The weekly incidents of tire slashing and screaming at buses in the downtown Greyhound terminal have stopped. Strikers now calmly walk the picket line just twice a month because of other commitments to jobs that pay.
Meanwhile, the possibility that their former employer will emerge from bankruptcy as the nation's only intercity bus service looks uncertain.But don't get the impression that either side in the Greyhound bus strike is about to give up. Rather, the financial devastation the strike has caused drivers and Greyhound Lines Inc. has strengthened the will to survive on both sides.
"Before this started we (union drivers) were friends, now we are brothers," said 51-year-old Randall, putting in a few hours of picketing last week with about a dozen other members of the Amalgamated Transit Union's sub-local 1384.
As Randall and other members of the Amalgamated Transit Union's sub-local 1384 explain how the strike has forged a brotherhood among its 65 members, a school bus drives by and the driver honks and waves. It's another brother making ends meet while on strike.
Randall also has had to pay his bills by driving for a local tour bus. He's also driven a snowplow for the Utah Department of Transportation. Members of the church he attends have helped him pay his mortgage.
His plight isn't unlike those of other striking drivers. Most union members have taken part-time jobs driving buses and trucks, and some have gone to school to learn other skills.
But they won't abandon their past as Greyhound drivers and they continue to turn out on the first and third Fridays every month to walk the picket line.
"We still believe in the cause we started in the beginning. We believe in the salvation of our jobs for our future and for our children," said local union board member LeLand McLing.
Greyhound Lines Inc., despite operating under bankruptcy protection, still believes it has a future too.
"I'm completely convinced of the need in America for a low-cost ground transportation system," said chairman Fred Currey. "And many of us have had the sweet smell of success in providing that and we want to finish the job."
Since the strike began, Greyhound has cut its driving force from 6,000 to 3,500, has 600 fewer mechanics, 250 fewer managers and 1,000 fewer buses. Despite the cutbacks, Greyhound still stops at 95 percent of the cities, towns and country stores it did a year ago. The average load of a Greyhound bus in 1990 was 24.3 passengers, up from 23.2 the year before.
Ticket revenue at the Salt Lake terminal in February was 8 percent higher than at the same time last year. "Right after the strike we suffered a severe decline, but we have built it back up to about where it was last year," said terminal manager Dave Tidwell.
The company's real test, though, comes later this year when creditors are asked to approve its Chapter 11 reorganization plan.
Earle Putnam, counsel for the parent Amalgamated Transit Union in Washington, told the Associated Press that union leaders believe Greyhound's financial condition will ultimately force its sale to owners they can work with.
"This whole dispute has been an effort on the part of the company to break the union and go forward in a non-union environment," Putnam said.
The National Labor Relations Board last summer charged Greyhound with unfair labor practices. An NLRB administrative hearing in Milwaukee, expected to last through fall, could trigger a back-pay claim that exceeds $85 million.
Greyhound has asked a Corpus Christi bankruptcy judge to limit such a claim, if there is one, to $40 million and define it as an unsecured debt at the bottom of the company's list of obligations. The company will have to change its current reorganization plan if it fails to win that cap.