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Tales of Patience in Transit Strike : MTA, Union Reconvene After Meeting to Clear Air : Strike: Negotiations resume day after union leaders walk out over agency chief’s letter to mechanics. Union president voices confidence that a settlement can be reached.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Talks resumed in the transit strike Saturday--one day after union leaders representing idled bus mechanics walked out of negotiations in protest of what they said was the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s decision to send a “misleading” letter directly to workers.

Saturday’s negotiations began in midafternoon after a meeting, arranged by state mediator Tom McCarthy, to clear the air.

Talks continued throughout the day but no resolution had been reached by late Saturday night.

Michael Bujosa, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, said McCarthy “feels that there’s a good chance we can settle this strike.”

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Bujosa said of his union: “We’re willing to meet around the clock, if need be.”

McCarthy, who has helped settle past Los Angeles transit strikes, could not be reached.

The union agreed to return to the bargaining table after appeals Saturday morning from county Supervisor Ed Edelman, chairman of the MTA board and a longtime labor ally, and city Councilman Richard Alatorre, also an MTA board member.

The strike, which enters its seventh day today, has inconvenienced more than half a million bus riders daily.

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“The public is depending on us,” Edelman said he told a union leader.

Talks broke down Friday when union leaders expressed disgust with a conciliatory letter MTA chief executive Franklin White sent to the 1,900 mechanics as part of a campaign to bypass the union and speak directly to the rank and file.

White said in the letter that the MTA’s controversial plan to contract out work would not cost any of the mechanics their jobs. He wrote that the MTA’s proposed contract “provides two years of job protection, with no reduction in pay” for all union members whose work has been subcontracted.

Union leaders said they saw the letter as an attempt to undercut their position that the subcontracting is job-threatening and to confuse the rank and file.

“If they think we’re going to sit at (the bargaining) table and they’re going to conduct a campaign with our members while we’re tied up talking to them, that’s not going to happen,” said Jim Wood, secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor AFL-CIO, which is participating in the talks.

“That required us to go back (and consult with) our members,” Wood said.

Union leaders spent part of Friday and Saturday morning doing just that.

“Our members want us to continue bargaining,” Wood said. “I think the air has been cleared.”

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White has said that the MTA board approved his sending of the letter and that there is nothing inappropriate about an employer communicating directly with employees.

MTA’s chief negotiator, lawyer Gordon Krischer, declined comment Saturday.

Los Angeles’ first transit strike since 1982 began Monday when the mechanics, who earn an average of $44,000 a year, walked off their jobs and the MTA’s 5,000 drivers and clerks honored their picket lines.

To provide skeletal service, the MTA used management personnel to put 350 buses--225 of them rented--into service on weekdays, when 1,900 buses normally run, spokesman Jim Smart said.

On the weekend, service has been cut back much further. Only portions of Bus Lines No. 21 on Wilshire Boulevard, No. 30 on Pico Boulevard, No. 45 on Broadway and all of No. 204 on Vermont Avenue will be in service today along with limited rail service on the Red Line subway and Blue Line trolley, Smart said.

Times staff writer Richard Simon contributed to this article.

The MTA Strike: Day 6

The region’s first transit strike in 12 years began at 12:01 a.m. Monday. Here is a look at Day 6:

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* THE ISSUE: Dispute between the Amalgamated Transit Union, representing 1,900 mechanics and service attendants, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. About 5,000 bus and train drivers and clerks are honoring picket lines. The major sticking point is the MTA’s demand to contract out work. Union members say they believe that it will eliminate jobs and result in poorer quality work.

* THE STATUS: Negotiations resumed Saturday.

* WHAT’S OPERATING: MTA buses will operate on four routes this weekend. Limited service continues on the Red Line and Blue Line.

* THE ROUTES:

Portions of these MTA lines will run today. 21 Wilshire Blvd.; 45 Broadway; 30 Pico Blvd.-East 1st Street ; 204 Vermont Ave. will have regular service.

* HOURS: MTA buses will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

* FARES: 50 cents on MTA buses and Blue Line, with no transfers.

* FOR INFORMATION: (800) COMMUTE or (800) 371-LINK (for Metrolink information). Recorded information in English and Spanish is available at (800) 870-0MTA.


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