VTA union rejects offer, may go on strike

Dispute over wages, pensions could lead to first-ever VTA strike, affecting buses and light rail in Santa Clara County

A transit workers union voted overwhelmingly Wednesday night against a labor contract offer by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, opening up the possibility for VTA's first-ever strike in the next month.

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 265 collected 912 "no" votes and 92 "yes" votes for the offer, which asked that union employees gradually begin increasing their pension contribution over the next three years, along with an 8% wage increase.

The groups had already reached 37 tentative agreements previously, but were unable to find common ground on the wage and pension issues.

If the union workers decide to strike, they will have to give VTA a 72-hour notice of their work stoppage. VTA has also contacted Gov. Gavin Newsom's office to request a "cooling period" that would last at least seven days and possibly bring both groups back to the bargaining table.

The strike could then happen as early as the first week of July.

VTA officials say they have a reserve of trained contract workers that could take over bus routes, but light-rail service will be impacted because it is a highly skilled task. Overall, only a fraction of VTA routes will be in service.

Going into negotiations, VTA believed its offer was "fair and equitable" to all employees.

About 1,300 "classic employees" in the union hired before 2016 currently contribute 1.9% of their gross salary toward a pension fund, and all other employees contribute 6%.

VTA wanted to bring these employees up to a 5% contribution over three years, but was only offering a 3.1% lump sum per employee's salary to offset the first year of increased costs.

The union could not be reached for comment, but indicated before the vote on Wednesday afternoon that members were poised to shoot down the offer.

VTA officials said they will continue providing updates to riders as they learn more about the timing of a potential strike.


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8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2019 at 9:23 am

We in the north part of the county have very poor VTA service. It is a joke apart from getting people to Gunn.

However, if the strike takes place we will suffer the extra traffic as more people turn to Uber or drive themselves to where they need to go.

Isn't it time to get Bay Area transportation to be overhauled into a regional system whereby the various modes complement each other rather than compete?

7 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2019 at 9:38 am

IMHO, VTA employees have made a big mistake. Defined-benefit pensions are just too difficult a sell these days-- employees are not going to get much sympathy from the public. Most people don't have lifetime employment any more. Better to scrap the defined-benefit pension in favor of 401k type contributions that the employee owns and can take with them, and, the largest salary increase they can negotiate.

9 people like this
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 21, 2019 at 10:52 am

VTA is mostly driving mostly empty buses around anyway (average loads are *really* low - I don't have stats handy but it was on the order of 8 people in a bus). Everybody taking an UberPool / Lyft Line might actually be a traffic improvement!

Agreed 100% that DB pensions are a hard sell. CalPERS is already a massive financial time bomb, and the longer agencies go without ripping of the band-aid and moving to a 401(k) the worse the eventual fallout will be.

Like this comment
Posted by Wopalong
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Jun 21, 2019 at 2:07 pm

There is no one waiting in the wings to operate a VTA bus. That is a bluff.

2 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 21, 2019 at 2:09 pm


How can we in Palo Alto tell the difference anyway?

1 person likes this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 21, 2019 at 10:45 pm

Well, I hope more people don’t need to use rideshare - the drivers are terrible here, stopping midstream driving down downtown Palo Alto streets, on corners to let millenials out, who cares about reasonable traffic flow or expected following the rules of the road? Who cares who you suddenly block at the most outrageous spot? Busses are more routine in nature. I went on VTA light rail, once, when I lived in Santa Clara, it was slow and expensive and didn’t make sense then. I guess some in South San Jose use it!? - Hardly worth paying high salaries and benefits for a minimal transit system....

3 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 22, 2019 at 1:20 pm

VTA is the best bargain in the whole world. Wikipedia has a Table of Farebox Recovery Ratios Web Link for 86 different agencies and VTA has the absolute lowest at 10%. Doesn't that tell me I get $25 worth of service for my $2.50 fare? Such a deal. (That was 2016 data published in the SJ Merc.)

3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2019 at 3:10 pm

Funny you should say that. KTVU were reporting the opposite last night. Web Link

5 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 23, 2019 at 12:12 pm

PA Daily Post this weekend: “A scorching new report from the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury finds that VTA is one of the most expensive and inefficient transit agencies in the country...”

Like this comment
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2019 at 9:32 pm

For FY 19,VTA operating expenses were around $500 million; fare revenues around $42 million; average weekly ridership is 130,000 (which could be 13,000 people taking the bus/light rail 5 days a week/twice a day). As jobs have increased, ridership has dropped. For that money, VTA could lease every rider a subcompact car, and have money left over.

What's even worse is that the state politicians are proposing that a bus line in the neighborhood should give developers the ability to override local zoning codes (SB 50). They already passed a set of laws saying residential properties within a 1/2 mile of a bus stop can build an ADU without needing any additional parking, thus turning those neighborhoods into Multi-residential neighborhoods.

It's time to rethink how our mass transit is put together.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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