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Thursday, September 18, 2014

"From the drivers side"-The State of Our Union - Part I


This is really an excellent essay which you should read in its entirety HERE
Here are some of the highlights:


This past weekend, our drivers were invited to take part in a "bus roadeo", largely coordinated by volunteer employees but sponsored by our district. Our union's executive board passed a motion declaring a boycott, which I support.
An estimated 65 operators, and/or retirees participated and the consensus was they all enjoyed it. Given there are over 1,000 operators, it would appear the boycott was a success.
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our management has not shown us respect when you consider its union-busting tactics and general shadiness the past few years.
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Our plight in Portland mirrors that of transit workers across the country. Thirty years ago, the union and our transportation district agreed on a generous, yet necessary pact. In exchange for large raises, employees were guaranteed a fully-funded pension and health insurance paid by the district. For reasons the district hasn't directly answered, the pension wasn't fully funded. Last year, since we had no contract, it began charging us a percentage of insurance premiums. Even though we successfully sued on the premiums issue, the district has not reimbursed us. It collects interest on the money owed while dragging the issue through the appeals process.
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After the Great Recession hit, the district found itself in dire straits.(Actually the facts don't show any sort of 'dire' straights Click here)
 While it pushed forward a controversial and expensive new light rail project, bus routes were cut. It also forced hefty fare increases on the very people hardest hit by the economic crash. Passengers, many of whose jobs had drifted overseas or simply disappeared, were understandably frustrated. Assaults on operators increased dramatically while the district hid behind carefully-crafted press releases designed to put the blame on "Cadillac benefits enjoyed by union employees". The corporate media, seizing a golden opportunity to further demonize unions, repeated this phrase at every opportunity. They even singled out a handful of operators who, simply by working tons of overtime, made over $100k a year. Curiously, the district's GM secretly gave raises to non-union employees. Union employees, however, haven't even had a cost of living adjustment in several years. 
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Union employees are frustrated, but hopeful. We hope we're able to hold off the Wolf so he only gets one butt cheek rather than our whole ass. Many are resigned to a sobering reality that we may have to pay for medical insurance even though the nature of our jobs guarantee a decline in our general health. The pension plan was replaced with a 401k, which is no security blanket given the volatility of the stock market. Our retirees, many of whom dedicated their entire working lives to this district, face poverty or worse due to increasing premiums.
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There are many among us with strong opinions about current leadership. I've met some eloquently brilliant brothers and sisters who have excellent ideas. Some speak up, others say their input "wouldn't make a difference". Quite simply, we've arrived at the point the district management has worked so hard to achieve: in complete chaos. If we cannot put aside differences, roll up our collective sleeves, and plunge into the fray as a united front, we're doomed.
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In light of our current plight, I cannot in good faith support my union and also participate in a district-sponsored dog-and-pony show. Sure, you say, the roadeo sounds "fun", a way to showcase our skills as drivers. I prefer to be properly respected with an honorable new contract. Once this district treats us with respect, I might be more amenable to participating. Until then... the good fight continues.

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