LOS ANGELES — A Thursday morning in February started like most for bus operator and UTU Local 1564 member Darwin Dawson — making fruit and vegetable protein shakes for fellow Division 18 workers as part of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s health and wellness program.
By afternoon, Dawson was standing on the set of the Jimmy Kimmel Live show in Hollywood, collecting $650 in cash from host Kimmel — and it had nothing to do with buses or fruit and vegetable protein shakes (the latter a southern California thing, so don’t ask).
So let’s back up and sit a spell for this yarn, as Dawson is one fascinating fellow.
It begins in the garage of Dawson’s home in Redondo Beach, which he converted to a private sports bar for his friends and family. On display everywhere were old leather football helmets, antique cleats, brightly colored neon beer signs, five television screens — a memorabilia laden man-cave if ever there was one.
And, somehow, there was room for Dawson also to restore vintage Chevy pick-up trucks — the source of cash to keep those friends and family in beer and pretzels during Angels, Clippers, Dodgers and Rams ballgames.
Somehow, some hard-to-find ’49 Caddy parts found their way into the garage — the source of a barter that would lead to the Kimmel show. But let’s not get ahead of this story.
Some years back, in exchange for hard-to-find ’49 Caddy chrome bumper and other parts, Dawson acquired a 100-pound, 6’7″ fiberglass statue of basketball legend Michael Jordan, which fit oh so well in the home sports bar a/k/a Dawson’s garage.
Man-caves can change, and when Dawson decided it was time to redecorate — from a sports bar motif to an auto/bus motif — the Jordan statue become surplus. So Dawson put it up for sale at $650 on Craigslist.
Then came the call from producers of the Kimmel show. Kimmel wanted the statue as a gift to present Jordan on his birthday.
So, with help from Dawson’s 12-year-old son, into a Dawson-restored ’68 Chevy pick-up went the 100-pound statue, and down the road went Dawson and his son to the Jimmy Kimmel Live set in nearby Hollywood — a building but 100 yards from the route of the LACMTA bus Dawson drives.
In his driver’s uniform — at Kimmel’s request — Dawson gained his few minutes of national fame, selling the statue to Kimmel not for the $600 Kimmel offered, but the $650 Dawson insisted on receiving.
Hey, he’s a UTU brother, and UTU brothers and sisters don’t let even the Jimmy Kimmels of the world get the better in negotiations.
Basketball fans may notice something amiss in the photo. Yes, Jordan’s jersey shows #32, not the #23 Jordan wore with the Chicago Bulls.
Kimmel noticed that discrepancy, and Dawson had the answer. The statue was never “authorized” by Jordan — as were the legendary Nike Air Jordan shoes — but was created in the Philippines, perhaps by a dyslectic sculptor of knock-offs.
While insomniac Americans watched Dawson on Kimmel’s late night show, Dawson was sound asleep. He begins his day with the LACMTA at 4 a.m.

Late-night television host Jimmy Kimmel, right, pays UTU member Darwin Dawson for the Michael Jordan statue seen in the background.

By Vic Baffoni,

Vice president, Bus Department

I extend my congratulations to all the newly elected and re-elected Bus Department officers and delegates, and I ask that they do their best to represent all their membership. Dedication and hard work must include conversation and compromise to produce results. Results are our business.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) negotiations continue on a day-by-day extension. General Chairperson James Williams and his negotiating committee continue to try to hammer out an agreement. The current political and financial climate makes it very difficult. I am confident they will succeed.

The new political environment will make it harder for our hard working members and us to succeed in the near future, but succeed we will.

In the Bus Department there is an issue that should be our priority, and that is operational funding.

Operational funding should be incorporated into all legislation that funds transit projects. Federal, state and local entities have allocated large sums of funding for new and/or expanded transit projects.

These projects fund planning and construction — not operations, which includes driver salaries.

Without operational funding, the future of these projects is in jeopardy and may only create future problems. These problems could be failure of new service, cuts in existing service, or both. UTU National Legislative Director James Stem is aware of this funding problem and has been working in Washington to educate lawmakers on this important issue. He and Alternate National Legislative Director John Risch pledge to continue fighting for this funding.

By James A. Williams
General Chairperson, LACMTA

Contract negotiations are underway between the UTU and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA).

As required by California law, the parties exchanged proposals prior to April 1, and, as also dictated by state law, began bargaining April 30.

The proposals exchanged were basically the same as those that resulted in the current one-year contract.

As usual, the MTA is crying poor; and in its proposed guidelines for the agency’s 2011 budget, there is absolutely no money for labor union members.

We also expect that the agency will be looking for some give-backs, but our negotiating committee is determined that despite the economic climate, we will preserve what our members already have, and explore every possible avenue to see what improvements might be made, monetarily or otherwise.

Unfortunately, the political atmosphere is not favorable because the majority of MTA board members represent the City or County of Los Angeles, whose employees have a wage freeze.

The safety and well being of our members depends on this union strongly enforcing the provisions of our labor contract, and I am proud of the job this general committee’s members and officers are doing in this regard.

It is not going to be easy, but this general committee has the strength and determination to bring our members a contract that protects them and their families.

Our members deserve nothing less.

By Vic Baffoni
Vice president, Bus Department

Negotiations are underway on UTU’s largest bus property, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA).

The UTU negotiating committee, headed by General Chairperson James A. Williams, exchanged contract proposals March 19 with the LACMTA negotiating team.

The first negotiating session was held April 9, and dates have been set for additional meetings. The current contract expires June 30.

A difficult financial climate in California will be an important factor in negotiations.

UTU goals include the closing of wage tiers, protecting current work rules, and preserving of one of the transit industry’s finest health-care and pension packages.

Affected UTU members were sent a comparison of the proposals, with the general committee pledging to protect the members and their families.