‘It's Hard on Us': MTS Bus Drivers in San Diego Maintain Strike

The union is asking for safe and clean bathrooms, better schedules and increased wages for drivers

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A bus driver strike in parts of San Diego County continued to affect riders who depend on the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) on Friday.

About 20% of regularly scheduled service was left available in the South Bay during commute hour and about 45% of regularly scheduled service was available in the East County, according to a spokesperson for MTS.

Some of the drivers who are typically on South Bay routes were picketing in front of the MTS lot on Main Street in Chula Vista. There were about two dozen people there, with signs that read “ON STRIKE Teamsters Local 683.” When a car or bus needed to enter or exit the lot, the group would set a three-minute timer, then let the vehicle leave when that timer was up.

The group was on strike because of negotiations with Transdev, a contracted service provider that works with MTS. According to Jose Puga with Teamsters Local 683, the union representing the drivers, the strike started on Tuesday at 4 p.m.

“We negotiated to the best that we could and the company pretty much said this is all we can do,” Puga told NBC 7.

What is the Union Asking For?

The union is asking for safe and clean bathrooms, better schedules and increased wages for drivers. Puga added that Local 683 has been negotiating with Transdev for more than six months.

Improved Restroom Conditions

“We don’t have good restrooms. Sometimes they’re a mess because people violate them,” Marco Arrieta, a bus driver of 11 years told NBC 7. “The most important thing is there’s no water or there’s no soap to wash your hands.”

Arrieta added that some of the restrooms are at transit centers, but others that are suggested for drivers to use are in businesses or porta potties placed near bus stops.

“We have to walk sometimes very far and then we have to get back and continue driving and that causes us to be late sometimes,” Arrieta said.

Puga and another representative from the union went to each of the locations that Transdev told them are considered rest stops for the drivers.

“It took me and my shop steward 13 hours to go to each place, take a picture and create notes,” Puga said. He explained that a handful of the locations are in businesses that do not open until several hours after early-morning drivers have been working.

“This isn't something we should be negotiating or begging for an employee here in California, in the United States,” Puga said.

Improved Scheduling

When it comes to hours, the group said they are also opposed to splits, meaning 13-hour days where drivers have scheduled two to three hours off, unpaid, in the middle. Some of them claim they are also often asked to work six out of seven days each week. Many of the drivers told NBC 7 the long days make it difficult on their personal lives. 

“You have family, you have laundry, you have all this stuff going on, doctors appointments and it's hard on us,” a driver told NBC 7.

Teamsters Local 683 has filed a handful of charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against Transdev this year, but told NBC 7 none of them have made any progress since they were created.

Transdev's Response

A spokesperson for Transdev sent NBC 7 a statement in response to the strike and NLRB charges:

“We apologize to our passengers and the public for the difficulties this Teamsters strike has caused. While Transdev respects the rights of individuals and the Teamsters to make claims against Transdev, no governmental agency or arbitrator has issued a decision indicating any of the Teamsters’ alleged reasons for its South Bay drivers’ strike have merit or validity. Transdev remains committed to continue bargaining in good faith and reaching a mutually acceptable agreement with Teamsters Local 683 for the South Bay drivers.”

Puga told NBC 7 the strike could last up to 20 days, depending on other similar contract negotiation timelines he has seen. Although, he hopes that is not the case.

As for what routes are affected in the meantime:
South Bay: 1, 3, 5, 27, 28, 35, 225, 701, 704, 705, 709, 712, 901, 904, 905, 906, 907, 909, 916, 917, 923, 929, 932, 933, 934, 950/950A, 955, 961, 962, 963, 967, 968, 992.

East County: 88, 115, 280, 290, 815, 816, 832, 834, 848, 851, 852, 854, 855, 856, 864, 872, 874, 875, 888, 891, 892, 894, 921, 928, 936

Riders can also check the MTS Alerts & Detours webpage for the latest route updates, or call (619) 233-3004.

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