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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

To Strike or not to Strike

The United Transportation Union called a strike vote and the vote was 87.5% in favor of a strike. That doesn't mean a strike is going to happen. It just means that at this point the Union can continue negotiating with the management knowing they have this loaded gun up their sleeve. The percntage may look high but in the past the percentage has been well into the 90's. members of the Union will vote for strike action though. To do otherwise would leave the Union almost weapomless in the face of management. An overwhelming majority is essential but the fact that, for once, the Union failed to get above the 90% threshold demonstrates that there is little enthusiasm amongst the membership for industrial action. Still, a significant majority is still all that is needed and that's what they got.
What happens now is that the Union is in a position, at any time, to halt negotiations and call a work stoppage. Under California law the work stoppage does not necessarily come into immediate effect. The comany can seek an injunction requiring the Union to hold off for, what is normally referred to as a "Cooling Off" period. During this time it is hoped negotiations can continue and a deal reached.
Here's the rub; if the union call a strike and the management ask for a cooling off period, the timing is such that the walk out could be delayed until December, just in time for Christmas. That is a two-edged sword. No-one wants tp strike just before Christmas, the most expensive time of the year for most of us. It is also traditionally the busiest time of the year for public transport. No buses or trains on the run up to Christmas would leave Los Angeles in chaos. Los Angeles has a thriving garment district, jewellery district, Toytown that supplies a wide range of children's gifts at wholesale prices and Broadway with it's varied stores from exotic perfumes to electrical goods. Every Christmas Los Angeles is packed and so is public transport. Neither side of the table wants a strike. It is in nobody's interest, but this is L.A. and crazier things have happened.
Every three years the Union and Los angeles metro get together to work out the details of a contract. The contract sets out the wages and benefits for the next three years. So for the period of the contract, the company pays us and we agree not to take any industrial action. It's not a happy situation, it means that every three years we all put our lives on hold. vacations are only tentatively planned and it's hold off on that new car or new furniture because there may be a strike and any money you may have gets eaten up in just staying alive over the strike period.
The United Transportation Union has six locals (Branches) the chairmen of each local plus the general chairman form a "Committee of Adjustment" They meet with a team selected by upper management. Most of the people on both sides of the negotiating table are known to me personally and I have a high regard for them all. They are men and women of integrity, and I say that from personal experience. That can also mean that they will be stubborn when they are convinced they have the right of it. As things stand the dice could roll a number of ways. Which way is anyone's guess at this point but once again we are all holding our breath.

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