Santa Cruz Indymedia :
Santa Cruz Indymedia

Questions to ask, to see if people are telling the truth

It really is an either-or situation: hold raises down to reasonable levels or cut more bus service (which means laying off more junior workers). No new operating money is available this year.

I don't know if Solidarity Sister depends on the bus system. I do. I don't know whether Solidarity Sister speaks at most every Metro board meeting, participates in transit committees, and actively works to improve Metro. I do.

This is not just a question of joining another fun protest. It's a question of the life or death of a public service.

Unfortunately, the drivers may not be a reliable source of information. Based on their commentary at recent Metro board meetings, some are misunderstanding, forgetting, or misrepresenting their own contract. Here are some questions that Solidarity Sister could ask today:

1. For how many years have you worked as a driver at Metro?
2. What was the percentage of the raise you received in July, 2004? How much money has that raise generated for you since it took effect? Include the 6th step, if you received it at the same time.
2b. If you received the 6th step after July, 2004, what was the percentage? How much money has that raise generated for you since it took effect for you?
3. What was the percentage of the raise you received in July, 2003? How much money has that raise generated for you since it took effect? Do not include any step increases.
4. What was the percentage of the raise you received in July, 2002? How much money has that raise generated for you since it took effect? Do not include any step increases.
5. Do you participate in one of Metro's health plans?
6. Including yourself, how many family members did you elect to cover?
7. Which health plan did you elect? Is it the least expensive one?
8. How much money does Metro contribute toward your health insurance premium each month?
9. Do you contribute toward health insurance premiums?
10. If you answered yes to #9, in what year did those contributions start?
11. If you answered yes to #9, please add up your total contribution (since contributions began) and compare this to the sum of #2, #2b, #3, and #4.
12. Did you vote for the enhanced 2.5-at-55 retirement plan?
13. Do you remember the name of the up-and-coming leader who calculated that the 2.5-at-55 retirement plan would cost younger drivers more than they would ever receive from it, while providing a windfall to older drivers about to retire?
14. Regarding your basic retirement contributions, who is the money for?
15. Do you support stopping, delaying, or cutting back the MetroBase project? What have representatives of your union said publicly on this issue?
16. Can the funding for MetroBase legally be used for operating expenses like drivers' wages?
17. In terms of rents and fuel prices, how much operating money will MetroBase save each year?
18. When the board of directors approved your 2002-2005 contract what simultaneous actions did the board take to pay for the immediate wage-and-benefit enhancements (#4, #8) included in that contract? What actions has the board taken since then, to pay for the other wage enhancements (#2, #2b, and #3)?
18b. What percentage of bus service has been cut since 2002? How many junior positions does that translate into?
19. Would you support cutting bus service and laying off junior drivers, to pay for another round of substantial wage-and-benefit enhancements?
20. If you answered no to #19, how can Metro raise the money, in time for the current fiscal year (July, 2005 to June, 2006)?
20b. By what percentages have core fares (adult cash fare, adult monthly pass, UCSC contract fare) increased in recent years? Is the cash fare lagging inflation? Taking fare elasticity (statistical loss of ridership due to higher fares) into account, to what level would we have to raise fares to cover your financial demands?
21. What is your hourly wage? What is the maximum hourly wage for a Metro bus driver, and how soon does she receive it?
21b. Do you believe that there is a significant difference in the *value* of work done by junior and senior bus drivers? Is an hour of driving done by a junior driver worth less than an hour of driving done by a senior employee? Do you agree with the historic practice of loading compensation in the later years of a driver's career? Would you prefer that compensation be spread more evenly over a driver's career?
21c. What is the level of the overtime budget for drivers, and how has it changed in recent years? How many positions could be created if overtime were eliminated? Would you support this? How much money have you yourself earned from overtime in recent years?
22. How many paid vacation days, holidays, and sick leave days do you receive each year? Also: If you do not yet receive the maximum number of vacation days, what is the maximum number?
23. Do you believe that you, over the course of your career, receive more or less than other local working people whose jobs carry similar educational requirements? Please give specific examples, including some from the private sector. Consider the various elements of your compensation package that we have mentioned, including wages, health insurance, base pension (before 2.5-at-55), and vacation time.
24. Historically, a Metro employee's total compensation (wages and benefits) has grown much faster than the local inflation rate. Would you support a wage-and-benefit package that ensures that your compensation keeps up with the local Consumer Price Index and prevents or minimizes service cuts / junior employee layoffs?
25. How many employees does Metro have?
26. How many of them are managers?
27. Compared to nearby transit agencies like the Santa Clara VTA, is Metro top-heavy, i.e., is the ratio of managers to workers worse at Metro?
28. What percentage raise did management receive in July, 2004?

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