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Strike by Transit Workers in L.A. Stranding Thousands

Aired September 18, 2000 - 2:01 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Los Angeles is a land where cars can clog major arteries as effectively as cholesterol. So today, when a transit strike put thousands of extra people on the roads, it was an unsurprisingly slow Monday commute.

CNN's Greg LaMotte joins us from L.A. with details on this walkout and the disruptions out West -- Greg.

GREG LAMOTTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, a half million commuters, most of whom use mass transportation because they have no choice in the matter, woke up this morning without their usual rides to work: Day three of a mass transportation strike here in the Los Angeles area is under way. Bus and rail operators walked off their jobs early Saturday morning in a contract dispute with the city. The city's 2,000 buses are idle. The trains aren't running.

The city wants to put an end to the practice of paying split- shift workers for the time spent in between those shifts. As it stands today, bus and rail operators who work split shifts are paid for the hours in between those shifts. It amounts to four or five hours a day, a lot of overtime.

It is something the union won during a 1974 contract dispute with the city and something the union says it will never give up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLES SQUARE, UNITED TRANSPORTATION UNION: ... guaranteed (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We went on strike for 78 days in 1974 to get all those rules, the rules that they call antiquated. We cannot turn around in the year 2000 when the economy is booming and give that back. That would just take us back to the dark ages.

We came out of the dark ages in '74; we want to stay in the future. And that is the biggest problem, taking our rules.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAMOTTE: A state mediator has been called in, in hopes of getting the union back to the bargaining table as early as today. So far, no word on when or if the negotiations will resume.

Sixty percent of the people who ride the bus or take the train make less than $15,000; 75 percent of the half million commuters being affected don't own a car.

The fact of the matter is only a tiny percentage of the total population of Los Angeles actually uses mass transportation each day. Even so, it is that segment of the community which seems least able to be able to afford a strike at all, much less a lengthy one if that should occur.

Greg LaMotte, CNN live, Los Angeles.

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