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Metro Workers Struggle for Contract

Santa Cruz Metro workers, are ramping up pressure for a fair deal after their contract talks reached a stalemate. Bus drivers, mechanics, and other workers, who've gone without a contract since March 31, maintained a three hour picket line at the downtown bus station Wednesday, after talks with management broke off.
Transit workers around the nation have been facing off with employers over health care and wages. In Oakland, CA a strike of 2,300 Bay Area Rapid Transit workers was derailed early Wednesday morning, after union officials, and BART management agreed to contract terms. Elsewhere, union officials in Phoenix, AZ put the brakes on a June 30 bus strike, and in Philadelphia last month, SEPTA (transit) workers agreed to stay on the job without a contract until Sept 5.

Meanwhile, Santa Cruz Metro workers, are ramping up pressure for a fair deal after their contract talks reached a stalemate. Bus drivers, mechanics, and other workers, who've gone without a contract since March 31, maintained a three hour picket line at the downtown bus station Wednesday, after talks with management broke off. Maintenance Worker Kenneth Brown who has worked for Metro since 1985, and is on the SEIU Local 415 bargaining committee, says this is one of the cards in the union's hand. "We gotta tell em that we're ready for them to make a move and so far they've just refused to talk to us."

Metro officials will not consider any wage increases over the next three years, he says, and insists on a two-tier system which will hurt workers without tenure. Mary Ferrick, a Metro scheduling analyst views the local struggle in the context of what's happening in other cities. "The same themes are there, people trying to hold onto good paying jobs with benefits." Marty Gilbert, a 6 year Metro bus driver, and UTU member, is annoyed that management will burden workers with increased medical costs. "If you have two dependents, you're paying $420 a month out of pocket, so we just want them to help us out with some of the cost."

So far, Metro has refused to share any of the health care cost increase. In days, a mediator will be brought in to try and hammer out an agreement. In the meantime, union officials will hold a strike vote to authorize further action. Deborah Lane, a disabled rider who relies on the bus system as her sole source of transport, hopes that option is avoided, but supports the workers demands. "People are entitled to good health care, a decent wage, and retirement. Everybody is. In my opinion, what management is trying to do is criminal."

Metro's Board of Directors will take up the contract talks this Friday morning, and workers say they'll be on hand to further press their demands.
 
 


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CORRECTION: Metro Workers Struggle for Contract

"...who've gone without a contract since March 31."

That statement is incorrect. Actually, the contract expired this week, and was extended for one week while the talks continue.
 

Route 67, Capitola Mall

Click on image for a larger version

surfed23.jpg
A Day In The Life of a Santa Cruz Bus Driver
 

Metro workers are ok - facts about pay and benefits

How much more bus service would you like Metro to cut, and how many more junior employees would you like Metro to lay off? There is NO new money coming in.

Metro is NOT cheating its employees. Wages and benefits have risen much faster than inflation. No one has lost ground economically.

Even after contributing to the cost of health insurance, most bus drivers are better off by $10,000 to $16,000, thanks to the generous raises in their 2002-2005 contract. To fund those raises, Metro cut bus service 20%, laid off junior employees, and raised fares 25 to 50%.

Now, some union members are asking questions about MetroBase, probably in hopes that the project can be stopped and the money, spent on new raises. But this money -- capital money -- would just go back to the state and federal governments; it CANNOT be used for operations. What's more, MetroBase will save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year -- money that CAN be spent on new bus service and new jobs. Today, Metro rents space to park and maintain its fleet and buys fuel from a gas station, at the full retail price. Any union member who questions Metro's effort to build a permanent, publicly-owned bus facility can't see farther than his next paycheck.

Only by moderating the growth in wages and benefits, and building MetroBase, can we keep public transit viable in Santa Cruz County. Before anyone accuses me of trying to cut people's pay, notice that an annual raise in line with the Consumer Price Index is the exact opposite of a pay cut. It's a formula that will guarantee that every Metro employee keeps up with the cost of living. It's also a formula that Metro can afford, without laying off more employees and cutting more service.

----------

For those who are interested, here is some factual information, taken from contracts and the budget. All figures are approximate, and dollar amounts have been rounded to the nearest thousand for easy reading. I am happy to meet with anyone who wants to go over the contracts and the budget in greater depth. I have been studying this material for three years and am an active and well-respected participant in the public process at Metro.

The vast majority of drivers earn $52,000 and get 6 weeks of paid vacation. All receive 12 days of paid sick leave, convertible to cash. There are 9 paid holidays, and drivers receive triple pay on some of them. Metro provides $7,000 for health insurance and also pays a significant share of the pension (drivers requested an enhanced pension benefit several years ago, and they are responsible for the cost of the enhancement). Bilingual pay is $1,000 per year. Long-time drivers are first in line for a $1.2 million pool of overtime.

I do not want to single out bus drivers. Metro's other employees are also treated well, though the details differ, and are harder to explain in a small amount of space. (For example, a special raise that drivers received in 2004 was given to other employees a few years earlier.) Obviously, the non-driver group includes many different job categories, each with a different wage or salary.

Side note about health insurance: Metro buys health insurance from the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS). Switching to a custom, self-insured health plan would benefit Metro and all Metro employees. Decisions about the price and scope of CalPERS' health plans are made on a statewide basis, in Sacramento. (I'm told that the state also pushes a disproportionate share of the cost onto local agencies.) It would be good to have local control and perhaps, to go in together with school districts, city governments and other local agencies. (Maybe someday we will live to see single-payer health care in the USA!)

Side note about junior employees: We have already seen how tradeoffs made by the Metro board, at the behest of the unions, can lead to layoffs among junior employees. Another problem is that the contracts load compensation in the later years of a person's career. As is typical in seniority-based union contracts, base wages and benefits (such as the value of the defined benefit pension plan) grow slowly. I believe in equal pay for work of equal value, so I would like to see compensation spread more evenly over a person's career. An employee would still earn the same total amount of money over 25 or 30 years, but the real money would start flowing much sooner. The San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) contract is an example of this concept. Incidentally, a union member once got upset at me for using the word "junior". Junior is the opposite of senior, and seniority is a union concept. As you can see, I do not agree that "junior" means "less valuable".
 

Re: Metro Workers Struggle for Contract

Where/When was that Picture from????
 

Re: Metro Workers Struggle for Contract

No date accompanies the Sentinel story linked from the local23.org site:

local23.org/coverstory.html
 

For The Union!

Paul is worse than useless. A true riders union
would unite with the workers and fight for better funding and for better services. As a bus rider I am offended to have someone like Paul pretend to be speaking for me.
 

Re: Metro Workers Struggle for Contract

You busdrivers have a completely warped notion of your value in the market palce.

Many many people could easily learn your job, and would be happy to take it at a fraction of the pay. You are semi-skilled at best; you are nothing more than glorified McDonald's counter people.

And here you are whining as if you are God's gift to the city. Here you are splitting hairs over itsy-bitsy issues when you ignore the big picture, which is that you are absurdly overpaid.

Boy do you have a lot to learn! It may be the only way you will learn your true value in the marketplace is have the city bust the nonsense fantasy world called the union.
 

Re: Metro Workers Struggle for Contract

You busdrivers have a completely warped notion of your value in the market palce.

Many many people could easily learn your job, and would be happy to take it at a fraction of the pay. You are semi-skilled at best; you are nothing more than glorified McDonald's counter people.

And here you are whining as if you are God's gift to the city. Here you are splitting hairs over itsy-bitsy issues when you ignore the big picture, which is that you are absurdly overpaid.

Boy do you have a lot to learn! It may be the only way you will learn your true value in the marketplace is have the city bust the nonsense fantasy world called the union.
 

Re: Metro Workers Struggle for Contract

ozziebozoexplosion is a troll who is trying to use this forum to discredit the metro bus drivers who are in the middle of contract negotiations.
 

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