Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Dan Christensen supports the ATU757 division

This is the type of intellectual debate I really relish. Thanks to Dan for taking the time to articulate his point of view.

Sorry I could not post this on your blog due to limited space. I wanted to give a rebuttal to your statements about the growing movement to create a new ATU Local.

I have to apologize first off because unlike you I have done no homework on this other than to listen to the disaffected operators and what they are saying and feeling. In no way do I pretend to have a handle on anything other than to say that I listen to what is being said. I give everyone a free hearing, without judgement or bias. When I see a large group of people expressing the same frustration, in the same way and often in the exact same words then I know there is something up, something real. You see there is no campaign with printed slogans, no public speakers saying the same thing over and over. Yet the words and frustrations being expressed are all the same. This speaks of a wide similar experience, an experience that may not be visible to someone who is not operating on a day to day level but is real to those that live driving every day.

Al you are a good guy, you have been first to my side whenever Trimet thought it was time to silence me, for that I am in your debt but I do believe that you may not be seeing this issue as an organic growth of driver frustration, for almost every time you reference it it is in the framework of sour grapes over the last election. I can tell you from my direct experience in talking with the disaffected that no one in the last three weeks has mentioned anything to do with the last election. In fact most of them voted for the current leadership.

This nullifies the entire premise that is being propelled by sour grapes or disputes over the last election. No doubt this may be true for a few, but it is not responsible for the growing ground swell of driver feelings you hear in the bullpen. I do not doubt your command of the general issues of Trimet, but lacking the direct driver feedback, not talking to operators face to face every day in the bullpen may limit you in your scope of understanding on this specific issue.

I think also it is disingenuous to state that you have nothing to gain supporting one side or another. This must be untrue when you are with the same breath stating that the union can only be strong following the same path and that we will be weaker if we separate. That means you do believe you have a dog in this hunt. You cannot have an preference for an outcome and then say you are impartial at the same time. Especially if that opinion so closely follows the “Keep doing the same thing” line. Retirees can benefit or suffer based on union actions so this “impartial” claim must fall on deaf ears.

1. I find it proof of your detachment from what drivers are really saying that you began your article with an examination of the current leadership. This is really not the point of the growing movement for a new ATU local. Very little is mentioned about the current leadership, most talk is about the past and how the ATU757 over all is not, or perhaps cannot, respond to our local needs fast enough to make a difference.
I will simply agree with you on your estimate on all the leadership and to add this… sometimes being good does not make you successful. I believe as you do that Shirley deserves her position but that is not exclusive to refocusing the Union on a smaller area of interest.

2 Bruce… Again never mentioned by those operators expressing their frustration with the current union structure.

3. Ron Heintzman. Again… never mentioned. The assumption that Heintzman could not be used for assistance in both unions locals if 757 splits up is just silly. That is your assumption but it is not the truth. Clearly emotions are playing a fact here but it’s not with those that are trying to express themselves but by those who are jumping to conclusions as to peoples motivations or their sanity.

4. Your assumptions of what is the problem, Lack of transparency, Iron fisted rule, no tolerance for dissent is part of the formula. Add in a few others and you got it. The problem isn’t that there are problems but that it’s the same problems for the last decade and perhaps longer. That speaks of not a personal issue with this leader or another but a systematic error. As you have seen no change of leadership will significantly change the issues.

5. You speak of Guarantees and you are right as far as you go. You are 100% right that no matter who is elected in a compromised system you will have a repeat of the same issues, maybe not right away but eventually.
However to assume that a smaller more organic union with a specific focus would have the same issues, well there is just no evidence of that. Without the ability to hide behind the support of outside properties union leaders would know that every action they take would mean direct accountability to those they directly represent. (I wish this country worked that good)

7. Leadership issues. You could be right. Perhaps it would be that the current leadership of ATU757 would stay in charge of a focused Trimet Local. Many operators would wish that. Worse case is they would have a chance to run for leadership of a new focused local just like everyone else… how is this bad?

8. Your assumption that people involved are operators that have “run afoul of leadership” Again I have to blame your lack of contact with drivers in the bullpen. Of those expressing their outrage only a few are those that have any contact with the union at all. This is simply a dismissive tactic just another version of the sour grapes argument. Now, there are those on side of a smaller more responsive union that do have a history with the union but they are not a majority at all. They often are the most vocal but seldom the ones signing on the dotted line.

10. As to a few people's personal grief with others in the union I have no opinion. I don’t think people who have a history with the leadership are “Forcing people to sign the petition” and their use of terms like “Thugs” is, admittedly “Counter productive” I’m not an expert to speak in this area because I don’t participate in that sort of name calling, neither have I heard that sort of language by those signing the petition.

11. Assertion “This is part of a sweeping anti-union” movement. This is in no way connected to any national movement of Anti-Unionism. This is just operators believing that a smaller and more focused local is better. Most people signing have no grief with our Union or Unions over all. Again I think this is your assumption and not from direct experience. Your are trying to diagnose others from a distance without any contact and or conversation and this can only lead to a misconception.

12. “Unions last stand” again this is just hype. Republicans have been president before, Republicans have had a house and senate majority. Republicans have have had house, senate and president all at the same time before and yet that union survived. The idea we face instant death due to some political outcome is just a myth. What is missing is this. That our union has suffered greatly in the last 8 years, including times when the Democrats had commanding advantages in both national and local Oregon governments. This did not protect us from contract failure after failure. The call that ATU 757 is going to suffer is simply propaganda that goes against the results of the last 7 political cycles. This idea is just a tactic to silence honest operators from expressing what they believe is a solution to ongoing systemic issues.

13. The idea that this is the worst time to start talking about splitting the union begs the question “When is the right time?” how many more contracts do we need to choke on? How many years of the systemic issues must we endure until we focus on our issues? 5 more? 7 more? 10 More? Tell me? We face no existential external threat that we have not face and survived before.

14. Stating that you understand the points is one thing. Hearing it from the rank and file is another. Those people you call insane in your above article (Clearly you may be shy of fully understanding if you believe people are insane for wanting change) are just people wanting to be heard. What’s that definition of insanity? “Doing the same old thing and expecting new results?” that does not sound like their actions, it sounds more like your position. As far as to what side is sane I will leave that up to others to decide.

15. As far as shooting ourselves in the head, how haven't we? Look to the last contracts, look to the piss poor turn out at union meetings, look to all those systemic things you listed that the union does. We don’t need to shoot ourselves in the head, it's all ready done and we are slowly bleeding out. Only there are people who refuse to see that. To them it’s 1930 and we are fighting “The man” while here in the future we continue to hemorrhage.

16. Solidarity in the face of systemic failure and continuous contract failures is just a call to silence those that believe a smaller more organic union, focused 100% of the time on our own issues and needs could have different results. These silencing tactics are unworthy of you.

17. There are always those that fear change. They fear to let go of the comfortable present for a future that seems to them so dangerous. They are not about professing loyalty for himself but demand loyalty and compliance from others. Their fear is so gripping that it cripples the mind from what is obvious. They label others, they dismiss others and ultimately they seek to silence others. Sadly this what you are pursuing when you call people who oppose you insane or that their goals are insane.

18. The myth that Trimet is sparing any thought about our union is a joke. That they have some sort of combat room with giant screens where they rub their hands together when they read out facebook posts is just a fantasy. They don’t care about us, or what we do? They are not like us fighting over minutia, fearful and scared. They have lawyers, they win fights by arguments and debate and by letting us shoot ourselves in the head, foot and everywhere else over and over again. They don’t have to win, they just don’t have to give up. Given time they are slowly, step by step, getting everything they want, winning against our status quo. Again this argument you imply that anyone trying to change our dismal fate is in league with the corporate devil… sorry this just a false association. Trimet doesn't want things to change, they want things to stay just the way they are… why would they change when they are running the table.

Since I have this venue for the moments I will address the other flimsy arguments that are being thrown around.

Q: What are Operators asking for
A: Operators are not asking for the end of ATU 757 but the creation of a new local within the ATU that is smaller and focuses on Trimet issues only. ATU757 currently handles 25 contract give or take. So lets see it is possible to have more than one local and find out if it’s not automatically the road to ruin. Washington state with 2x the population (Again about) it has 7 ATU locals Oregon has 1. How come it works for Washington but cannot work here in Oregon to have more than one local? This question is never answered by the status quo defenders.

Q: Pension?
A: Pension fund will not be affected. It would simply be a labeling change as to who is representing the pension. No ones pension disappears.

Q: Would the New ATU and ATU 757 work together?
A: Yes.

Q: Isn’t this part of a greater Anti-Union tide?
A: no, the exact same amount of people will be in the ATU before and after the divide. How can that be any blow against Unions? Instead of 1 ATU Local trying to take care of a huge state like Oregon, fulfilling 25 contracts you would have two LOcals. Just like exist in many other states… look at the ATU local map and you will see many states with multiple locals. It does not weaken them.

Q: Isn’t this anti-democratic? After all the leadership of ATU 757 was elected twice.
A: No. No elected officer should be forced to leave their position. Anyone elected to a position will be able to continue on.

Q: I’m scared
A: sure, new territory is always a bit intimidating when you first enter it. Like the first day you are a bus driver or a mechanic, but we can do it. There is no magic sauce that is sprinkled on Californian or Washingtonians that say, hey you can handle multiple ATU locals but those poor Oregonians, or people working in Oregon they are too stupid to figure things out. It’s not like this. It can be done, others have done it, so can we.

Q: Doesn’t my vote count for nothing if I elected the current leadership.
A: No, first let's get this right in the open. Every leader is elected in the ATU (If things are operating correctly) to say that because someone is elected into a position that somehow that freezes out all possible change in Locals is just a red herring. Your officers would remain in the post they were elected for, Some may step down to run for a new post and you would be free to vote again. Things do change and elections cannot be used as a cement to keep things from ever changing because it will almost always be true that the leadership is elected.

Q: Isn’t this just people who hate the current leaders?
A: As far as I can determine, no. Though no doubt for some it is. Also the flip side is true there are those who will vote for the leaders no matter how obvious it becomes that our system is failing us.

Q: Solidarity!
A: This is often thrown around but there is something more important than solidarity and that is process, planning and tactics. Our union may never come together as those who tout solidarity keep crying out for. One thing is for sure no matter how much solidarity if we blow process, planning and tactics we will keep dropping the ball on contracts. Even with our hot and cold solidarity it is still possible to do better. We can have all the Solidarity in the world but if we keep doing the same thing we will get the same results.

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