Friday, October 16, 2015

Signup Shenanigans

Signups are a stressful deal, especially here these days. For the first time in years I was able to jump off the Extra Board into some work I truly enjoy for this signup. I was dreading the next one...

As you put in years as a bus driver, you expect a few things to happen. First, the more you drive, the more experience you gain. This makes you more valuable, and above all, safer. Years of driving are also supposed to give you seniority. I've been climbing the ladder gradually, but I defer to those of my brothers and sisters who have toiled at this for centuries. (One year as a driver can age us 3-5 years, so if someone has been doing it 20-30, yeah I'd say it must feel close to 100.) With seniority should come the "plum" runs, the juicy ones that are off early and pay nicely. Senior drivers have earned the right to pick these.

When your transit agency alters runs so that senior drivers are now getting what they aptly describe as "shit", they have a tendency, and a right, to be angry. A sister friend of mine said she had to sign something that's out six hours later than she did this time. Six hours later. That's not right. She's been an operator for many years more than I have. Now she has to scramble to rearrange her life because some bean counters say so?

Apparently, there were supposed to be two options hung at the garages, so operators could compare, then vote on their preference. This did not happen.

I've only driven under a handful of years, so I don't expect the cream of the crop. We all have to bide our time, put in the years and climb up the seniority ladder. However, this time I ended up with three runs which give me over 10 hours overtime a week. This is something I shouldn't expect for a few years yet. Even though this is good for my bank account, I feel as if I'm cheating my senior brothers and sisters out of something they should have.

One of the "powers that be" at our agency is on vacation this week, so no resolution is immediately foreseeable. An option for this mess is to scrap the whole signup and start over again, or to keep what we have and try to change it for next time. The latter solution is certainly not a popular choice.

If this is a ploy by the agency to set union members to squabbling amongst ourselves, it's a pretty good plan. The union meeting a few nights ago was full of grumbling senior operators. The executive officers could only tell us to fill out the survey forms and voice our frustrations there. Since they agreed to this mess, the membership is pretty put off by their actions.

The newest drivers seem to have the best picks this time. I've benefited where I shouldn't have. While I truly like what I picked, it feels cheap... stolen. After putting in 10-15 years or more, I would feel cheated if I were one of the senior operators. I hope that once I get there, I'm not thrown under the bus like they have been this time. It's a terrible way to treat the most valuable operators we have.

Sorry, my brothers and sisters. Fair is fair, and I will fight for your seniority. You've earned it.


  1. Thank you, Deacon. I'm just shaking my head over all the hubbub this go 'round. I think I'll be okay with my picks this time, but I have noticed I'm getting bumped by more senior operators as I, too, become more senior, more so than I ever was bumped when I had twice your seniority.

    I do feel about 100, but then I guess it all depends on your perspective.

  2. How does your company do signups? Here it is post the lists of work (with details down to the paddle (driver's schedule), then operators pick by you do your studying and make your choices based on your needs (which is why it took me 15 years to get to S/S/Holidays off).

  3. I have to ask, how are senior operators ending up with "shit" runs as you've described? Did they not get the run they had picked, or did the run get changed after they had picked it? If a run has been changed to clear 6 hours later, that information should've been disclosed and made available to the operator before they elect to pick that run.

  4. he signup is how the company keeps psychological control over its employees. That's why there is no consistency signup to signup.

    You need to understand that bus drivers are easily replaceable, that's the psychology.

    Trimet likes to "turn" drivers.

    Trade a $28/hr driver with vacation time for one that gets paid $15 and no vacation?

    I've always believed the company INTENTIONALLY makes operators lives miserable.

    Public transportation in this country is inhumane. To the men and woman doing the work (drivers) and to the riders. Neither group is the prime concern to the Public Transit executive culture.

  5. Devil's Advocate time, Deacon, sir. In this post you talk about the opportunity of 10 hours overtime with pay. You speak about it as if that is a plum and should be saved for the senior operators. I'm have of a tough time with this because of all the noise about drivers having to work so many hours that they are not safe. How would you reconcile these views?

  6. The problem is they put up runs well into the sign-up that were not available earlier. A clear violation of seniority and cause for a grievance if ever there was one. I actually don't think it is intentional, I've talked with most involved but they are trying to solve while creating more. They do need to factor seniority rights much more than they are now.