Monday, May 28, 2018

John Wold on His VP Candidacy


Deke's Note: In this post, we're introduced to John Wold, an ATU 757 brother from Lift, the para transit arm of our agency. He's campaigning to become Vice President of our local.

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John Wold
ATU 757 Vice President Candidate
1) Who are you, and which office are you campaigning for? What makes you our best choice? Why do you want to serve in this capacity?
My Name is John Wold, and I am a TriMet Lift Operator for First Transit. First Transit is a contractor that operates the para transit services for TriMet. I am running for the office of Vice President.

I offer a unique background of labor experience spanning more than 30 years both as a union member (Sheet Metal Workers and OEA, the school teachers’ union), and as Labor Relations Manager. As the chief negotiator for management, I have negotiated hundreds of labor agreements and settled hundreds more grievances. Because of this, I understand what management is thinking and why, and what concerns labor.

All the agreements I have negotiated were opened well prior to their expiration, and all but a handful were completed before they expired.

I have a keen appreciation for the collective bargaining process and how it can benefit both sides. For example, as a manager, I happily discovered that most grievances and complaints have a legitimate basis that simply never occurred to the manager involved. When management “lost” the grievance, they didn’t really lose, because it most often resulted better communication and harmony between management and labor. We learned that the best source of information in problem solving came from those closest to the problem. Namely, the worker.  We were able to establish labor/management teams that brought about significant process improvements.

I want to be able to help similar things happen with all of  ATU 757 agreements. As an operator, and your representative I believe I will be better able to help management understand our side of the story because, as a former manager, I also know their thinking.

2) What do you believe to be the membership’s main concerns (from your office’s perspective) moving forward through 2020? How would you work toward improving these areas?
I have talked with members from many of the properties represented by ATU 757. Many have concerns about:
• the lack of communication, transparency, and responsiveness from our Union; 
• safety from assaults on our operators; 
• uncertainty about SIPs (Service Improvement Program) affecting their job security; 
• the future of healthcare insurance and its financial impact on them; 
• the economic impact on retirees; 
• There are a number of other worries, also.

The top three officers need to regularly visit all the properties for face-to-face conversations. When we confirm that we understand your concerns, we can work to resolve them.  We need to follow up directly and through other means such as social media.

We need to establish better communication between management and ATU 757.  We will work to establish Labor/management committees. These have been proven effective to open and communicate the real concerns and dilemmas of our active members and retirees and to develop creative solutions that work for both sides.

3) Assaults are on the rise every year. Do you believe operator barriers are the answer? What are the pros and cons of the barriers? What else could be done to stop this escalating problem?
Initially, operator barriers can minimize the immediate risks.  It also might limit positive connection to passengers, but the safety and security of the operator cannot be overlooked.

It is a partial solution. More visible security and enforcement presence will be needed both at known “hot spots” and regularly throughout the system. Once more, labor/management teams can unveil opportunities to stem the escalation of these occurrences.

4) Since we cannot strike, how can we ensure that our union membership concerns will be taken seriously by management? Do you have any creative strategies to ensure constructive dialog and positive actions?
Strikes are not an option for TriMet and other essential services organizations, but even if they were, strikes are not without their own pitfalls. Nevertheless, many other agencies are able to effectively negotiate in spite of it.  We need to understand their strategies and adapt them to our circumstances.  Open communication with elected government offices, the media, and the public will help make our issues known and addressed.

5) The local media message is controlled by management. How do you propose to engage the media and help the public understand the issues we face?
In my experience, management only controls the media message when labor fails to actively pursue its position.  I have always found the media ready to hear what we have to say if we are ready to say it. Being silent is not an option.

6) Social media is a very active and volatile tool within our membership. How will you use it to communicate with US?
Social media is an excellent way to open communication rapidly across a broad front, especially keeping us all informed on the important issues like contract negotiations.  It is also important for the information and concerns to flow both directions.  Accordingly, I will set up a Vice President’s page to provide direct access to me for all members.

That being said, sitting down face-to-face with people to more fully understand their concerns cannot be replaced electronically. So much communication is non-verbal and cannot be transmitted online.

7) Members are upset with the arbitration process and how the union communicates decisions to the membership. Is this process broken? If so, please state your ideas on how to improve arbitration procedures.
I will use the Vice President’s page mentioned above to communicate arbitration results that would not violate the privacy of the member. With arbitrations, we lose some control of the situation. Therefore, I would rather not go to arbitration unless we are pretty sure we would win.
That said, every member is entitled to a vigorous representation, and you will get it with me.

8) What’s your favorite union movie, and why?
“Norma Rae” starring Sally Fields. The film was inspired by the real-life story of Crystal Lee Sutton who was fired by her employer when she tried to form a bargaining unit where she worked. She was successful with that and went on to become a successful and tough union organizer. Ironically, she died in 2009 at 68 of brain cancer after a protracted fight with her health insurance provider.

9) How do we get more members involved, attending meetings and adding to the overall discussion?
Once again, communication is essential. We will provide advance notice of the agenda for the meetings that include the items that are of general concern to members. Transparency about the union business including financials will encourage the involvement of more members. Perhaps some meetings can be conducted nearer the venue where the concerns originate. We will need the input from members to fully understand and address their issues.

10) I’ve only asked questions on a few points. Please let us know what other issues you believe are vital as we move forward.
We also need to continue pressing our legislators and Congress to deal with the spiraling cost of medical care. Until we nationally get a handle on that, insurance rates will continue their obscene inflation to levels you would not believe, today.

Deke and the Check Ride

Deke's Note: Taking a break from the union elections to return to my blog's roots. This post is one I've been aching to write. Also, I've lately been feeling good, enjoying my job for once rather than simply forcing myself to drive. It's a great gig that I'm lucky to have in these days of economic uncertainty. Lately, I've learned how to make it pleasant rather than a monstrously-necessary economic evil.

Had a check ride this week. First one since I was a noob. Instead of combining this with our annual recertification class, the district began requiring the Training staff to evaluate each operator during their actual run. I have to agree with management on this, because as a perfectionist, I welcome annual performance reviews. They assist me in my goal of constantly honing my skills. Trainers watch intently as we operate. From our passenger relations to how we roll the Beast, our actions are scrutinized. How often did I check my mirrors? On average, about every five seconds. My eyes constantly scan around, throughout and beyond my ride. It has helped me avoid countless catastrophes, so I was pleased to see the trainer notice my diligence in that regard.

A few times, I made some mistakes that might seem minor in comparison to others. Not fully watching the doors close. Stopping a bit too close to a crosswalk. Stopping a foot or two a bit close to a vehicle ahead at a stoplight. Each of these, if you allow yourself to do them consistently, are potential risks to life and limb. If you close the door without watching for that last-second boarder, the doors could close on someone. Get too close to the rear bumper of someone in front of your bus at an intersection and a rear-end collision might propel your bus into their hind end.

There was one point of contention, however. On part of my route, it's extremely dangerous for exiting passengers to cross in front of the bus. It's never a good idea to do this, but on one stretch of road I roll, it's common for trailing vehicles to blast past across a double-yellow line as I service a stop. Passengers don't see, or they ignore, the sign above the front door warning them not to cross in front of the bus. Some are kids, accustomed to riding school buses with STOP signs and accompanying flashing lights. Most motorists obey the school bus warning signals but refuse to abide by our flashing YIELD light's caution to wait behind as we service a stop. People will fly by us when we stop on this stretch of road, regardless of the law or any warning our vehicle displays. When a passenger exits and then crosses in front of the vehicle, they risk being struck by the callous law-breaker. Because I don't relish watching their bloody carcass flying past my view, I tend to warn them not to take this risk.

During my check ride, I made this warning on the bus Public Address system. Lady Trainer didn't like it. She argued that it set me up for complaints, that people don't "like to be publicly warned" to abide by safety rules. My response? Too damned bad. Sure, they have the "right" to risk their own safety, but I will do whatever I can to educate a transit management-spoiled and less-than-safety-conscious public about the follies of irresponsibly-unsafe behavior. Why should I have to witness their demise? I'd rather risk a complaint and teach them something than quietly condone their foolishness. While I understand her admonishing me for using the microphone, it's something I just can't stop doing. Those who argue, then cross in front of me and nearly get creamed, often thank me (and apologize) the next time they ride. People are caught up in the moment, looking at their phones or thinking of a myriad of personal issues. Sometimes, they forget the basics of personal safety. Consider it rude if you will, but I will pound this point into people's heads without any morsel of remorse. If I save one life out of a thousand, it's worth the risk of a crybaby's complaint. Safety is Job #1, not worrying about a passenger's over-inflated ego. Their body is considerably more fragile.

Overall, I was impressed with Lady Trainer's tips. On a certain hill with a stop sign at the top, I tend to allow gravity to stop the bus, rather than using the service brake. It's smoother. However, she told me it's hard on the transmission. Overheats the gears, evidently. I wasn't conscious of this, but I understand. Now I have to train myself to smoothly stop using the brakes, then precisely stomp the pedal when I proceed to avoid a backward-forward jerk. My bad habit is yet another trick I've learned to ease the repetitive motion my foot endures from depressing the brake pedal some 800+ times per shift. As you roll each year at my advancing age, you tend to save your body even the slightest pain. Constant depressions of the brake pedal tend to cause certain muscles and tendons to become stressed. As any human, I'm apt to avoid pain at any cost. Nevertheless, I'll teach my body to adapt so that my brothers and sisters in maintenance don't have to prematurely replace a bus transmission.

"Don't damage the equipment," we were told the first day of training. Roger Wilco.

There are veterans I share the road with who might not agree that regular check rides are a healthy interlude to our daily roll. They've done this job much longer than I have, and might feel insulted by a trainer's evaluation of their skills as a professional driver. However, it's human nature to become overly-confident. Sometimes we can slip into a dangerous state of complacency without realizing. Once you think "I've got this," bad shit can happen. To any driver, that is. I would much rather be corrected by another than roll into a nightmare because of my errant ego.

Thanks, Lady Trainer. Next time, I'll show that I learned from your observation. It's likely however, that I'll have other aspects of my glide you'll find in need of correction. Welcome aboard, and I'll look forward to the opportunity to improve wherever necessary. Just remember though, there are points that I reserve the right to disagree upon. That said, we'll get along just fine.





Candidate for President Bruce Hansen States His Views

Deke's Note: I've taken some heat for how I write headlines on these posts giving candidates a voice on my blog. It wasn't a conscious decision meant to show any favoritism. You won't know who I vote for based on how I present these posts. I simply detest being overly repetitive. Since it's my blog and I'm giving each candidate the same opportunity, a headline shouldn't determine how you're going to vote. Note the lengthy and ambiguous headline on this post. Unless your head has been under a bus seat the past few years, you already know what office Mr. Hansen is running for. If you don't, my apologies; you will find out in the next note...

Deke's Note II: Here are the answers ATU 757 Presidential Candidate Bruce Hansen provided to the questions I've asked each Top 3 candidate.


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Bruce Hansen
ATU 757 Presidential Candidate
1) Who are you, and which office are you campaigning for? What makes you our best choice? Why do you want to serve in this capacity?
I am Bruce Hansen and I am running for the office of President. I am the best choice for President because I am honest, companionate and trustworthy. I have the ability to open the communication needed between leadership and members as well as ATU757 and International. I am fiscally responsible. When I served as President in 2012 our union was on the verge of bankruptcy and when I left office three years later we had over $900,000 in the bank. I successfully launched a media campaign to inform the public of the agencies mismanagement and unnecessary spending.  I want to serve all of the members of ATU757. For the past three years, members have been shut out and ignored. Their calls have not been returned and they have been turned away when they tried to contact the leadership at the office. I have a proven track record of returning calls and having open communication with all members.

I want to serve as President because the membership and the future of ATU757 is important to me. 

2) What do you believe to be the membership’s main concerns (from your office’s perspective) moving forward through 2020? How would you work toward improving these areas?
I believe that the membership's main concerns would be they want to be heard and represented. I also believe that safety, Healthcare and wages and an unfair SIP policy (at TriMet) are major concerns of the members of ATU757.

I would work toward improving these areas by having open communication between the ATU representatives and management(joint labor/management committees). I believe these committees should and would be made up of not only leadership but, of the members at large, meaning YOU. 

3) Assaults are on the rise every year. Do you believe operator barriers are the answer? What are the pros and cons of the barriers? What else could be done to stop this escalating problem?
I do not believe that barriers are the sole answer to operator assaults, they can be a part of the solution. The pros of the barriers are it would be an immediate deterrent to an operator being assaulted; however the con would be the removal of the personal interaction between the operator and the public. Other things that can be done to stop the escalation of operator assaults are improving the visibility of the supervisor, fare inspectors, code enforcers, security, and transit police. I currently serve on the Security Continuance Improvement Team (SCIT) and this committee needs to continue because they are things to prevent employee assaults such as looking into the barrier option and changing SOPs and other safety options.

4) Since we cannot strike, how can we ensure that our union membership concerns will be taken seriously by management? Do you have any creative strategies to ensure constructive dialog and positive actions?
Since we cannot strike, to ensure that our concerns are taken seriously by management we can hold joint labor management meetings on a regular basis. We should be visible in the communities that we represent, build relationships with local and state politicians. We should attend the board meetings monthly, not just when we want to be heard or there is a major crisis in our system or policies.

5) The local media message is controlled by management. How do you propose to engage the media and help the public understand the issues we face?
I propose to, as I have in the past, a continued commitment with all of the local media, including radio, and printed media sources. I still have a number of contacts in the local media that have always been willing to sit down with me to talk and discuss our issues.

6) Social media is a very active and volatile tool within our membership. How will you use it to communicate with US?
I would use social media to build a president page that I could post agendas prior to membership meetings and meeting summaries of the meetings. I would also use this page and other social media sources to inform members of upcoming events and actions. This would be great place to post contract updates as well, to keep the membership involved in the process and aware of where we are in the process. I would also post my report and other officers reports could be posted as well.  Social media is not and should not be a one way information source, it is also a great resource for the membership to reach out and communicate with myself as well as other officers.

7) Members are upset with the arbitration process and how the union communicates decisions to the membership. Is this process broken? If so, please state your ideas on how to improve arbitration procedures.
I have posted the arbitration decisions on the website for all members to view in the past and I pledge to continue to do this when I am elected. As for the arbitration process itself, I would like the union to be better prepared for the arbitration process itself. This can be accomplished by training local officers on note taking and record keeping. International has great resources on this type of officer training and I intend to utilize that resource as well as other great resources the International as to offer us.

8) What’s your favorite union movie, and why?
I do not watch a lot of TV or movies so, I do not really have an answer for this question. 

9) How do we get more members involved, attending meetings and adding to the overall discussion?
I would like to see more members involved and International as some great resources that we can use, along with some great local resources. Some of the resources that I plan to utilize to get information out to the members might include, a text messaging program, messages in the newsletter, informational mailings, emails, phone calls, and flyers posted at the worksites and social media as mentioned in the last question. These are just a few of the ways to communicate with members but, I always believe that a face-to-face conversation with members is and will continue to be the best way to communicate with the member and to hear what they have to say. Communication is a two-way street we have to listen and hear the members as well.

10) I’ve only asked questions on a few points. Please let us know what other issues you believe are vital as we move forward.
There are so many more that are vital to the local that need to be addressed but, here are a just few more: Employee safety, meal and restroom breaks, schedules, unfair discipline, lack of manager ability to make decisions, unsafe work environment, unsafe equipment, breakdown of benefit usage, wages. This list can go on forever. However, the key is to start discussions around all members concerns with the employers. Without open discussions we will fail. To restart joint labor/management meetings because they have proven to be an effective way of resolving many different issues. Having member round table discussions is another way for members to be heard and issues to be resolved.