Bakersfield public bus drivers are poised to walk off the job Tuesday unless there is a breakthrough in labor contract negotiations.
Members of Visalia-based Teamsters Local #517 voted Sunday to authorize a strike, half a dozen drivers with Golden Empire Transit District said in interviews Tuesday.
“I hate to see it come to that,” driver Dave Schultz said. “But sometimes it has to.”
GET said in a news release it wants to continue talks in hopes of reaching an agreement.
“However, the district’s revenue projections from government sources are uncertain for this year and the near future,” the release states. “The district must balance expenses within the confines of projected revenue.”
Representatives of the teamsters did not return calls requesting comment Tuesday.
GET's previous bus strike lasted from July to October 1980.
All 211 GET bus drivers are members of the Teamsters union. That figure does not include maintenance employees who are also union members.
In the event of a strike, GET said it will try to provide curb-to-curb service to customers depending on bus transportation for “serious medical needs.” It said regular service will be suspended.
“We know this poses considerable difficulty for our customers. It is our hope that we will be able to reconvene discussions with the union and any cessation of service will be very brief,” GET’s release stated.
The existing labor contract between the union and the bus district expired in March but has been extended through Monday. Talks between the union and GET have been ongoing since January.
Union members rejected the latest three-year contract proposal in June.
GET’s 16 bus routes serve about 20,000 customers accounting for 7.2 million boardings per year.
Some drivers interviewed said they were willing to participate in the strike, while others were unsure whether they would walk off the job.