MONTEBELLO, Calif. – SMART Transportation Division Local 1701 bus members here July 9 picketed outside Montebello City Hall prior to and during a meeting of city council to bring attention to their dispute with city over wages, rest periods, meal periods and payment of pension contributions.
Approximately 30 members attended the picket that was organized by Local President Rachel Burciaga and Local Chairperson Cecilia Lopez.
The members of Local 1701 come under the jurisdiction of General Committee of Adjustment BNSF Railway GO 020 and General Chairperson Tom Pate serves as the local’s chief negotiator. The employees voted for SMART representation in 2012 and the local’s charter was issued on Jan. 1, 2013.
“The city of Montebello doesn’t want change to improve the quality of life for either its full-time or part-time transit employees,” Pate said. “Local 1701 is still a young organization within SMART, but I can feel the momentum building among its membership.”
“We’ve been in negotiations for the last two years. Everything we have brought to the table, they say no to,” Lopez said. “We ask for a pay increase, they say no. But there’s money for special projects to repave the streets of Montebello, get new buses and hire new supervisors.”
She said the transit employees last received a pay raise in 2008.
Member Javier Olvera also expressed his exasperation outside the council meeting.
“We haven’t got a raise for six years and the cost of living is increasing. Now, instead of giving us a raise, they want to take away eight percent. That’s less food on the table for my kids and my family,” said Olvera, a bus operator for the past 11 years.
Olvera was referring to the dispute over who should pay for the employees’ share of pension costs. During the last year, the city has paid its nontransit employees’ share of their pension costs, but not for bus drivers, mechanics and service operators.
For more information about Local 1701’s labor dispute, see this article in the Whittier Daily News.