No end in sight for Tucson bus strike

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The third day of the Sun Tran bus strike involved heated talks between the union, members of the city council, and the head of the Regional Transportation Authority. The result -- no end in sight for the strike.

Several hundred striking teamsters took a break from picketting this morning and made their way to city hall hoping for something that will put them one step closer to going back to work.

Instead, what they got was a war of words.

"We are being held hostage," said Mike Letcher.

"This strike apparently is not about wages and benefits. This is about a transfer of the bus system from one entity to another," said Tucson Council Member Shirley Scott.

"I'm in no way tying our strike to the RTA transition or anything about it, we're out because there's no money to pay for us," said Andy Marshall fo the Teamsters Local 104.

At issue is whether the city should transfer ownership of the Sun Tran bus system to the Regional Transportation Authority.

Union members think the RTA will provide the financial stability and job security the city cannot right now.

"If you retain transit and don't come up with the money to fund it, you're going to be the ones that are going to have to cut service and lay off people. That's exactly what you don't want to do"

The mayor and council debated Wednesday whether to accept a memorandum of understanding drafted by RTA Executive Director Gary Hayes to make the transfer of Sun Tran official.

Paul Cunningham liked the idea, "I think acting today would be prudent, and it would make sense for us to move forward on this."

He was the lone council member to feel that way.

"It troubles me that we are negotiating with an unelected, appointed administrator," Tucson City Council Member Regina Romero said, referring to RTA Executive Director Gary Hayes.

Instead, the council voted to continue negotiations on the transfer of Sun Tran with the rest of the RTA board-- essentially prolonging the strike

"We're in the middle of a strike with tens of thousands of riders stranded, 500 people out of work, what did they do today?  They voted to continue talks that have been unfruitful for 18 months. It inspires a lot of confidence. And that was sarcastic in case everybody's really wondering," said Marshall.

The Regional Transportation Authority has a special meeting scheduled for August 12th. The RTA board will address the issue of transferring control of Sun Tran at that meeting.