New employees on Friday will begin driving Lake County transit buses that have been crippled for two weeks by an acrimonious strike over wages.
"By the 16th, they will have enough replacement workers to restore about 60 percent of the schedules," said Lake Transit Authority General Manager Mark Wall. All routes will be restored to some degree by Aug. 26 and services will be back to normal by Sept. 3, said Christie Scheffer, chief operating officer of Washington-based Paratransit Services, which operates the buses for the transit authority.
Currently, just four routes, manned by managers and strikebreaking employees, are being minimally operated, leaving many Lake County residents who cannot drive to their own devices.
"I just picked up a hitchhiker in Lakeport and dropped him off in Kelseyville," Lake County Supervisor Rob Brown said Tuesday. Inconvenience rendered the man unsympathetic to the striking transit workers, he said.
Lake Transit Authority provides about 400,000, one-way passenger trips per year, officials said. Many passengers are just trying to get to a grocery store, Wall said.
Union representatives of the striking transit workers say they doubt the bus schedules will be on track as quickly as management contends.
"They're weeks away from having full service," said Mark Gleason, secretary of Teamsters Local 665.
Resumption of services and other strike-related issues — including complaints about strike tactics — are scheduled to be discussed Wednesday morning at the Lake Transit Authority meeting in Lakeport.
The strike, which began July 29, has been less than civil.
Strikers have used bullhorns and loudspeakers blasting rock 'n'roll music to disrupt work at the transit hub in Lakeport and have followed and intimidated employees who crossed the picket line, Scheffer said. She said she's called police and reported harassment allegations to the National Labor Relations Board.