City Council Committee to Discuss Wage Increase for DTLA Bus Drivers

Mature bus driver wearing protective mask waiting at bus station, Spain

Photo: Westend61 / Westend61 / Getty Images

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A Los Angeles City Council committee Wednesday will discuss and take possible action to address concerns from city bus drivers, mechanics and utility workers, who are fighting for higher wages and improved benefits.

Teamsters Local 572, which represents about 360 transportation workers, who drive and maintain the city's transit fleet, including DASH, Commuter Express, Cityride and LAnow, announced in March that they authorized a strike -- though no action plans were disclosed. The union said its members are asking for an increase in wages that are at par or higher than other transportation services in the L.A. region.

City leaders have been aware of the union's concerns and calls for support. Council President Paul Krekorian and Councilwoman Heather Hutt, chair of the Transportation Committee, introduced a motion on Jan. 18, 2023, to address a bus driver shortage as well as to examine possible wage increases.

The city of Los Angeles has a contract with MV Transportation, which hires and trains bus drivers. The city would need to amend its contract with MV Transportation in order for bus drivers to receive an increase to their wages, according to a report by Laura Rubio-Cornejo, general manager of the city's Department of Transportation.

She noted that L.A. bus drivers could see their wage increased by one or a combination of ways such increasing the base pay to $24.15 per hour for all drivers across all contracts, or through performance bonuses, or by implementing pay increases to new hires in their first two years of service.

Rubio-Cornejo cited in her report that the coronavirus pandemic changed the city's approach to hiring bus drivers -- and ongoing market and health issues continue to exacerbate the staffing shortage and cause delays in routes being on-time.

She also acknowledged that while LADOT and the contractor have made "strides" in hiring to fill vacancies, the greatest obstacle they face is retention of new hires.

"As recently as 2021, the largest share of employees leaving the company had a year or more of tenure, but throughout 2022 and 2023 more than half of all drivers who separated from employment had been with the contractor for less than three months," the report reads.

"In 2023, slightly less than 60% of newly hired drivers left the company within (three) months and over 80% left the company within the first year of their employment."

An increase in the base rate to $24.15 per hour for all contracts is estimated to cost the city $6.2 million for the remaining fiscal year 2023-24. Funding to cover the contract and increase wages would come from Proposition A Local Transit Assistance Fund, according to the report.

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