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economic justice | social services

Bust the bus drivers!

Look for more "let's you and him fight" from Trimet. Why play along?
Trimet is a top-heavy bureaucracy with some expensive habits. It has 161 managers, believe it or not. Yep, lil' ol Trimet. Fifty-five of those managers get over $100K. Many of them get a lot more--like a quarter million per year.

Bus service has been cut back to pay for this army of overseers, and to fund $9 million in remodeling and new furniture. The top three floors of the Center Garage building, at 4012 SE 17th, stand empty. Apparently they were not good enough for the managerial class. Meanwhile the new buses are getting a cosmetic retrofit to look like Max trains; that will cost $2 million.

For the last several years, we bus drivers have been told we want too much. We have agreed to freeze our wages for many years now, on the proviso that our retirees continue to get the health benefits we fought for. We are concerned about their health; bus driving will kill from stress. I can't count the number of times I've heard that So-and-So retired, only to die within months.

Other employees don't get nearly the good deal on health benefits that we have. We consider health to be worth standing up to our employers for. We have a union, and it provides for some democracy in the workplace, much to the chagrin of the Ayn Rand crowd. And it makes me want to ask: Why in the world won't Americans organize unions? Don't we believe in democracy? It's not like there is a shortage of wealth in this country; we allow US corporate fat cats to offshore $11 trillion, just to evade taxes. Why do we worship the rich, and attack each other?

Here, form a union! It's your right, and your duty to your society and your loved ones:

 http://www.aflcio.org/Learn-About-Unions/How-to-Join-or-Form-a-Union

A working class hero is something to be. Or maybe you'd rather be virtuously poor and bitter?

Trimet is willing to sacrifice your safety for their comfy salaries, too. Lately they've been squeezing down the breaks for drivers. The new satellite video/audio tracking and spying system breaks down constantly, putting up the wrong overhead sign, confusing and infuriating passengers. We are forced into outrageous split shifts. Guess what all that does for stress? For years, we drivers have been working longer hours, so that Trimet can avoid hiring more drivers, and dodge paying for the health coverage. (I support socialized medicine, by the way; we all deserve good health care. All the excuses against socialized medicine in this country are just that, excuses.) Meanwhile Trimet goes to the public and blames drivers for being sleepy.

Did you know that Trimet drivers find hundreds of missing people every year? It's a free service we provide. Missing children, abducted teens, confused grandmas--we get the description and regularly call them in, offering free rides the while. If the proposed substantial cuts to our income go through, I can guarantee there will be an uptick in foreclosures in this town. Is this how we are to be rewarded for shortening our lives with stress?

I'm grateful to have a good job, grateful to the public for supporting us, and looking forward to seeing my passengers on my next shift. In this, I am like most drivers. Some of us are grouches, and I'm sorry about that. But I have a suggestion for the public: Next time you're asked to bust the bus drivers, or for that matter any worker, ask yourself: Am I helping the ruling class in a race to the bottom?