.

“They made an agreement to go back to work, based on the agreement already made on the wages,” Sotero said.

As spokesman, Sotero said the strike was very damaging to the ridership, and it could be a while before the public’s trust will return.

“Ridership obviously decreased and usually takes time before the numbers go back to what they were prior to the strike; as long as six months,” Sotero said.

The 35-day strike left students like office administration major Alma Martinez without a way to school and work, but family and friends helped her.

“I had my sister who isn’t working right now drop me off every day, and another woman in my computer class would drive me home if I didn’t have a ride,” Martinez said.

Criollo said he thinks most people are just happy the service is back on the streets, but the biggest problem the Bus Riders’ Union faces is educating them about the fare increase next month.

“This becomes effective January 1 and a lot of folks think it’s a direct result of the contract when in fact, it had nothing to do with it because this decision was made in May,” Criollo said. “We’re calling on the MTA board to reverse this fare increase,” he said.

“It’s mostly riders who will be affected because the mechanics are still going to get what they want and MTA will get what it wants and the riders will have to pay for it,” Martinez said.

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