Cecilia Lopez, the general chairperson representing Local 1701, announced that 28 months of uncertainty for her brothers and sisters have officially ended. The city of Montebello and SMART-TD have come to an agreement that has been ratified by a nearly unanimous vote by Local 1701 members. Lopez said the contract includes the largest pay increase she has seen in her career working for the city.

A fresh start for Montebello

GC Lopez made it clear that the city has turned a significant corner in how they treat our union members and its employees since they hired Raul Alvarez as city manager.

“It is hard to explain the difference in morale for our bus department since Alvarez came to Montebello,” she said. “Montebello’s Bus Department is now the place where people want to work.”

SMART-TD averts a crisis

Members of the SMART Transportation Division ratified a new agreement with the city of Montebello after more than two years of negotiations.

Since December 2021, the men and women of SMART-TD Local 1701 in Montebello, California, had been working without a contract. The team of Local Chairperson Betty Vasquez, GC Lopez and SMART-TD Vice Presidents Alvy Hughes and James Sandoval saw negotiations going down a dangerous path. At one point, 27 of our members were placed on administrative leave and faced termination, including Lopez and Vasquez.

 Thanks in part to their training and experience and with the help of a new administration in Montebello City Hall, the SMART-TD negotiating team was able to put both the city and Local 1701 on the road to a much brighter future.

Progress based on teamwork and mutual respect

When the dust settled, the Bus Department and SMART-TD Local 1701 stood together.

As GC Lopez put it, “Without Montebello Bus, there is no Montebello. This isn’t just a victory for us; it is a win for the people of this community.”

She said she’s very appreciative of the aid she received in this process from VPs Sandoval and Hughes, as well as the support her local received from Alternate Vice President Markeisha Hayes.  More than anything, she wanted to thank the men and women of Local 1701 for their continued support throughout this multi-year fight for a good contract.

“These men and women stuck together as a family, and they filled City Hall every time I asked them to,” she said. “I couldn’t be prouder to represent the people of Montebello’s Bus Department.”

Solidarity brings success

The success in Montebello is one example of the power of union solidarity. By working together, focusing on results and holding employers accountable, SMART-TD creates better lives and more secure futures for workers across the country.

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.

Police now have a suspect in custody after members of the community identified the man in the video.
“On May 3rd, 2019, Montebello Detectives received information from several citizens who recognized the suspect from the video. Detectives were able to contact witnesses who positively identified the suspect. In an attempt to locate the suspect, Detectives discovered the suspect was currently in custody and being housed at the Los Angeles County Jail for an arrest for domestic violence which occurred on April 3rd, 2019,” Montebello police said in a statement on the department’s Facebook page.
“The Montebello police department will present this bus assault case to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for filing consideration. The suspect has been identified as Vincent Eric Ramirez, 32 years of age. Ramirez is a Montebello resident.
“Thank you to the community for your help and efforts in solving this crime. Your support made the difference in this case.”

Original story:
Police are asking for the help of the public in finding a man who brutally attacked another passenger as they both were exiting a Montebello bus March 12.
According to police and bus surveillance video, the suspect punched the victim in the back of the head as he got off the bus, knocking the victim unconscious. The attacker then kicked the man three times before walking away.
“The suspect appears to be in his mid to late 20’s, medium build with a goatee. He was wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt, blue khaki pants and a black backpack. Please also listen to the voice of the suspect at the beginning of the video,” Montebello police said in a post published May 2 on their facebook page in a plea for help in identifying the suspect.
SMART Transportation Division represents bus operators and mechanics employed by Montebello Bus Lines in Local 1701 in Montebello, California.
The assailant could have easily turned and assaulted the bus operator as well, which is why SMART TD supports H.R. 1139 – the Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act, which would protect bus operators from violent incidents like this one.
Click here to ask legislators for their support on H.R. 1139.
Click here to read more from KTLA5.

Bus Operators employed by Montebello Bus Lines (MBL) are angry and concerned for their safety after a college student was critically injured during an attack, which occurred Monday, April 9, while riding on one of their buses.
Local 1701 Chairperson Cecilia Lopez told the Montebello City Council at a meeting Wednesday, April 11, that members have been concerned for their safety for awhile and in light of Monday’s stabbing, are demanding that the city, who owns the bus system, make improvements to safety.
“People are crazy out there. Please don’t sweep this under the rug,” Lopez said at the meeting. “What does it take to make sure our employees are safe?”
Lopez has suggested that the city place uniformed officers on every bus. The Montebello police department says that they don’t have the manpower to place an officer on every bus, but that some officers can be placed on buses, especially if more complaints are lodged.
Click here to read more from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

SMART TD Local 1701 represents mechanics and bus operators employed by Montebello Bus Lines.
With a fleet of 66 buses, MBL serves over 8 million passengers a year throughout the communities of Alhambra, Bell Gardens, Boyle Heights, Commerce, Downtown Los Angeles, East Los Angeles, La Mirada, Montebello, Monterey Park, Pico Rivera, Rosemead, South Gate and Whittier.

Update: Manuel Ortiz, 27, was apprehended at 1 a.m., Thursday, April 12, and is being held on attempted murder charges. A motive for the attack is still unclear.
An update on the condition of the victim has not been released.
Click here to read more from CBS Los Angeles.

CBS Los Angeles reports that a passenger who was stabbed while riding aboard a Montebello Bus Lines (MBL) bus is not expected to survive. The attack happened along the 5700 block of Whittier Blvd., in East LA at 10:13 a.m. on Monday, April 9. The victim is said to be in his 20s and was on his way to East LA College where he is a student.
Video of the attack from an inward-facing camera shows that there was no provocation and that the victim appeared to be minding his own business. Authorities are still searching for the perpetrator.
Click here to read more from CBS Los Angeles.
SMART TD Local 1701 represents mechanics and bus operators employed by Montebello Bus Lines.
With a fleet of 66 buses, MBL serves over 8 million passengers a year throughout the communities of Alhambra, Bell Gardens, Boyle Heights, Commerce, Downtown Los Angeles, East Los Angeles, La Mirada, Montebello, Monterey Park, Pico Rivera, Rosemead, South Gate and Whittier.


More than 170 bus operators, mechanics, service employees and store keepers employed by the Los Angeles area Montebello (Calif.) Bus Lines are now UTU members after overwhelmingly voting, “UTU, yes.”

In the Los Angeles area, the UTU also represents employees of Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) and Santa Monica Municipal (Big Blue) Bus Lines.

Montebello Bus Lines transports some eight million passengers annually in the communities of Alhambra, Bell Gardens, Boyle Heights, Commerce, downtown Los Angeles, East Los Angeles, La Mirada, Montebello, Monterey Park, Pico Rivera, Rosemead, South Gate and Whittier.

UTU Alternate Vice President John England said, “Since International President Mike Futhey took office in January 2008, the UTU has set a record in organizing, with 29 new air, bus and rail properties organized and two raids on UTU properties turned back.”

England was joined in the organizing drive by Bus Department Vice President Bonnie Morr and Bus Department Alternate Vice President Brian Donald, along with Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA) organizers Manuel Gonzalez and Ernesto Tolentino. The UTU and SMWIA are now merged as the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) Workers.

Praised for their efforts in organizing fellow Montebello Bus Lines employees were bus operators Rachel Burciaga and Frank Garcia. “Rachel and Frank were an integral part of making this organizing campaign a success and it would not have been possible without their assistance,” England said.