Deacon Who?

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(Note: Ideas and opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily shared by the transit agency I work for. This is simply an expression of free speech while describing the work bus operators perform.) I have been (and called) many things in this life. Most of all, I'm a writer who happens to drive a bus. In May of '13 I thought it would be fun to write about my job. As a direct result of this blog, I published a book in November of 2017 called "JUST DRIVE - Life in the Bus Lane" that is available on Amazon. I write to provide insight as to what it's like on a bus... From The Driver Side. Thank you for reading!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Henry Beasley: Presidential Candidate

DEKE'S NOTE: Henry Beasley, out of TriMet's Center Street Garage, answers my questions posed to all the ATU 757 "Top 3" candidates in this edition.

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Henry Beasley
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?

My name is Henry Beasley and I am campaigning for President and Business Agent of our local.  A new direction, new ideas and a fresh approach with a foundation of education to take our Union into the future and move away from the “status quo” culture we currently have.

As a rank-in-file member I saw that our local has refused to collect data on our situation on attacks on transit workers. It is vital that we collect information to prove that there is an actual issue in our work place.  I even provided copies of the collected stats to our current and past representatives and was ignored, yet they say that it is their main priority; this says a lot about the status quo.

I believe that I’m the best choice because I’m willing to work with members who have ideas to make our local better. I believe that leaders must lead, and I have shown that by taking on many issues we have in the workplace and working with others to bring these issues to the forefront (just look at the others campaign posters on assaults).

I believe in our membership and the strength that we have but have been angered that our local has been made a joke of in recent times. To view our representatives getting laughed (smirked) at in a recent Board of Directors meeting shows us that if they don’t respect them, then they don’t respect the workforce. Without the right to strike our local has not showed members that we do have strength in numbers in the workplace, just look at the last 3 contracts at our largest property. The status quo has destroyed our solidarity and morale in the workplace and our belief in our local’s leadership.  I believe that serving the members as the main responsibility of a representative and will do so if I’m elected President.

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?

Two (of many) concerns are Workplace Safety and communications with the union hall.  At our biggest property we have two main issues: attacks and injuries with the 30 series buses while dealing with Worker's Comp. 

I believe that collecting stats is the best way leadership can best articulate our issues to the Board of Directors, the media, and the public. Just look at all the statements, in print and televised, our side has make broad assumptions with no evidence to back those statements. When I gave them the statistics (dates, types of incidents) they simply ignored it; this makes our statements to the media look weak. The same thing can be said in recent Board of Director’s meeting, when our representatives had the data on 2017’s 93 (attacks), yet said only 4 (2018 at the time), which would have the most impact? 

The other issue is the injuries with the 30 series busses while dealing with Worker’s Comp, there are many members who have had to jump through hoops to be made whole after being injured on the job.  In dealing with the third party (company uses) and its tactics, the member is pushed to come back to work sooner or be fired for time lost. We need to put out a survey to our current and former employees (that have been fired or medically retired) which include OSHA criteria and gather stats to determine the commonality of injuries and move forward if an OHSA claim is warranted or at least provide a road map for dealing with Worker’s Comp. we must END the practice of expecting members to foot the bill for legal representation, when our local should be taking on this issue. 

Lastly, communication is a major concern emails and calls go unanswered. It is time that we use social media and YouTube to get out the messages of the membership in real-time. We need to shrink our local when it comes to its ability to communicate with representatives. We have successfully used Facebook Live to interact with members in real time and members have felt that they can ask questions and get answers immediately. If elected we are going to continue to do that monthly with the Presidents, Vice President, Secretary Treasures report that would normally go into the Labor Press. For years, we have been talking about YouTube and getting it up and going again. We can use it effectively in recording our collective actions, and officer reports which should include executive board officers monthly report.

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?

We need to bring our statistics in front of the board and push for a reopening of the Fare Inspector job classification. With those statistics, we can prove that the company is not reasonably protecting Transit workers while they're on the job. We need a presence in the system and an enforcement of the codes of conduct.

The company is more concerned about ridership numbers than reasonable safety for Transit workers. This is the very reason we keep statistics, to provide case to the public, the media, and the Board of Directors. And just so we're clear on the attacks issue on buses, there's a couple of things that we need to do is separate the fare enforcement division from the code enforcement division, shrink our districts so that the response time is better. As operators, we were not asked if we liked the barriers they are now ordering, to be clear we are not talking about management’s team but ALL union members. We took a straw poll and members would prefer monitors on the bus instead of being trapped behind door that provides some support, yet assailants can still attack operators because of the openings. We need true driver cabins like they have in Europe, which is completely enclosed. Seattle is number one in safety and yet have only six barriers total, we need to work closely with our union fellowship and see what they had done to become number one.

We are almost on the anniversary of those who lost their lives on the MAX, and what has the company done to provide reasonable safety and security for riders and employees. It's time we told the truth of our reality of safety in the district.

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?

We need to know our obligations to our employer. We do not work for free, but they have been benefiting from our labor for many years. When on-time performance came into play we have been forced to come in early to get our busses and trains out on the road on the scheduled time of departure. We are not being paid and must stop, the advice we can give is not to go out to vehicles until after your sign-in times and follow your SOPs to the letter.

When you receive a SIP from management with a “come see me” attached, we are asking for members to schedule an appointment (with your work schedule) with the managers.  Do not go in during your off time, which include split times or after scheduled work even if they offer a time-slip.  The more they must use an extra-board operator for these meetings, the more these erroneous complaints will be investigated and taken out of your file.  “SAY NO TO THE RDO,” has been said for years, and is the most effective way to withhold our labor without the right to strike and with a coordinated act at sign ups we can state our case that we are serious. 

TriMet is our largest contract, the vision for constructive/positive action is a version of a “WORK’S COUNCIL.” The council is a "shop-floor" committee representing workers made up of elected union members. Currently at TriMet, we have several committees that have been selected by them to represent what “THEY WANT” in a joint labor/management setting. In 2012 or 2013 TriMet had conducted an online survey on which labeled workers as a “good or hostile” then increasingly those type of committees started appearing. They are presented at the Board of Directors meetings and touted as real, when in fact it’s just an act. In these committees, we are not equals, we do not shape policy or even have a “say so.” The new WORKPLACE COUNCIL will replace existing committees and present our side at the Board of directors meeting. Hopefully, presenting as an equal, we can finally eliminate the unnecessary and excessive need for constant litigation between the two parties.  The goal of the committee is to resolve issues with management in real time instead of always ending up in arbitration for every disagreement.  In the past there was a clause in the collective bargaining where both sides had to meet monthly; it's time we brought this back this time with our various departments represented in the Workplace Council. The TriMet property needs to be self-sustaining so that the Local can focus on all of the properties equally and get rid of the stigma that “it’s all about Portland.”

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?

We had this issue with management controlling the media at the time our President was debating placing adds on busses, and I disagreed and suggested that we go with other local Circulars such as StreetRoots. The reasonings were that these types of papers come out monthly, so our stories run longer then going with the Oregonian or the Portland Tribune. We are still using it to this day (although I never got credit for it) which is a testament of a good idea that worked.

For every story that comes out we need to be prepared with a press release, in response. The President needs to be the one in front of the camera giving our side of the story, unless otherwise previously engaged. Every interview that we have the President needs to be dressed appropriately and briefed on the subject covered with precise short answers. Back in 2016 I started a conversation with our representatives at the retirees meeting, in the speech I gave talked about getting the public’s attention. “Who We Are” was the subject of the speech, for our local to have a better connection with the public. One of the strongest messages we can tell the public just “who we are,” who we embody such as bus, rail, school bus, service workers, para transit, mechanics etc. More importantly, who Amalgamated Transit Union is. It was a “call to action” that would have been set for Labor Day. We would hand out flyers and balloons handing them out to public, with volunteers wearing ATU shirts and hats. That idea was met with mixed reviews and a mix of extremes on both sides of the call to action.

6) Social media is a very active and volatile tool within our membership. How will you use it to communicate with US?

Currently, in the campaign cycle the incumbents have the advantage of visiting all the properties while challengers must play catch up to get out and meet members in as many possible covering a massive area. In my campaign we have utilized FaceBook Live as a tool to talk to the membership and co-workers in a real-time. Question and answer sessions while discussing platform and plans for the next three years if elected. We have successfully completed four sessions and find that members were very receptive with that idea of “real-time” chat with representatives. The plan is to deliver the top three’s monthly reports and take questions in real-time. We will have to change the privacy setting on the local’s page to private, so that it’s a “members only page.” Union business such as strategies and financials and will be strictly prohibited, it will resemble the monthly reports in the Labor Press with a question and answer session after the individual report given.

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.

We have too many grievances that go to arbitration. We average 4 grievances for a vote to move to arbitration per month. Most of those grievances come from TriMet and if elected and get the Workplace Council off the ground with management agreeing to participate, we can resolve disagreements especially with unjust or uneven discipline being handed out. More importantly, we need to stop playing favorites and placing friendships ahead of others in line for arbitration that is the part that’s broken. We must empower our Executive Board (through the investigatory process) to inform members that they have a case or not.

8) What’s your favorite union movie, and why?

Norma Rae, a story about taking charge in life and making a difference. A union was the only way they were going to have a voice in the workplace. The most powerful moment was when they were going to arrest her, she refused to leave, then wrote the word UNION on a piece of paper and held it up. As co-worker both supporters and fence riders saw the non-verbal display and shut the machines in solidarity, a powerful scene.

9) How do we get more members involved, attending meetings and adding to the overall discussion?

We need to move to see if changing meeting week will allow more member attendance. We especially have a welcoming meeting without representatives attacking members who happen to disagree with them. We will also draw questions (property specific) from Facebook Live to continue adding to the discussion during the meetings.

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.

In the Janus era, unions need to reevaluate what our foundation will be built on.  Three things:  diversity, inclusion, and equity.

Diversity in our membership makes us strong.

Inclusion of our membership makes us balanced.

Equity for our membership for the future of our local.

1 comment:

  1. For what it's worth, I read this post last night on my tablet. I endorse Henry Beasley for ATU 757 President, the ATU needs to make operator safety priority #1. This issue needs so much visibility as to increase pressure to find and prosecute the low-life scumbags who assault the limbs of the transit-riding public.


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