Published : Thursday, November 30, 2017 | 6:25 AM
A driver working for the company which provides bus operators to Pasadena Transit, the City’s municipal bus line, said he was fired on November 20 because he refused to endanger the safety of passengers.
Driver Margarito Ayala, 32, said he was in effect terminated for “doing Job #1, assuring the safety of his passengers,” after he pulled over and wouldn’t drive a bus without first having the driver’s side mirror adjusted for safety.
However Cincinnati-based First Transit, Ayala’s employer, said in his termination letter he was discharged for “taking part in unlawful work stoppages” after he “stood down” three times in five days and caused maintenance workers “to have to come out and adjust the mirror causing a slowdown in service.”
The letter cites Ayala’s refusal drive on November 6, 9 and 10, 2017, each time out along his route and not in the maintenance yards. The Company said Ayala was being terminated for instigating or taking part in a work stoppage or slowdown.
Ayala denies that he was involved in any work stoppage or slowdown.
Pasadena Transit bus mirrors aren’t like car mirrors – it takes tools to properly adjust height, a press release sent out on behalf of Ayala by ActNow Strategies explained.
“I’m not a tall person, and when I get in the driver’s seat after another driver has driven a bus, the driver’s side mirror is usually adjusted too high to see traffic,” said Ayala. “I’m not going to drive the bus if I can’t see around me. It’s unsafe for my passengers.”
Ayala requested that maintenance workers from First Transit adjust his driver’s side mirror. After the third time he made the same request on different days, each time while out along his route, he was fired.
“First Transit should rehire Margarito Ayala immediately, and this incident should be removed from his employment record,” said Local 848’s Eric Tate. “First Transit should develop and implement systems to adjust bus mirrors and make other essential safety adjustments, without delay. We need to make sure this never happens again. Passenger safety is at risk.”
First Transit spokesman Jay Brock said he was unable to comment on Ayala’s case because it remains a confidential personnel matter.
Brock said that safety is a key concern to First Transit and that no doubt it is a major factor in the company’s “very good relationship with the city of Pasadena.”
“We strive to maintain safe, continuous, uninterrupted service,” Brock said. “That’s what we do — we move people. We move them effectively, we move them safely to their next destination so they can continue the journey of their day.”
City of Pasadena spokesperson William Boyer said the City has “been very pleased with our relationship with First Transit and overall the quality and caliber of the overwhelming majority of the bus drivers.”
Ayala was an employee directly hired by First Transit, Boyer said, and not a city employee or a City personnel issue.
Ayala has reportedly filed a grievance, which will result in a meeting between his union representative and First Transit management. The meeting is expected to take place soon.