For those of us who are dismayed at TriMet’s seemingly never-ending service cuts and fare increases, the contract dispute between the transit agency and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757 is a bit disconcerting.
I say disconcerting because on the one hand it’s clear TriMet is in a bind financially, what with the recession and the agency’s dependence on volatile, steeply declining payroll taxes. On the other hand, vilifying bus drivers as grasping public employees is hardly appealing. Nor is the notion that cutting benefits, especially a benefit as fundamental as health care, is the only way to financial solvency.
To help me sort all this out, I turned to my old friend Don McIntosh: associate editor of the NW Labor Press and my go-to guy on all things labor union.
Here are a few of his insights:
Driving a bus is a high stress-repetitive motion occupation and bus drivers as a population are extremely unhealthy. “These guys suffer from high levels of obesity, hypertension and heart disease,” Don says.
In short: “Bus drivers have very high utilization rates for health care services.”
What’s the takeaway? “TriMet and the union should put efforts into preventive health. The best thing for these guys would be a half hour a day of paid calisthenics.”
At the same time–incessant carping about the union’s lavish health benefits—a practice favored by the Oregonian editorial board –is misguided.
The problem isn’t that ATU health care benefits are too generous–they are too expensive, says Don. In that context, TriMet and the bus drivers’ union are both scapegoats for much larger problems: inadequate federal investment in public transportation and skyrocketing health care costs.
“Legacy and Providence are building $100 million palaces and doctors are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. We’ve got an out of control medical- industrial complex and TriMet is footing the bill.”
I brook no disagreement with Don. As SEIU Local 49 executive director Ron Ruggiero noted last month, unions should be at the forefront of transit activism, urging employers to fund transit passes for workers and helping to spread the gospel of transit as a clean, green urban transportation solution.
Maybe this isn’t a union-management battle after all. It’s a battle everyone should be fighting–for universal health care and a stable, well-funded bus network that gets all of us where we want to go.
Friday, April 29, 2011
The mysterious, unknown white D40LF was sitting at Barbur TC on the left side of the driveway where the 94s that make a return inbound trip as a 12 layover. Interestingly, there is a trip permit in the windshield. No driver to be found, nothing on the headsign.
It appears that the bus, judging from the gray paint pattern on the top of the bus, is an ex-OCTA bus built in 1995 (making it 16 years old). Apparently after retirement a number of these buses served as shuttles for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, and some have found their way to tour operators. However if this is ex-OCTA, the OCTA buses were in the 5300 and 5400 series so it's been renumbered.
I don't know of any PCC buses that serve the Barbur TC, and Wilsonville SMART buses always layover at their designated stop (the first stop) and not this side of the driveway. However I didn't see the Operator. So the mystery continues...it would be interesting if this was actually in TriMet service, but why would TriMet be replacing 21 year old buses with 16 year old buses? After all, New Flyer has a bunch of 2001-2004 built D60LFs for sale...they are at least only 7-10 years old...
The Massachusetts State House has approved a measure that would curb the rights of public sector unions. The bill would prevent public employees from collectively bargaining over their health benefits. The measure is similar to Republican bills passed in Wisconsin and Ohio, but unlike those states, the Massachusetts House is controlled by Democrats. The measure now goes to the Massachusetts State Senate.
Taxi come when you wave. Stop wherever you are. Take you where you want to go. Taxi stop if you running after it. Drop you where you want. Taxi expensive.
Bus have stops. Run on schedule. Bus not stop if you wave. Bus not stop if you shout f-word. Bus not stop unless you at bus stop. You not see bus until it pulling away? Bus keep going. Bus cheap to ride.
Bus BIG. Taxi SMALL.
B. Bus Driver There to Drive Bus
Bus driver not make schedules. Bus driver not responsible for cuts due to economic downturn. Bus driver not one who assigned 40 foot bus to run needing 60 foot bus. Schedules, cuts and other things above bus driver's pay grade.
Bureaucracy BIG. Bus driver SMALL.
C. Bus Driver Only Human
Bus driver not able to overcome laws of physics. Bus driver not able to make bus fly over traffic. Bus driver not make potholes big, seats small, or seat-mate smelly. Bus driver not hit potholes on purpose (bus driver also on bumpy bus for much longer than you). Bus driver not one who spilled coffee on floor near back of bus. Bus driver not late to make rider angry.
Reality BIG. Patience of Some Riders SMALL
D. Bus Driver Work Hard
May not seem so, but driving bus not a joy ride. Bus driver deal with crazies. Bus driver deal with angry yuppies. Bus driver deal with being beat up, spit on, hit and worse. Bus driver deal with angry drivers with busy middle finger. You mean that not mean bus driver "number one"? No. Does not. Means driver with busy middle-finger asshole who not like buses.
Bus driver work long hours away from families. Bus driver work split shifts, sometimes no breaks. Bouncy bus hard on bus driver's muscles and bones. Bus driver enjoys job of driving bus for nice passengers but sometimes bad passengers and others make job difficult. Bus driver sometimes treated like bus driver five years old by boss, even if bus driver a grown-up with kids of own, and college degree.
Bus driver work in environment made hard by suits. Politicians wear suits. Big time managers too.
Suits' paychecks BIG. Bus driver paychecks SMALL.
E. Damage to Bus Not Likely
Science important. Science determine what happen when objects collide. Some things collide, both bounce back. Not always.
Step in front of moving bus - you get squashed. Damage to bus? None at all.
Bus BIG. You SMALL.
Says "Trimet can keep its sugar cookies, employees want a collective bargaining agreement!"