Threatened With Job Loss, Bus Drivers Vote to End Strike

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Foothill Transit, the county's second-largest bus operator, expects to resume full service today to riders around the San Gabriel Valley and those commuting to Downtown Los Angeles after drivers voted to end a 13-day-old strike rather than be fired.

"It's been hit or miss whether there would be a bus," said a relieved Vincent Moreno, a Caltrans employee who is among the passengers who have had to squeeze on fewer buses during the strike. "It's meant leaving 30 to 45 minutes earlier each morning or arriving at work later. I'm so happy it's over."

Foothill Transit will resume normal service with its full complement of 101 buses operated by Laidlaw Transit Services, said Nancy Pearl, spokeswoman for West Covina-based Foothill.

"We're thrilled the strike is over and we've been assured all the drivers will be working tomorrow," Pearl said Tuesday.

During the strike, 37 to 75 buses operated from the Upland yard daily.

The striking drivers, represented by Teamsters Local 848, voted 64 to 23 Tuesday to end the strike against Laidlaw after it gave them an ultimatum to return to work by today or lose their jobs to permanent replacements, said Jim Santangelo, secretary-treasurer for the union.

The drivers, who have picketed the Upland yard since Feb. 22, accepted a one-year contract from the company with a 3% pay increase, he said. The drivers--most of whom are paid $8 to $10 an hour--wanted paid health benefits and an extra 50 cents an hour.

"The basic bottom line here is the strike would still be going on if the company had not threatened to replace them," Santangelo said. "The drivers had to vote this way to support their families."

Although drivers failed to get the wages and benefits they demanded, union officials say they did get worker solidarity and public support.

Laidlaw officials were not available for comment. But company officials had said Monday that they were training replacement drivers to begin work today if the union drivers did not return.

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