Since July 8th, Visalia workers for Transdev, a global private-sector company established in France that is a leading transit operator in the United States, has been striking for living wages and better working conditions.
Negotiations with the company and the transit union, Teamster Local 517, were ongoing for a month prior, resulting in workers voting down two offers. Local 517 makes up of over 1,800 workers in Tulare, Kern, Fresno, Madera, and Kings counties.
"Transdev has failed to bargain a fair economic package in good faith," said Greg Landers, Local 517 Secretary-Treasurer. "These workers provide safe and timely transportation services, and they deserve a strong union contract. Local 517 is committed to getting the best possible agreement, and we'll be on the picket line until Transdev offers us a fair deal."
Strikes against Transdev have been occurring throughout California this year, around Antelope Valley, Arcadia, and San Diego (twice).
"All we are asking for is a living wage," said James Balducci, a Transdev bus driver. "Transdev's refusal to negotiate an economic package for us is a slap in the face. We are the backbone of the public transit system in our community. We deserve compensation that reflects the important nature of our work."
Transit services, including fixed route bus service, Dial-A-Ride, Sequoia Shuttle (both Gateway and Park buses), and V-Line are all suspended until Transdev can fill trips with qualified drivers and dispatchers, according to the City of Visalia. This includes the pause of fixed Visalia routes and services to and from Exeter, Farmersville, and Goshen.
On July 17th, Visalia City Council in a meeting was pleaded for assistance from community members, mostly residents who were left without public transporting during this “global boiling” weather. Visalia resident Lisa, whose last name was not available, addressed the council during the public comment portion of the meeting, saying she supports the strike, but hopes the matter is resolved soon, as she and other riders struggle to navigate the city without public transportation services during extreme summer heat conditions.
“We're losing an opportunity on commerce, we're disrespecting our labor force, we're disrespecting our elders, and as a woman of color (I believe) we're disrespecting our mothers,” she said. She was joined by several other residents who asked the council if they could assist or respond in some way since Visalia public transportation is funded by the city.
On July 27, Teamsters Communications Project Manager Matt McQuaid said they last met with Transdev on July 20, “and the employer didn't move on anything in a significant way.” “Based on where things are at, we don't expect buses to be operational again anytime soon,” he said. “Local 517 members are disappointed in the company's response, not just on our own behalf, but for all of the people who rely on transit in Visalia and the Sequoias.”
The union is standing strong and are not complying under their demands. Joint Council 7 of the Teamsters and union affiliates of the local community have fundraised $62,5000 to assist their members with any financial distresses they may have endured with their first missed paycheck from Transdev. It was presented to Local 517 quickly and properly with workers picketing thereafter the check sendoff.
No future scheduling for bargaining has been made at this time.
For all service disruptions and the latest updates, riders can check online at www.visaliatransit.com. Riders can also call the Greenline at 1-877-404-6473 for information, available Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Updates will also be made available on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @visaliatransit.