ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. - Orange County Flex and Access drivers with Teamsters Local 952 launched a 24-hour, 7-days-per-week strike Wednesday, calling for a fair contract.
OC Access is a shared-ride service that is available to people who have physical or cognitive limitations preventing them from using the regular OC bus fixed-route service, including people with disabilities and senior citizens.
"Our drivers have relationships with these folks. They get to know them. They help them. They drive them to life-saving medical treatments. They know them very well, some of them for years," said Norma Lopez, the Special Assistant to the Secretary Treasurer for Teamsters Local 952.
Lopez said for that reason, the union contacted Orange County Transportation Authority officials once they decided they were going to strike.
"Once we figured out we had no other option but to go on strike, we actually met with OCTA officials and gave them sufficient notice that we were going to be striking and even told them when we'd strike in a measure to make sure they were able to communicate with every single passenger that takes this service that they could make other plans. We did not want to hurt our community, our passengers," said Lopez.
The union's contract with Transdev expired in December 2022, and negotiations have been underway since October. Local 952 represents 350 members, which includes drivers, mechanics, dispatchers, operators, bus cleaners and fuelers. The drivers, which encompasses 260 of the members, are on strike and the other groups are supporting the strike and not crossing the picket line.
"We plan to strike as long as it takes to get a fair deal," said Lopez.
According to Local 952, Transdev wants the right to subcontract work, to schedule a mandatory 50-hour work week, and a 2.5-hour unpaid lunch somewhere along the driver's route, all without higher pay.
"It is an unpaid split and what that means is that our members now are having to work maybe 12 hours a day, 12.5 hours and only getting paid for 10. They're stuck in the field wherever they are, and in the state of California, you're no longer allowed to idle so that means during the summer heat, they're going to be stuck in that bus in a sauna basically, and in the winter time when it's cold and freezing because the climate has changed in Southern California, they can't run the heater and the company's OK with it," said Lopez.
Chris Duncan, the Mayor of San Clemente, joined the workers in support of their strike Wednesday evening.
"These folks do incredibly important work, getting people around, moving people around our county in a very efficient way. They deserve to be taken care of and have their hard work acknowledged. I hope OCTA will step up and use its influence to help resolve this situation, make sure Transdev takes care of these workers and doesn't do things that make it harder for them to provide for their families," said Duncan.
OCTA released the following information:
OC ACCESS paratransit riders should expect delays and may want to plan alternate travel arrangements if possible because of a drivers’ strike.
The OC ACCESS provider will attempt to accommodate all trips as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); however, the strike may result in significant impacts to wait and travel times for riders.
No impacts are expected to regular OC Bus service or Metrolink commuter rail service.
OC ACCESS and OC Flex passengers may experience significant delays, as OCTA attempts to accommodate all trips as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The Same-Day Taxi service and OC ACCESS subscription service will be temporarily suspended.
OC Flex passengers may experience limited operating hours and potential delays. OC Flex passengers are urged to check the OC Flex app.
OCTA is encouraging OC ACCESS passengers to consider making alternate transportation arrangements, if possible, beginning May 3.
For additional information, please contact 714-636-7433.