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Santa Cruz Bus Drivers on Strike

UTU Local 23, the bus operators for the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District, are going on strike beginning Tuesday, September 27th.
A State mediated agreement had been reached with the Transit District and was signed by Les White, the District's general Manager, and our Union. Our Union agreed not to go out on strike while we tried to resolve some of the other issues we had with the Transit District. However, on Friday, September 23rd, the Transit Board reneged on this agreement - they voted it down. Instead they chose to once again impose their last, best and final offer.

By vetoing this agreement, the Transit Board has shown no concern for the public or our passengers. The drivers have tried to preserve the public transit system in this county but the Board is making this impossible.

The Transit District has been making unilateral changes and they are refusing to discuss these changes with our Union. When we filed a grievance with the District, we were told we do not have that right. A strike is the only way we have left to force the District to talk to us. This is an unfair labor practice strike.

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Re: Santa Cruz Bus Drivers on Strike

Bravo, UTU 23, you finally updated your web site!

But that seems to have been at the expense of providing adequate notice for your strike action. Hundreds if not thousands of our citizens found out by waiting at bus stops this morning for buses that never came. Not everyone has internet access. Not everyone reads the Sentinel. And certainly not all of METRO's riders understand English.

If the situation weren't tragic, it would be amusing that management is being accused of rendering compromise unnecessary. Management DID compromise. That's what the tentative contract agreement was all about.

It would also be amusing to say that the Board reneged on any agreement, when it was UTU 23 that reneged to begin with. What's with the amnesia? Don't you remember your 2002 contract?

Steven Argue, you must be creaming yourself at this point. Hope you're reveling in the devastation this foolish action is causing our community.

Re: Santa Cruz Bus Drivers on Strike


Can critics of the strike post details of their concerns?

"Concerned transit rider" gives no specifics about why s/he feels the tentative contract agreement rejection was a "compromise" by management.

Can we have more specifics please?

Debate on Strike Likely on Free Radio Thursday

Paul Marcelin Sampson, metroriders union activist, and sometime-union critic is slated to speak on Free Radio 6 PM Thursday September 29th (101.1 FM, He will hopefully be joined by UTU worker Bonnie Morr by phone. Call-in's and comments are invited at 427-3772.

The HUFF website (on which these "Bathrobespierre's Broadsides" shows are archived" is back up at, so those who miss the show can hopefully catch it there later.

Re: Santa Cruz Bus Drivers on Strike

Yeah, I wonder if not warning the people about the strike was a strategic tactic, to piss riders off. In hope that they would complain to the managers and board. I'm down with the union (mostly) but I think this alienates a lot of people from the bus drivers and union in general. Seems like if you f*ck with the union, the union will f*ck with the passengers, and the passengers will just have to deal with it. Isn't that sort of the message peopole might be getting?

Re: Santa Cruz Bus Drivers on Strike

Shame on the lazy employees. Get ur butts back to work, and quit complaining about ur contract, you are overpaid to begin with.

Re: Santa Cruz Bus Drivers on Strike

Mr Norse, you have to be pretty ignorant to think that management rejected anything. Management REACHED the tentative contract agreement -- A COMPROMISE more favorable than the "last, best, and final" offer -- with UTU 23. It was the SCMTD Board that rejected it. And they rejected it because the health care provisions benefited very few drivers at the expense of many. UTU 23, through their work rules and health care policy, have made clear that they care only about the most senior of drivers. But the rest have to fall in line because it's political suicide to do otherwise.

Letter to Mayor Rotkin

This letter was sent by me to Mayor


Mayor Mike:

If it is within your power to fire the bus drivers, I suggest doing so immediately.

For what it's worth, I'd back you 100%

As far as I'm concerned, the bus drivers are a bunch of sniveling crybabies who are having a tantrum because they can't have frivolous embellishments on an already diamond-studded wage and benefits package.

I absolutely don't know what they are thinking, but I know what they are doing. They are hobbling, even paralyzing, a large-sized portion of our community for the right to take a month off to kick their coffee
habits. (That was actually a reason given by one of the bus drivers as to why he needed a month off! Yes! Incredible!)

Fire them immediately. Hire seasoned cross-country big rig drivers who would be delighted to come home every evening and have consecutive days off, and who have never dreamed of having a month off, and who would be tickled pink to make $50-70k a year driving far fewer hours that they are accustomed to.

You go, Mike. Bravo! Tell 'em like it is.

Re: Santa Cruz Bus Drivers on Strike

We need options! We need real choice! We need DIVERSITY!

Taxpayer-subsidized government busses make it impossible for privately owned solutions to be economically viable, which leaves us with only one service provider.

And when that service provider fails for any reason, who suffers most? THE POOR who depend on mass transit to get to the only jobs they can find.

Getting to work in the morning is too important for too many people, to risk having government bureaucrats involved. Get the government out of the bus business so we can have reliable mass transit built on the diversity of the free market where anyone can start and offer bus service.

Re: Santa Cruz Bus Drivers on Strike

Yeah! The free market brought us New Leaf, Santa Cruz Roasting Company, Book Shop Santa Cruz, and Pipeline. Imagine having to rely on a government grocery store, government coffee shop, government book store, and government head shop. We need multiple locally-owned INDEPENDENT transit services, not this overpriced and unreliable centralized government DISservice. Down with unnecessary and incompetent government interference in vital services! I want FREEDOM TO CHOOSE, and protection from lack of service when one shuts down.

Re: Santa Cruz Bus Drivers on Strike

There's some strange technicalities involved in union strikes. I think you can't fire striking workers, but you can replace them indefinitely until they give up and find another job...

Re: Santa Cruz Bus Drivers on Strike

If you hired them, you can fire them. You just say "You're fired" and you remove them from payroll.

If they sue, so be it. Anyone can sue anyone else for anything in California and a jury of idiots may approve it. That's why there's so little growth and innovation in California anymore.

Re: Santa Cruz Bus Drivers on Strike

i think all of you who are bad-mouthing the bus drivers should watch what you are saying and where you are getting your information from because a lot of what you are saying is completely untrue and falsified.

Re: Santa Cruz Bus Drivers on Strike

really. Why didnt you lay out any facts of your own or refer to any sources that would support ur position.

Re: Santa Cruz Bus Drivers on Strike

I get my information from The Nation magazine, PBS, and of course here. Unlike you I dont just regurgitate the Sentinel's garbage. UTU 23 clearly has some things to answer for here. To lay all blame at the feet of the Metro is one-sided and unfair. Drivers need to ask themselves if they are getting the union leadership they deserve. I think drivers deserve better than this obvious betrayal of their loyalty.

Re: Santa Cruz Bus Drivers on Strike

Making an assumption of some one you never met, classic enlightened liberal bullshit. For your information the nation didnt cover the strike, and I dont read the sentinel.
your side claims the contract offered was unfair, so why don't u post a link so the public can view it and decide for themselves.

More Metro Strike Debate on FRSC Sunday

Union folks (of the UTU) by phone and/or in person will be debating strike issues with Paul Marcelin-Sampson with the public chiming in as well. Sound your horn 11 AM Sunday October 2nd by calling 831-427-3772. The show is at 101.1 FM and You can also comment off-air at 831-423-4833 and go to the chatroom at during the show.

There will probably be some earlier recorded interviews as well beginning at 10:30 AM.

Support The Santa Cruz Bus Drivers!

I’ve been so busy that I missed these attacks against the union and the personal attack against me.

Santa Cruz Bus Drivers have been forced out on strike by demands for cuts in their healthcare benefits by the board that oversees the METRO. I am not happy about the situation and nor are the workers, it was not the workers that forced this strike.

A supposed union of bus riders, actually one person named Sampson, is opposing the workers and has ill-advisedly gotten way too much air-time on Robert Norse’s show on Free Radio Santa Cruz and has posted their ideas at Santa Cruz Indy Media.

This person sounds a lot like the so-called “concerned bus rider? that likes to attack me, but refuses to post their real name.

The following is the response of Liberation News to Sampson's union busting attacks by me and by Linda Averill, a bus driver and City Council candidate in Seattle, Washington.

The self-proclaimed, but nowhere else recognized, riders union "leader" R. Paul Marcelin-Sampson is spewing anti-bus driver poison in Santa Cruz.

A true riders union would unite with the workers and fight for better funding and for better services. As a bus rider I am offended to have someone like Sampson pretends to be speaking for me.

The workers are fighting against cuts to their health care benefits. This is a worthy struggle that all working people should support. We are always stronger by sticking together against the government and corporations in labor disputes rather than fighting over the crumbs that fall from the table of exploitation where rich people feast.

The reality is that the U.S. government is cutting social services and healthcare rights and other benefits for workers everywhere while spending billions of dollars on war. It is the duty of unions to fight back. If we don’t we will loose everything.

The anonymous poster thinks that this is a problem limited to the Metro’s budget as is it stands under the control of some local useless functionaries that have never been friendly to workers or riders. You’d do better not to believe in the way the capitalists have divided the system up into little cantons in order to deny working people the social services and rights we deserve. It is a classic game of good cop bad cop. I don't buy it, and you shouldn't either.

The Democrats and Republicans and their capitalist masters could easily pay for the people's demands if they stop spending all of our money on war, police, bourgeois decadence, and prisons.

For general strike of all workers to demand:

U.S. Out Of Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia, and the Phillipines!

For the preservation of healthcare benefits for all workers without cuts! Extend current benefits to all people through single payer health care!

For the lowering of bus fares and an increase in services!

Victory to the Bus Driver’s Union!

Sincerely, Steven Argue for Liberation News


As a Metro bus driver myself, here in Seattle Washington, and also a transit union activist, I thank you for your defense of bus drivers and riders. It is disturbing to see a person use the mantle of a bus riders union to undermine the bus driver’s demands. I've followed other bus rider unions in other cities and they do typically support drivers because they understand we are all in this together. I'd add redirect the Pentagon's budget to expanded mass transit - and yes, affordable or free. And tax the profits of the wealthy corporations to also expand public mass transit. What with global warming it is clear that we need a dramatic shift away from our single-occupancy-vehicle focused system. Moreover, as we saw in New Orleans, many people, especially the poor, don't have cars. And why should those who can't afford cars be condemned to riding a second-class system.

Thanks again for your words of support for the bus drivers.

In solidarity
Linda Averill

Steven, answer the question,. please

Steven A:

You never answered a certain question about the strike, posed to you on another thread by a poster other than me.

Here's another chance to answer the question.

Please answer this question cleanly and directly.

The question:

"UTU agreed three years ago to a raise, paid for by an increase in health care premiums today. Now they refuse to accept. Who is in the wrong here?"


An non-clean and direct answer to this question suggests strongly that you are:

1) purposely leaving out crucial parts of the truth (which is pretty much the same as lying);

2) in major denial.

Please answer the question.

Re: Santa Cruz Bus Drivers on Strike


Ah yes, the “Bozo Explosion? sets off another stink bomb. A question supposedly so important.

To answer your question: There was nothing in the previous contract trading cuts in healthcare for higher wages in future contracts.

Steven, what about this...?

Regarding the UTU trading health benefits for a raise a while back, then now acting like they hadn't done that:

I haven't had time to do any real digging, but within a minute or two, I came up with this on the internet from the METRO website:

"The Drivers Union (UTU) made a calculated decision five years ago regarding their health insurance premiums that benefited single drivers that is now a detriment to drivers with families. Now they want METRO to make up for their mistake. METRO currently pays $998,250 for medical insurance for the 160 UTU drivers. To meet UTU’s demand to fully pay for medical premiums would add an additional $1.5 million over the next three years – funds that METRO does not have. METRO is willing to work with the Union to make changes in their contract to help them get the money to pay for their health insurance. These changes would affect a small number of drivers, and would bring their contract in line with other transit systems the size of METRO. UTU has not expressed a willingness to change its contract terms to free up funds that could be used to pay for increased healthcare costs."


I have little doubt that when I get some time, I'll be able to come up with more info that will suggest strongly that the UTU did in fact indicate that they were swapping a raise for healthcare benefits some time ago...but are now reversing field.

You're assertion that swapping a raise for health care benefits "isn't in the contract" (or words to that effect) dodges the SPIRIT of what was said quite some time ago, I would be willing to bet.

It doesn't surprise me that you are hiding behind the LETTER of an agreement, rather than the SPIRIT of an agreement. You feel to me like someone who is very able to pull slippery dodges such as that. You know darn well waht has gone on, and you aren't copping to it, I am all but certain

you talk about your issues with being "bourgeois". $50k a year, and $70k a ywear with overtime, with a whole month off at will to kick a coffee habit sounds suspiciously close to being bourgeois to me. It certainly ain't proletariat, and you know it.

Preserving the bus system & comment on the health benefits

A quote from the story at the beginning of this thread:

"The drivers have tried to preserve the public transit system in this county but the Board is making this impossible."

Preserving the public transit systmem in this county is not "impossible." It can be easily preserved by just showing up for work to collect what is one of the highest busdriver compensation packages in the country.

It's a statement like that that casts a dark shadow on the credibility of UTU, especfially when the proletariat was left standing on the curbside with essentially no warning.


As far as the expensiveness of heath care:

It's not that expensive. If it is $500 a month for family coverage, then it's about $2.50/hour in wages for a fulltime driver.

A full-time driver making $50k a year is making about $25 an hour, assuming the $50k is straight time (not overtime).

So, a $500/month health care bill for a $25/hr driver is about 10% of wages. ($25 divided by $2.50 = 10%.)

Ten percent of one's wages to pay for health insurance for ones family doesn't sound like an out-of-line expense to me.

I have used round numbers, but the gist of what I am saying is valid.

furthermore, a $500/month health care bill can be greatly reduced by working simply one overtime shift a month. That's all it takes.

Going on strike, on the other hand, causes the bus driver's money to hemorrhage. the amount of money lost during a strike could pay for months and months - perhaps years - of health care bills.

Healthcare is a right no matter what the Metro management claims on their website.

$50,000 a year is not bourgeois.

$50,000 a year is what unions have won for sections of the working class against the bourgeoisie and their government functionaries.

$50,000 a year is a living wage and nothing more than what all workers deserve.

Not having to work at all, that is the life of the bourgeoisie.

The bourgeoisie regularly throws parties that cost much-much more than $50,000.

Speaking of parties, five billion is what the U.S. government spends per month to commit mass murder and undermine the will of the Iraqi people. Unlike most of the other expensive parties the bourgeoisie throws, most of the attendees will be poor.

That money needs to be spent at home.

Back to your all important question Robert, healthcare is a right no matter what the Metro management claims on their website.

Re: Santa Cruz Bus Drivers on Strike

We're playing with semantics. Bourgeois has different shadings of meaning (look it up). It is an imprecise word. I'm not going to use it anymore in this discussion.

Fact is this: You have left the working class and the infirm on the curb, with essentially zero warning, for the simple fact that you want more money.


In doing this, you are costing very many people much money and hardship.

And I see no sign that you give a damn.

You have all sorts of slick, noble-sounding ways to blame others for the busses not running, but I don't buy a lick of it.

You and you alone are responsible for stranding the passengers.

Not the greedy corporations, not the government, not any of that.

You are members of a higher economic class using a lower class as a pawn for monetary gain.

You're holding them hostage.

In effect, you are saying, "We won't give these people rides until you pay us ransom."

Call the money what you will - insurance, raises, whatever - it comes out the same in the end: "The workin' class be damned until we get more dough."

Don't even try to blame this on the corporations or greedy governments or whatever smoke-and-mirrors philosophical yakety-yak diversion you come up with. I ain't buyin' it.

This is all about your greed.

And don't come off with the high-sounding horseshit about everyone has a right to healthcare. That's all a crock. Somebody has to pay for healthcare, and YOU are one of them. Nothing is free.

On a personal level, you are trying to feather your nest on MY back. As it is, I am giving rides daily to work to two friends. I am missing hours from my work to do this. I am losing wages. I am paying for more gas. And you and the UTU are directly responsible. You are taking money from my pocket.

I'm calling you on the carpet.

Now go home and suck your thumb and read your Karl Marx while your bank account drains from this foolish strike you started.

Re: Santa Cruz Bus Drivers on Strike

No "Ozzy", you are wrong, this is about corporate greed and their government's drive to reduce the standard of living of the entire working class. The drivers are not greedy, they are doing us all a favor by standing up to the unfair demands of the Metro Board.

And I'm glad you won't use the term bourgeois anymore to describe bus drivers, this was a misuse of the term.

We are all in this together, the union is the most important ally that riders have against continued government cuts.

Re: Santa Cruz Bus Drivers on Strike

If this is really - REALLY - about checking and balancing governental greed, and NOT about feathering your nest, it shouldn't matter where the money that you gain goes to. You said this strike is about unfair labor practices, not about money. Prove that - by giving away any money you gain from this strike.

It shouldn't matter to you if you give your financial gains from this strike to the the riders who have had to pay out of pocket for your strike by calling cabs, skipping shifts and so on.

However, then again, the UTU may give some sort of high-profile, but actually insignificant donation to a poster-child charity so it can look like you aren't in it for the money.

Re: Santa Cruz Bus Drivers on Strike

Bus drivers are more likely to loose from this strike than make any financial gains in the short term. But they are doing us all a favor by setting a standard that says NO to concessions contracts that take away healthcare.

Now you’re not happy enough with the Metro forcing the drivers out on strike, you also want the drivers to give their money away. Why should bus drivers give away the money they earn and need for their families? Because you believe the lie that the drivers and not the Metro Board are to blame for this strike? So you believe the Metro Board when they say that the workers don't deserve healthcare.

As long as we do not have public healthcare provided to every person as is done in the civilized world, we must fight every employer for this basic right. Perhaps when enough employers are squeezed by this cost and not allowed to just pass it on to their workers they may then also think that Single Payer Healthcare is a good idea.

By the way, healthcare costs are also so high because of the extremely expensive and parasitic insurance industry, single payer healthcare would eliminate a large percentage of this cost by eliminating the insurance industry. Everyone would be covered, it would be paid for socially, and the costs will be much lower. It works elsewhere and it will work here.

Victory to the bus drivers! No to concessions contracts!

For more money to be put into improving public transportation!

For single payer healthcare!

Money for human needs, not for war!

U.S. Out Of Iraq Now!

Re: Santa Cruz Bus Drivers on Strike

I give up. You win. You're like talking to a wall.

Re: Santa Cruz Bus Drivers on Strike

Paratransit is still running.

As an epileptic professional, I'm ineligible. Is there now a hierarchy among diabilities? Isn't being poor and carless even more of a disability?

Public transit is a vital service that needs to be preserved against any interruption the same way we are protected from loss of power, water, or air-traffic control.

Re: Santa Cruz Bus Drivers on Strike

The Metro Transit Board should fired! Mike Rotkin first.

Re: Santa Cruz Bus Drivers on Strike

I just started reading this thread, and the one thing that jumped out at me was this phrase:

"Metro forcing the drivers out on strike..."

Huh? What? "Forcing"?

That's not what happened. What happened was this:

UTU made an offer, and the Metro Board turned it down. So UTU went on strike.


Not complicated.

Not forcing.

Striking was UTU's decision alone.

By way of contrast, many other in UTU's position would have been DELIGHTED to have been "forced" to take the package offered by Metro, and would now be happily driving the buses. (Me included!)

But not UTU. UTU has decided to view a very generous compensation package as something insulting that "forced" them on on the picket line.


Oh well. it's a free country, and one is entitled to one's thoughts. If $50-70k for top-end drivers, with all sorts of nice perks thrown in make you feel "forced" to go on strike, then that is your right.

It seems like the problem here is UTU's strong desires. They desire to be MORE than the fourth-highest paid busdrivers in the nation. They desire to EXTEND THEIR LEAD as the highest-paid busdrivers in the nation for cities the size of Santa Cruz. For whatever reason, they have manufactured this desire entirely on their own, and are entirely unwilling to dismantle this desire that resides in them and them alone, even when is is plain to see that the Metro is strapped.

But the members of UTU can get rid of these desires. It's easy, if you try. Just adjust your expectations. It won't take much.

Just be happy with the outstanding pay and benfits you now get. Be content with the fact that you live in such a lenient and generous city that has made you among the elite of the nation's busdrivers for compensation packages. Pat yourself on the back for having worked your way into such a nice situation.

But don't kill the the goose that lays the golden eggs!

---Concerned Citizen

Breaking it down

There are a lot different contentions here.

First of all, if you are a single, non-disabled person and you know you have to go to work, why i wouldn't you PLAN (you know, the great American four letter word!) and walk, ride, carpool or hitchhike to work? The METRO drivers are no more responsible for you being late to work than your mommy is for all your problems, Scroozie.

As for the issue of bus driver salaries, the Scent-An*l reported on the front page that *ONLY* three other American cities pay their bus drivers more. What they didn't include in their headline is that we live in the SECOND HIGHEST rental district in the nation and the THIRD HIGHEST for real estate prices. By the Scent-An*l's own logic, THE DRIVERS ARE UNDERPAID!

I would also like to add that, according to the most broad and up-to-date study available, $50,000 doesn' even meet the basic needs of a family. According to the California Budget Project's research published this September........

For families to meet their basic needs, they need to make at least....

$55,900 - for a two-parent family -- one working

$62,900 - for a single-parent family

$79,946 - for a two-parent family -- both working

This is the data for the Bay Area region. Based on these calculations, most of the bus drivers are fighting to just meet their needs.

What is obvious to me is that there are a lot professional scabs in this forum and in rags like the Scent-An*l putting out garbage infomation . It's not working on me --- in fact, it makes me sympathize with the drivers all the more when I see how villified and attacked they are.

Re: Santa Cruz Bus Drivers on Strike

Yes so-called "concerned observer", the workers were forced out on strike by the failure of the Metro Transit Board to bargain fairly and their failure to ratify the contract.

And yes, once again, healthcare is a right.

Re: Santa Cruz Bus Drivers on Strike (post mortem)

Now that it is over and done with I have a lot of giggles reading this thread. It was kind of funny. Of course I would say so. I had Paratransit as an EXPENSIVE backup. They were overloaded and flaking but they held out. The Paratransit people held out real well considering what they were dealing with. So they really deserve some credit in all of this.

Anyway a lot of this seemed to have boiled down to the "whose ox is being gored" idea. Sadly I detect a hint of selfishness in all of this. Or maybe it is just unawareness of how things work. If I were a snarly political science type I could say "It Demonstgrated class boundaries". By that I mean there is a lot of tone around SCZ among some people tghat "Oh My Dad is Company Vice President and he DESERVES the $95K/YR he gets whereas the bus driver does not deserve the $50K/yr he gets." This being a high cost of living area everyone's income is going to be pushed up a bit If this isn't so you will really be hurtin' People want good jobs with reasonable benefits. Almost no one goes home tro family and friends and boast one got a low paying job. Well a friend did, but she pointed out that she had joined some activist thing and would be "doing good for the Planet" and all that jazz. She was the exception and not the rule. I remember myself even myself some years ago. I went walking in to my pretty lefty Brazilian friends waving the "offer letter" saying "I got 40, I got" and this was 1980ish and I was talking $40K/yr for being a middle level engineer.

Anyway at the time I was particularly rattled at the Transit Board who rejected their own negioators tentative settlement and decided not accept it. The Drivers and the Public who had gone to bed, or at the time off to help friends in the Gulf during the hurricanes down there came back or popped out of their "I have been turned into a fancy telephone operatror...mutter...mutter" mode and found out that the drivers had freaked at the offer being rejected amd went on strike.

So mostly I still lay much of the blame at the board. My feeling is UTU 23 should have come out and said "this is really egregious and awful and we can't go on this way so we are gone as of tommorrow". Now my suspicion having come from a family that had people in unions was that everyone was hoping the board would back down and an a 2:30PM fix to the collapsed 11th hour agreement would be found. But one of the board members had taken off for someplace or other and so it spun out and we had a strike.

An interesting spin in all of this missed by most people was that the meetings of the board were held in closed session and that was questionsable. Most meetings are supposed to take place under "Sunshine Provisions" and members of the public are supposed to at least look in on it in some way. There was no "terrorist threat" to justify closed door sessions and without transcripts.

So all in all I put this in geeky mode I declaim and state: I put 70% of the blame on the board for doing questionable things behind closed doors. I put 20% of the blame on the UTU for not at least allowing the drivers to at least quietly tell their riders there would be a strike tommorrow. I put 10% of the blame on the general public for not being aware with the tools at hand for raising their awareness.

There is a sort of metalevel ("next level up please" said in science fiction voice) question. It is how does one get entities like the UTU23 and the METRO out of the "Zero Sum Game" where one side feels that for the other side to do better means that our side does worse. So METRO felt if they gave an inch or more like a millimeter on the contract with UTU23 it would delay or impede the glorious METRO_BASE from being built. Some drivers thought the METRO_BASE was just a fancy frill and that's not true either. So how does one get such people together to work for the common good?


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