A bill under consideration in the California Legislature would place employees of the Santa Cruz Metro under the umbrella of the state’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) to foster improved relations between public employees and management.

S.B. 957 was introduced in the state Senate by state Sen. John Laird (D) on March 17. The bill’s advance has happened in part thanks to the work of members of SMART-TD Local 23 in Santa Cruz, California State Legislative Board Director Louie Costa and General Chairperson James Sandoval (GC-SCM).

“The bill will protect Santa Cruz Metro workers from unfair labor practices moving forward,” Sandoval said. “It’s been a two-year project, and we still got work to do. This is absolutely huge.”

S.B. 957 would require employers and employees of the district to adjudicate complaints of specified labor violations before PERB as an unfair practice instead of in the superior court. By requiring the district to adjudicate claims before PERB, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program that would serve to harmonize relations between SCM management and labor.

“PERB jurisdiction will give us free oversight to make sure Metro bargains with our union in good faith during negotiations and gives us recourse in the event Metro commits unfair labor practices,” Sandoval said.

Members of the Santa Cruz Board of Directors received the appreciation of TD Local 23 and SEIU Local 521, which also represents some Santa Cruz Metro employees, for their support in getting the bill moved into consideration.

Among the supporters thanked were Kristen Petersen, Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson, Jimmy Dutra, Ari Parker, Manu Koenig, Rebecca Downing, Donna Meyers, Alta Northcutt and Laird.

“After a period of discord under the prior CEO, the support from the board has helped this bill advance along,” Sandoval said. “We’re going to do our best to make sure it gets fair consideration by state lawmakers.”

The bill is under review by the Senate’s Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee and is scheduled to be heard by the committee on April 18 at 3:00 p.m. The Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear the bill on April 26 at 1:30 p.m.

Members of Local 23 in Santa Cruz, Calif., are mourning the passing of Transportation Division retiree Domingo Tovar on April 14 from COVID-19.

Brother Domingo Tovar of SMART-TD Local 23 in Santa Cruz, Calif., passed away last week from COVID-19. He was 68 years old.
Brother Tovar, 68, served two stints with Santa Cruz Metro as a bus operator starting in 1982, then leaving for another carrier before returning to Santa Cruz in 1987. He was involved in the initial contract talks with the carrier as well as a 37-day strike against in 2005.
He served a year as secretary and treasurer for Local 23.
“He had many friends. He was a happy person,” said retired Local 23 member Serena Tovar, Brother Tovar’s wife of more than 43 years and a 30-year SMART-TD member. “Domingo remained the same type of person the day she met him to the day he passed. He was always happy. He just loved life and had no regrets. He was very proud of his kids and was always there for his family.”
Brother Tovar retired in 2016 after 29 years of continuous union service. Transportation was in his blood, though — he had begun driving at age 25, had driven charter buses and had even obtained his pilot’s license. After his Santa Cruz Metro retirement, he kept working as a shuttle bus driver for the University of California — Santa Cruz until his passing.
He was remembered fondly by Local 23 brother Mario Espinoza.
“I could confide in Domingo about any issue and l knew that what we talked about always stayed between us,” said Espinoza, who worked alongside Brother Tovar for years. “Domingo was someone you could trust.”
Brother Espinoza said that his and Brother Tovar’s families became close over the years as they continued to work together and that Domingo was generous with his time and his technical expertise that bailed out co-workers many times.
“He was very helpful with a number of drivers that had problems with their computers, phones or any electronic device. He would solve the issue in no time or give you advice on resolving the issue,” Espinoza said. “He never wanted anything in return. His satisfaction was you being happy your problem was solved.
“He was just beginning to enjoy his retirement when this virus took his life. I am still in shock and can’t comprehend this and will take some time to cope with this,” Espinoza said. “So with a heavy heart l say, Domingo, you will be missed. Rest in peace, brother.”
In addition to his wife, Serena, Brother Tovar is survived by a daughter, Mandy; son, Damien; and two grandchildren — Damien and Sasha Tovar Page.

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Santa Cruz Metro bus drivers narrowly avoided being laid off, when a new budget was reached Friday, June 24, saving the drivers’ jobs. The budget hinges on a pending sales tax ballot measure to be voted on by taxpayers in the November elections.
Metro approved a two-year budget on Friday that preserves the 146 full-time bus drivers’ jobs.
General Chairperson Eduardo Montesino told the Santa Cruz Sentinel that it’s important to get behind November’s tax ballot measure. According to the Sentinel, both members of Local 23 and management took last-minute concessions for the second consecutive year, saving the company the equivalent of three full-time jobs.
“If you support us, support us all the way. If you support Metro routes and service, be an advocate for the sales tax, because that’s one critical point. If we miss this opportunity, there will not be another one for years,” Montesino told the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
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