Sunday, July 16, 2017

You Left Two Seconds Early!



You don't want us to leave early, not even just a few seconds. Nor do you want us running late, no matter the circumstances. Transit agency management, you are failing at your job, and my brothers and sisters are furious.

Once again, we're reminded how bad an idea it is to have corporate wonks in transit management. Take one of the most stressful jobs there is, add some unnecessary needling from people who have never been in the seat but think they know how it should be done, and you add to the pressure cooker. The constant harassment is adding stress, and operators are fed up.

Considering management is whining because union members won't bend over and take another contract enema, it's terribly insulting to have them insist our on-time performance (OTP) be perfect. As I've noted, you cannot have safety, customer service and schedule perfection. One or two of these is possible at times, but not all three. I've taken to leaving passengers behind if they're late to the stop. I don't need the stress caused by a manager breathing down my neck for doing my job as it should be done.

For an agency to blithely state "Safety Is Our Core Value" while also insisting we value schedule over safety is inexcusable. I don't know whose safety they value, but it's not ours. Their own safety is pretty much guaranteed... when you work in an ivory tower far away from the trenches, you can't expect to earn respect from those of us on the front lines.

One driver told me he received a "come see me" letter from a manager. The note stated that he left the garage two minutes late. His OTP is hovering at 90% for the past year, and he left his starting point on time. On his route, even if you leave a few minutes late, you can be early within 10 minutes. Sometimes it's better to leave a transit center late, especially if a light rail is arriving. People getting off the train expect buses to wait for them. Lately, I've had to leave people behind who were a mere 10 seconds late to the stop. Maybe some are on their way to work, a doctor's appointment that took weeks to schedule, or a parent's deathbed. Sorry folks, management doesn't care about your problems. They want us on time, so damnit, that's how we gotta roll.

This leads to the rise in operator assaults. Now that we can't do our job as we should, we're even bigger targets. People get understandably upset when operators change habits to the detriment of those we transport. A few seconds waiting for the elderly couple who can't run is more valuable to them than transit management's ridiculous schedule adherence mania is to the big picture. Does management hate us so much they want us to be attacked? I hope not, but their ridiculous mandates lately have most operators shaking our heads in amazement. Are they trying to improve our dismal ranking in transit agencies by bringing the average OTP up a few points? Try treating the employees with respect, and that would go a long way. This nit-picky micro-management isn't going to get the job done.


I've heard many operators say "This was once a great job and a wonderful place to work. Union and management got along fairly well and cooperated. There was mutual respect, and we were the top transit agency in the country. Then these corporate boneheads, most who have never driven a bus or light rail vehicle, took over. Now the place has gone to hell." Another veteran told me early in my career, "This is the best job I've ever had, but the worst company I've ever worked for." It took a few years to experience it for myself, but I'm there with ya now, brother.

Are they trying to eliminate veteran drivers with decades of service, who are usually management's loudest critics? They hire all these newbies, throw them into full-time positions within weeks of their "going live," and wonder why they get Preventable Accidents. I've heard the attrition rate is atrocious these days. Nobody should be elevated to full-time at least until their probation is over. It's asinine. It takes months of practice to learn the skills necessary to drive 8-10 hours in service every day. It's unreasonable to expect new hires to provide the same level of service as seasoned veterans. That's why we started out working part-time for over a year or more. Perhaps they think if they replace the "trouble causers" with new drivers who have less benefits and expect less from management than we do, then they can eventually have a docile workforce they can mold into corporate robots.

When management last year decided that new hires could no longer take an afternoon to go to the union office to be officially welcomed as ATU members, it was another slap in our collective faces. Then they locked our union leadership out of the garages. It's obvious management has definite plans to totally break the bond between workers and our representative body. It has us by the short hairs, because it's illegal for us to strike. This provides management an unfair advantage. They get the gold mine, and you know where the shaft ends up.

The latest insult is management's crackdown on uniforms. Sure, some operators could clean up their act. There's always the lone wolf who wears something not acceptable to the uniform code. Others are a bit sloppy in their appearance. It's unprofessional, and it's an insult to those who show up to work looking neat and sharp. It's hard to expect the public to respect us if we look like we slept in our clothes. But of course, management once again takes it to the extreme. One operator was lectured about a logo on his socks. For crying out loud, really? Want to see the stains on our underwear from not having time to use the restroom because you require us to leave on time? Did I miss a whisker while shaving? Does my hair color match the uniform? Give me a break.

This schedule stressing is like expecting a cow to produce exactly two gallons of milk a day, and whipping her if she comes up a milliliter short. This is corporate micro management at its worst, and it needs to stop before it results in catastrophe. Emphasis on schedule leads some to push speed limits and take unsafe chances. It causes unnecessary stress on an already-stressed workforce. It creates more public animosity toward operators. Worst of all, it insults those whose efforts make management's employment possible.

I've said it before and I'll repeat: We can do this without management. It's time for us to run the place. Get out of our way and let us roll.

14 comments:

  1. WOW! I'm so glad I don't work there, anymore. I thought it was getting bad when I left in 2013. SHEESH!

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  2. I feel your pain brother. This is what happens when a neoliberal unaccountable management runs a tax farm like Trimet. They live luxuriously get fat pensions while the people doing the work get beat up. The truth of Trimet is carefully hidden from the public

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    1. Doing my level best to expose the wrongs and highlight the rights my brother. Thanks for your support, as always!

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  3. You are the voice in the wilderness ! Please continue to say it LOUD and say it clear ! I just read a comment from a fellow driver stating that YOU are the one making the job harder ! Two thought came to mind (after my blood pressure came back down to somewhat normal range) (1) He's the ultimate ass kisser (2) He will be the first to cry foul when it happens to him (3) The divide and conquer strategy is working. I wish the union had the put in the hours of planning, research and fortitude to take what has become a monster of a company on! Some might say, if it's so bad get another job. However, why would one walk away from the years that they have put in? If everyone threw their arms up and walked away wrongs would never be righted. Please don't stop exposing the maltreatment of frontline employees !

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    1. Yeah, I saw that comment too. Funny thing is, I LOVE my job. The only thing making it harder are those who run the place, not me or my thoughts. We all want the same thing: a decent work environment, respect and adequate compensation.

      Those who sit back and let others fight for them, then criticize us for our efforts, are draining the life out of us all. Divide and conquer has been successful wherever the worker bees allow it. The obvious counter-strategy would be to gang up on the powerful few and throw them out on their collective asses. Education of the masses is the first step.

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  4. With the thousands and thousands of dollars that the union takes in each month, they should've have hired experts. Experts in negotiating, public relations, contract reading and so on. The same-o-same-o faces and tactics and no offense what appears to be a not very educated president at the helm what chance do the dues payers have going up against these pit-bulls the company has in place ? What chance do the dues payers have when the right to strike has been given away? What chance do the dues payers have when the company has most of the politicians in their back pocket? This all needs to be exposed but sadly the powers that be currently in charge at the union are not the ones equipped to do it.

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  5. That's because we've become a OTP company instead of a transportation company. It will all be better when we're done pissing off the paying public that we pass up or dump off to get back on schedule, they will stop riding the system and no one will care if we're on time. The people using the system for motel 6 wheels, or 24 wheels if there on the rais don't care about the schedule only that the heat or a/c is working.

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  6. I think all drivers everywhere agree 100% with what you have written. I had a similar conversation with the head of scheduling dept. Telling him that I hold him personally responsible if I am assaulted. Our timming points are so tight. Even travelling from garage to starting point you are guarenteed to be late.

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    1. Yes, I agree it's like that here too yet they have the nerve to pull you over and embarrass you in front of passengers as to why are you late when you've just started your shift? It's called rush hour traffic and an unrealistic 8 minute on road to get from the division to the Busway maybe if it was 2am in the morning and no traffic I might be on time to make that 8 minutes. Don't forget the silly railroad crossing and extremely long traffic light taking four minutes to change to get on the Busway even though the railroad is exempt on the main roadway as it's no longer in use but let's not exempt it on the Busway, management needs one more trick in there bag to punish the operator to make the public more vulnerable to be upset for the delay of service.

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    2. When we're driving in-service, nobody should be allowed, or even think of, lecturing us about OTP. First, it pisses us off and creates a distraction and creates a risk factor. Second, it makes us even later to listen to a tirade that could very well be handled in an email. Third, it's just plain silly. This is TRANSIT, folks. It's not perfect, but we do our best. And that's pretty damn good considering all the factors we deal with on a constant basis. Once again, they should just LEAVE US ALONE and let us do our jobs.

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  7. The relationship between trimet and the Atu is absolutely terrible. Keep up the great work deek! Has the union ever considered getting that law reversed so they have some the ability to strike? I can't run away from this place fast enough. Putting my life on the line everyday I show up here.

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    1. Thanks for reading and taking the time to reply. I don't know what the union could do now about our right to strike, since it's the legislature decided it wasn't in the state's best interest to allow us that basic right. Just think what would happen to Portland's service-based economy if we were allowed to strike, and the headaches it would cause? Plus, you know WE would be blamed for any problems, NOT our transit agency. Sad, but they have us by the short hairs.

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  8. Resistance is futile! You will be assimilated into the collective! To serve and obey the corporate elite!

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