Local 1701: There are very few moments in someone’s career when the power of a union comes into play more than when they have been targeted and fired as a result of private, union-protected conversations about a pending contract.

This is exactly what happened to 27 bus operators and mechanics out of Local 1701 in Montebello, California, this year. With a bus department made up of roughly 100 operators, service workers and mechanics combined, the city of Montebello has so far failed to negotiate a new contract with SMART-TD. Because of this, our members in Local 1701 have been working without a contract since December 21, 2021.


Obviously, this is a cause of concern for all our brothers and sisters on the property. Our members have been discussing the matter among themselves at local meetings and have been reaching out to their local officers. In early 2023, the city of Montebello, nervous about what was being said, resorted to an old-school union-busting technique straight from the 1800s and brought in private investigators to aggressively interview many of Local 1701’s members.

After allowing five months or more to go by, they brought the investigators back to the property to re-interview the same men and women they had harassed last fall. They interrogated our members with the same questions as the first round, and if any of their answers didn’t match up exactly, they put them on administrative leave pending termination for dishonesty and insubordination.


All in all, TWENTY-SEVEN of our brothers and sisters were put on administrative leave, and not coincidentally, they outright terminated Betty Vasquez, who is the local chairperson and vice general committee chair, along with placing General Chairperson Cecilia Lopez on administrative leave and serving her with intent-to-terminate paperwork.

All this was put in place as they and SMART-TD Vice President Alvy Hughes were fighting the city to get a fair contract that Montebello officials weren’t willing to sign.


When VP Hughes found out about Montebello’s blatant bullying and illegal tactics, he didn’t hesitate to get the TD office involved. VP Hughes filed an unfair labor practice charge against the city and assigned recently elevated fellow SMART-TD Bus Department Vice President James Sandoval to go to Montebello to represent and defend the members who were being interrogated by the private investigator and the city.

Once on the ground, Sandoval got into the details of the interviews and intimidation the city was using, and he also filed a separate unfair labor practice charge against Montebello, which stopped the interviews from continuing. General Chairperson Lopez and Vice Chairperson Vasquez, who have remained heavily involved in this fight even while facing their terminations, filed three additional charges of their own.

All told, SMART-TD officials levied five charges of unfair labor practices against the city and its leadership. In addition, they filed multiple information requests and reached out to many local politicians as well as the local labor council in Los Angeles for help.

VP Sandoval took one of the charges to a Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) hearing, which resulted in a settlement agreement where the city agreed to not violate our members’ right to protected activity moving forward.

27 members are reinstated and contract negotiations resume, marking another victory for SMART-TD.


Apparently, the points made in these charges hit home with the city. After SMART-TD’s show of support for Local 1701, they dropped the ridiculous charges on all 27 of our members and brought them all back to work. For the record, all were paid for the time they were out on the bogus charges. The city also requested a meeting with our union to settle the rest of the unfair labor practice charges, which resulted in a larger settlement agreement.


SMART-TD is grateful for the hard work and persistence of the men and women of Local 1701. We are beyond excited that everyone came back and nobody lost pay. But there is work left to be done. These 27 members and all their co-workers are still working with no contract!

These men and women were on the front lines, pulling the city through the COVID-19 pandemic. They continue to move their local economy despite the ongoing surge of violent assaults on public transit.

It is not acceptable that they bear this burden without the respect and peace of mind that comes with a ratified contract.


After the city was forced to do the right thing by our people and brought them back to work, they may have thought they were done hearing from SMART-TD for a while. THEY WERE WRONG.

At a recent Montebello City Council meeting, Local 1701 had a great show of force when many of their members came together at City Hall to demand good-faith negotiation of their contract. Joining them in their demonstration was VP Sandoval, as well as SMART-TD Bus Department Alternate Vice President of the Bus Department Markeisha Hayes.

Local 1701 has stood together throughout this multi-year ordeal, and absolutely nothing has or will change that. If Montebello wants SMART-TD to back off and stop stepping to the microphone in their boardroom, they need to negotiate a fair contract that reflects the hard work our members of Local 1701 have put in and give them the respect they deserve.

SMART-TD’s office thanks our members in Local 1701, especially GC Lopez and Vice Chairperson Vasquez, for continuing this fight. We want you to know that we are with you for the long haul. Keep standing up for this union, and most importantly, keep standing up for one another. Together, we will prevail.