Tucson bus strike now longest in recent history, leaving thousands of riders stranded

Thousands of bus riders in Tucson are still without steady public transportation as the longest strike in recent history continues.

The strike by around 530 bus drivers, mechanics, operators and other Sun Tran workers began Aug. 6 after negotiations between the union and Sun Tran broke down. The previous record was held during a strike in 2001 that lasted around 10 days.

Management is working with a federal mediator to schedule a meeting with the union, Sun Tran spokeswoman Kandi Young said.

Meanwhile, only eight routes are operating, and there will be no service this weekend. Sun Tran provides about 66,000 passenger rides on an average weekday.

Andrew Marshall, principal officer of the Teamsters Local 104, did not return calls seeking comment. He said last week that safety is a major issue after 22 bus drivers were assaulted in the past 13 months, adding that the workers on strike have support from the community.

In a news release issued Friday, Marshall said the union had presented a plan with a lower cost through the federal mediator.

"The Teamsters Union and the striking employees understand the importance of pursuing every possible solution to resolving this ongoing strike, however, the solution to any disagreement requires that both of the opposing parties involved in the dispute actually participate in the resolution process," Marshall said.

Pressure is mounting on both sides to come to a resolution.

Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild issued a statement Tuesday encouraging both parties to restart negotiations. "This strike is hurting the community," he said.

Rothschild said he and the Tucson City Council cannot intervene in the negotiations by law.

About 200 workers rallied outside the Ronstadt Transit Center on Friday afternoon, chanting as cars drove by the busy downtown intersection. A few feet away, dozens of riders waited to board a bus.

Denayea Musgrove, a junior at Tucson High Magnet School, said she has been late to class every day this week. Her usual one-hour bus commute is now about three hours long, and the buses are extremely crowded, she said.

"It's annoying. I hate it," Musgrove said.

Tucson bus workers also went on strike in 1997, 2001 and 2010.