Deacon Who?

My photo
(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!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Our Union Minute

What a fun day! I had the honor of being the guest on Henry Beasley's "The Union Minute" FaceBook Live program yesterday afternoon. He and his lovely wife Farida (Freddie), whom I adore, graciously invited my wife and I into their beautiful home for an insightful, informative and fun chat about many topics transit operators can all relate to.

When I was in Line Training, a passenger got on board with a nasty attitude, telling me I was "overpaid and rich." At the time, I was but a nervous newbie, making a whopping $10 an hour just learning how to keep this rascal and everyone else... SAFE. I took immediate offense to his diatribe. After three years of scratching and clawing just to keep my family housed and fed during the Great Recession, I was eternally grateful and proud to be gainfully employed as a professional bus operator. I wanted to slap the loudmouthed prick, but my Line Trainer set him straight, guiding him away from my righteous indignation so I could drive without distraction. There was no FTDS at that time. I was just another newbie trying to make it through training and probation without a scratch so that eventually, I'd be able to earn the top of the wage scale.

Years later, I'm very grateful. I've lived through stories too numerous to remember, and have found a new direction in life. We can all think of things we might have done differently in our past, but it becomes obvious that everything we experience has meaning that cannot, often should not ever, be ignored. Therefore, changing our past, even if it was possible, would deny us valuable lessons to carry forward. My current situation may not be anything I had ever imagined 30 years ago, but I'm exactly where I should be. Life is good. Unlike some, I have a loving family, a decent place to live, and an honorable profession. There is much to be grateful for, and I constantly remind myself of these numerous blessings. That's because I'm constantly trying to improve myself, always reaching for something bigger, hoping to provide the best for my loved ones.

Putting myself "out there," such as in interviews such as Henry afforded me and radio stations or other outlets from Portland to Nova Scotia, is actually a bigger step for these huge clodhoppers of mine than I ever dreamed of taking. My father taught me the value of being humble while striving to make life better, even for a fleeting moment, for those with whom I interact. If you meet me in person, I probably don't make a lasting impression. Socially clumsy at times, my mouth doesn't react as well as my writing digits do. Just remember however, that you make a lasting impression upon me. Each contact I'm graced with, whether personally or professionally, is of memorable value. Having the honor of knowing Henry, as well as many of the candidates, has been a lesson in humility and an inspiration to help you all however I can. Individually, we're a whisper. Collectively, that whisper becomes a roar that demands notice.

Talking with Henry was fun, but listening to him was an even greater reward. We should all be so vocal as he is. Mr. Beasley put himself out there running for President of our local, laid out his plan for our future. While he came up short in the vote count, he won a valuable victory in that he offered himself for the benefit of us all. That's how unions work. We may not always agree collectively, but we stand together. Once the votes were cast, Henry was one of the few to attend the meeting during which our victorious officers were sworn in. His lesson of solidarity is one we can all learn from. It doesn't matter whether you agree with our leaders. It is vital however, that we rise together, make our voices heard, and become part of a solution. Apathy only lends itself to collective weakness.

My answers may not all have been what Henry expected, but I tried to reflect my respect for him and everyone else who works in transit. We all have complaints and concerns, but when we walk into the bullpen after each shift, we're equals. When I wave to you "out there," it's a gesture of respect. You might be another operator, a supervisor, trainee, mechanic or rail operator... I wave as a salute to your contribution. It's a demanding yet rewarding job, and I can now understand we all face challenges the Average Joe can't always fathom.

This blog is meant to describe life "from the driver side" of a bus. Sometimes it's fun, others it's difficult. We do a damned good job, in spite of the obstacles placed before us. As long as we have each other, every day is just a bit easier than it would be without the support we give and receive.

Thanks, Henry. Thank you President Block, VP Hunt, Sec/Treas Longoria, all our dedicated local reps, ATU International President Hanley and everyone who works in transit. I value your work on our behalf, and you honor me with your service. Additionally, I appreciate the blood shed for us in past battles which were fought for the good of us all. To all past and present, I extend my respect and love. You have my back, and I am eternally grateful.

In solidarity, I am your
Deke N. Blue
Bus Operator

Friday, July 27, 2018

Smiling Through Blazing Tears

It's hotter than a manager in a microwave. Wait, that's a bad joke. But hey, it works. Try doing your business in one of North Terminal's porta-poopers and your methane leak might explode from the 170-degree temperatures within. An outhouse rocket soaring over Big Pink with an angry bus operator at the controls. Am I suffering from heat stroke? If so, at least I have an excuse for this post.

It's been a rough week. Two of my dearest friends, Liz and Sam, have passed away into whatever after-world they believed in. Left me, and many more who loved them, wandering in a grief-filled fog. Maybe it was their escape from the heat, but I'll stick it out. Not too eager to follow in their soul-steps. When I eulogized Madame Guttersnipe in my last post, I actually wailed when I wrote the final line. It has been very hard to farewell them both, as I'm sure you all can understand. The second death happened a few months ago, but I only just found out yesterday on my way to work.

People take us for granted much of the time. It was all I could do to hold back my tears the past several days. But bus operators are hardened after only a few years. We have to remain professional in the face of many personal tragedies. If we don't remain focused, somebody gets hurt.

How did that ball get there? Interesting things
you find on a bus route.

I've developed a technique to deal with life's hardships as I drive. It's a combination of being overly nice and forgiving. Not once have I muttered a sarcastic "You're welcome" to the snob-set that flashes its Hop Pass without even acknowledging the operator. In honor of Liz, I took even more care than usual with ADA passengers, making sure to ensure their comfort without patronizing them. In honor of Sam, I did my best to make people laugh (as she did) with groaner jokes. Her joy in life, even as she constantly battled personal tragedies, is inspiring.

This Sunday afternoon at 3:00, I'll take an hour to sit with Henry Beasley and do a FaceBook Live with y'all on “The Union Minute.” A supporter of this blog since the beginning, it's always nice to sit and chat with him. He has some solid ideas to move our union forward, and of course I'm open to forward progress. Please tune in and ask ol' Deke whatever you like. Weird stuff, serious or fun. I'm open. Surprise me. Just don't expect to see me. Henry's much more handsome than I am anyway. I'll protect this nom de guerre a while longer, with your help.

Time to go run down some squirrels and terrorize skateboarders. Tweak some manager's nose. Rubber band a trainer's chair to his desk. Not really, I'm just plumb tuckered out. My dad wrote me a prescription that simply said: "Go have some fun, kid." Yeah Dad, I think that's a great idea.

Friday, July 20, 2018

For Marcie Elizabeth, RIP

In Memory of
Marcie Elizabeth

The heat had been replaced with a refreshing westerly flow, and my body appreciated the break. Operating a bus in temps hovering near the century mark is like tanning in a microwave oven. Nearly 20 years ago, I migrated from the Desert Southwest to escape the blast furnace.

Today, I felt a shiver, but not due to weather. One of this blog's biggest supporters, most fierce critics, and my dear friend Lady Guttersnipe left Earth behind on this glorious summer day.

If you've driven Line 4 in Portland the past several years, you've probably given her a ride. She was a transit professional, out of necessity. Lady G taught many of us the finer points of ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) protocol. For those who are sight-impaired, it's vital to give premium service. Too far from the curb without a warning can result in a nasty fall. Add a physical disability, and the risk increases exponentially. I learned from her that a simple "we're about 18 inches from the curb, sorry" could save her great pain. She was adamant that people yield Priority Seating to her and others with disabilities, because it's reserved for people who need it. Remembering this, I often have to encourage able-bodied millennials to yield this area as necessary.

She took delight in creating her own pseudonym, Madam Guttersnipe, but corrected me earlier this year by insisting she was Lady G. "I'm a lady first, while Madam implies something I'm not," she said. Having once again read her one, vividly direct yet humorous guest post (click here) on my blog, I finally broke down in grief. I've been brave so far, intent on providing excellent service as a Bus Operator. She wanted me to do that. A single tear fell off my unshaven cheek as I drove past the street I'd take to visit her, but I stubbornly swiped it away. Lady was a tough soul who wouldn't approve of my blubbering. But oh, how I loved her. And yes, I already miss her.

Irreverent. Impossibly stubborn. Hilarious, fierce, belligerent. Sweet, yet sometimes unforgiving. Funny as hell. Gay and proud. Hard, but soft-hearted. Child of the 60s, adult for the future. Generous, but frugal bordering on the fanatical. Tough when necessary, which was always. Never a man-hater, but not one to suffer foolishly-blatant misogyny. A lover of plant, animal and human life, yet a soldier of the natural balance we could all aspire to achieve.

Often, after publishing a particularly hard-hitting post, I'd receive a painfully-honest rebuke from her. In this sharp, penetrating manner, she helped mold me into a better person and guided me toward understanding life from the perspective of one who fought multiple challenges. You see, your Deke is a basically-naive and young soul. Perhaps that's why I've lashed out in anger so often in these posts. Lady taught me to aim toward a bigger goal than merely seeking an outlet for the pressure dealt upon a "simple bus operator." It was imperative, she once told me, to use this soapbox to coax my populace toward the finer points of grace.

"Use your bully pulpit for the benefit of those who don't have such a loud voice," she once said. "If they don't move out of those seats, make them. If you don't, I will."

"Get your head out of your ass," she also said. "Self-pity doesn't sell. You're stronger than that. Use your voice for a higher purpose."

Lady also had a softer side. As I contemplated ending this blog not long ago, she counseled me to simply take a breath.

"Write for yourself now," she wrote. "Focus on helping your body. More massages. More float tanks, more yoga. Really. All that energy that went to FTDS and now the book can go to your body and spirit. You can always vent to me. Really. 

"A big hug, and big admiration for the guts to really look at yourself and respond."

Coming from someone who suffered pain every second she was conscious, I took her words to heart. After a few weeks of soulful rest, time with pals and my best friend/wife, the blog pulled me back in and I found a new vision. The book, I reasoned, would sell or not. Either way, my goal of publishing it was an accomplishment very few ever realize. I took time to accept what was, and look forward to what could be. 

A few weeks before Lady Guttersnipe took her leave from us all, I had the opportunity to visit her at home. I brought Chinese food, and we broke fortunes together. Each movement brought a grimace of pain from that wonderful face I always loved. She couldn't see well, and I had to speak directly to her so she could read me. She fought pity, refusing to be babied. If she wanted something, then damnit, she'd get it herself. Things were placed in her home so that she knew exactly where to find them. When I made an off-hand comment that I had forgotten to get a spoon for my rice, she insisted on rising to get me one. It was her home, and I was her guest. There was no reason for me to get it myself; she considered it her duty as my host. It bothered me for her wait on me, but there was no arguing with the warrior within her.

We remembered our trip to see Arlo Guthrie in concert last year. Discussed the marvels of my lovely wife and how she is almost as stubborn as our mutual friend. That's why they were so close, of course. Fiercely independent but reluctantly dependent upon love, and brilliant... both of them. Knowing it was likely the last time I'd see her alive, I babbled nervously about anything and everything all at once. We laughed, shed a tear on occasion, and bravely avoided the obvious. Lady was dying, and was telling me "farewell." It was excruciatingly-painful to leave her, but we managed to part with a long hug, wink and a smile.

As I drove my bus today, her laughter and wise cracks came to me on the breeze. It was tougher than usual to remain vigilant. I heard her admonishing me to keep my focus on the road. Once, as my run neared its end, I visualized her face and ornery laugh, and it helped me smile. I felt at peace, as if she laid her hand gently upon my soul and patted it quiet.

Lady G, I will always remember and love you. Thanks for helping me become a better person, for teaching me what I should know, and for your lesson of bravery. Most of all, thanks for your friendship and telling me what I didn't want to hear... especially when I needed to hear it. And yes, my tears are falling freely now. If you don't like it, tough. It's all about love, my dear.

RIP, Marcie Elizabeth. Funny... I didn't know your first name was Marcie. I always thought it was Liz.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

55 or 12 on 6

Deke's Note: Life ain't normal, man. Not sure what that is any more. I just roll it all into a blur and somehow come to the weekend half-sane.

I roll through a sea of strangers and their faces all blend into one distorted view. Other operators, if not in uniform, could be my best pals and unless they snap their groovy fingers at me, they could be anyone. Music fills me as the six roll us all as one. Could be just a few, 12 or 50 but we're all on one set of six rubber rounds.

My mind controls these fingers on the steer, but my soul is groovin' to whatever sounds fill this soul. Everyone else on the bus can groove to their tunes as they roll. That's okay. I need to hear sirens, obnoxious voices loudly spelling t-r-o-u-b-l-e and engine noises. A loud thunk isn't from running something over... I'm too focused to allow that; it's most likely an illegal window opener allowing the cool air built over 20 minutes to escape.

It had to happen eventually. Caged like a cornered bus operator. Damned fool things, band aids on a still-gaping wound. Supposed to keep the vicious at bay, but it cuts me off from the people I love: the good, fun and funky. As regulars lumbered on, I clawed at the partition. Mostly, they frowned at my prison. Many were disconcerted at being cut off. Daring censure, I opened the fucker as much as it allowed. Can't be myself when I'm behind a barrier. Like I'm the one in jail. Don't touch the guy who is daily touched by the kindness of my fellow humans. Keep your distance from one who likes you close.

I did have some fun, a bit of demented experimentia. Raised a cheek and relieved that cramped abdomen to see if anyone heard, loud and proud, closely watching the pax mirror. Not a raised eyebrow or pained expression. My window vented any stench, although I steadfastly claim rose-scented flatulence. Granted, I had both dash fans on full blast toward my window and my AC vent on tornado. Nary a whiff of my gases snorted by the masses. Gotta find the good amidst evil when Devil's the only witness.

Damn barriers. I hope they cut down on the assaults, but I'm still pissed that we would need them at all. Top bar blocks my view of the back seats. Plexi reflects glare, but not as bad as I thought it would. Oh well, broken records seldom get air time. What's a better idea? Our "Bored of Direct-duhs" and GM getting on a soapbox and screaming (viciously) that they expect the riding public to show respect and that they won't allow the behavior to continue. A District Attorney willing to protect us by refusing to plea bargain assaults on transit workers would be a nice rhythm section. I'd ask they "grow some balls," but I've found testicles to be incredibly delicate. Vaginas are much tougher; they are the birth canal through which we all emerge. So grow a pussy, you balls!

Easing down the hard streets finds a homeless tent crime scene... a hard woman was previously screaming at a cowering male. A break room under renovation and porta-potty ovens baking in Portland's summer sun break, with a trailer serving as a temporary hiding spot for harried drivers... air conditioning unit dead straight outta box. Road work statewide, chasing traffic into my way. Typical. Portland has two seasons: Rain and Construction, and the skies are currently clear.

Don't follow me here... you won't arrive where promised.

It's cloudy here most of the year. Even though we belly-ache and moan throughout the drizzly months, summer hits sudden and hard. It wears on us, blaring down the blazes in atonement for the months of gray skies until we say "UncleDamnit!" By mid-September, when the grasses seem to be void of any water content whatsoever, we yearn for the cool and beauty of a Northwest autumn. Before we know it, the water spigot will open again and a brief "Ahh" will be heard before the collective dreams of starshine creep into weather rambles.

Yeah, I still love my job. Barriers or no, I still get to drive around this beautiful forest of a city. Even management can't spoil the best parts of it. Thanks for riding with me.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

This ATU Member Stands for Unity

In careers past, I wondered what it would be like to have a union job. Throughout my life, I've  wished for a career in which I felt supported by my co-workers. Now that it's a reality, I've come to know how important unions are to blue collar stiffs like me.

I didn't finish college in my 20s when most students do. Instead, I married and started a family, which required me to get a job. For 30 years, I was employed in non-union positions. When I was hired as a bus operator, the responsibility of keeping people safe was balanced by the security of being represented by Amalgamated Transit Union's Local 757. Instead of being "on my own" as a private-sector employee, my local represents me if something bad happens on the job. Simultaneously, it also negotiates with management on behalf of ALL members to secure strong benefit and wage packages.

At first, I was concerned about the initiation fees and monthly dues ATU charged me, but overall it's a good deal. Considering the amount of taxes I've paid over my lifetime with weak representation of my interests competing with lobbyists arguing solely for the business sector that employs them, union membership is a much better deal.

Before becoming a union member, I still benefited from the victories of labor over the past 130-plus years. Weekends, holidays, sick leave, the 40-hour work week, overtime and other benefits are enjoyed by millions of other workers regardless of union membership. Labor movements and millions before me fought hard, had their blood spilled and/or gave their lives so that big money interests were required to follow fair labor practice standards. Otherwise, there would have been no middle class, or the coveted "American Dream." If protective labor laws had not been enacted, our working lives would be drastically different than they are today.

Union membership has declined steadily over the past half-century or more, weakening our ability to ensure fairness for the working class. Losses of good-paying jobs due to offshoring and outsourcing have done much for the corporate big-money interests, simultaneously increasing the number of working poor. Housing costs in Portland have increased substantially in the past decade, sometimes more than 10% each year, while many struggle in jobs where salary increases don't measure up. Service workers today are usually just one paycheck away from the street. This puts more workers nearing retirement in fear of not having enough money to survive after working a lifetime. At this rate, I'll retire into a casket.

Regarding Portland transit, a government within and of itself, it's logical to think management would reward Operations personnel for providing safe and reliable service. Unfortunately, it seems hell-bent on harassing its most valuable workers. Its policies are geared toward creating a hostile work environment. In the past decade, the agency has devolved into an Us vs. Them scenario that benefits nobody.

Now that the United States Supreme Court has handed down a decision on JANUS vs. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, we fear management's schemes could become even more harsh. SCOTUS's 5-4 decision for Mark Janus, a child support specialist in Illinois, overturned the 1977 case of Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education in which the court ruled that unions could charge fees to union workers to offset costs of collective bargaining, grievance defense and administration of contracts, but could not force some fees upon union members who disagreed with political platforms supported by the union. In the Janus decision, the Supreme Court ruled that not enough emphasis was put on workers' First Amendment rights of freedom of speech. Because of this, workers represented by unions are no longer required to pay any union fees or dues.

Justice Samuel Alito, in the Court's official opinion of the Janus decision, explains that unions advocating for political candidates violates the free speech of members who disagree with such political activity. Therefore, it ruled members should be able to opt out of fees/dues that fund the efforts of unions to negotiate on our collective behalf. While it's true that not everyone shares the same political views, and that a local's decision to support Candidate A while some members prefer B, then a union taking monies from a member to support a candidate that member opposes, is essentially violating their freedom of speech and expression. However, I believe that if a member doesn't support the union's political stance on candidates, he/she should be allowed to have the portion of their dues allotted toward political contributions deducted from their fair share deductions. Not having to pay any dues is an insult to paying members, and to those who fought to improve working conditions over the last century.

Even before this most recent case was ruled upon, nobody was legally required to join a union. However, the Court's latest decision creates a financial disability to chapters that negotiate for all its members. Therefore, those of us who choose to pay dues will foot the bill for those who don't contribute. This might lead to an even more divisive workforce. Justice Alito dispels the notion this decision will split workers into separate bargaining groups or exclude some from the same protections union members pay for.

"It is simply not true that unions will refuse to serve as the exclusive representative of all employees in the unit if they are not given agency fees," Alito wrote in the Opinion of the Court. He argues that it's unconstitutional for an agency to bargain with non-members for an agreement that differs from that which is agreed to by a union. This makes sense, as it would give one group an unfair advantage over another. In our case, this theoretically (and legally) bars the district from agreeing to separate contracts with union workers and non-members. I've already seen divisive discussions among our members who are advocating harsh treatment of "scabs" (those who refuse to pay dues). Once again, we see the age-old concept of divide and conquer rearing its ugly centuries-old head.

Loss of union dues would give management an unfair advantage in contract negotiations, grievance mediation and other valuable services. Union members in the past fought with blood to force the end of brutal labor practices. At the turn of the last century, the Industrial Revolution saw an unprecedented surge in production while those whose labors produced these golden coins were treated with disdain by the captains of industry. Working conditions were often horrific.

One notable politician of that era began his career firmly against unions, but eventually came to understand the working man's plight. His name: Theodore Roosevelt. He eventually came to approve of labor unions, as long as they didn't use violence to further their causes. Although a conservative, Roosevelt understood the need for unions, but at first mistrusted them. In fact, he actually fought against bills (New York State Assemblyman, 1882) to raise salaries of firefighters and policemen and also one to end the convict contract labor systems. He tended to side with employers instead of workers. One notable exception however, caused him to begin to see the "opposition's" argument in a clearer light: tenement cigar factories using women and children in production with little pay working in horrible conditions.

While he regularly condemned violent "mob" actions by unions, Roosevelt came to understand that unions advocated for better working conditions for laborers. As Governor of New York, he pushed for laws that improved working conditions in factories he considered "sweatshops." He toured factories during his term to ensure laws were being adhered to. Even so, he believed in using troops to quell violent labor disputes, which made unions wary of his motives. Legislation passed in his tenure included shortening the work day to eight hours for public employees, and he sought to end child and prison contract labor.

As our 26th President, he continued to press for labor reform. When coal miners went on strike protesting long hours and poor working conditions, Roosevelt threatened to put the mining companies under the direction of the US Army; this compelled the owners to ask for arbitration, which resulted in pay increases, shortened hours and a promise to improve working conditions.

President Harry Truman, when faced with a strike by railroad workers in 1946, also used strong-arm tactics to end strikes. He threatened to draft rail workers into the Army if they didn't come to an agreement. Again in 1950, he considered the railroad vital to the nation's security, and this time he did put the companies under the control of the Army until the strike was settled nearly two years later. He repeated this action when the United Steel Workers union went on strike the following year. While these strikes could have crippled the nation's security interests during the Korean War, the president did what he thought necessary.

A distrust of unions formed as charges of corruption prompted then-Senate counsel Robert F. Kennedy (and again later, as Attorney General in JFK's administration) to accuse labor leader Jimmy Hoffa of the Teamsters Union with corruption in hearings on Capitol Hill. While Hoffa would eventually be convicted of jury tampering and pension fraud, he was pardoned in 1971 by President Nixon. In spite of Hoffa's misdeeds, unions remained the working man's most-powerful advocate. Labor unions grew in number and strength until President Reagan fired air traffic controllers who went on strike in 1981. Then, approximately 20% of the American work force belonged to a union; by 2016, it had dwindled to 11%.

Over the past several decades, unions have been seen in a negative light. Public opinion swayed toward believing striking union members were "thugs and ruffians." Membership began to decline, and today the numbers remain lower than common sense would dictate in these times of economic uncertainty for the working middle class. However, unions continue to fight for better working conditions and wage/benefit packages.

Rather than losing members, we should be gaining. Several states have recently endorsed "right to work" philosophy, which is basically anti-union and pro-industry. The problem with this is that workers are often denied representation in these states, which discourage union membership. Essentially, "right to work" is political-speak for "unions not welcome here."

Women, children, and even non-members have benefited from union efforts. While I might not always agree with my local, I support its power to bargain as one for the benefit of every member. I also believe that we should all, as transit employees, contribute union dues. By not doing so, some refuse to pay for benefits guaranteed to every non-union employee. The simplest solution is to allow members to "opt out" of a certain percentage of dues allotted to political campaigns. However, unions tend to support politicians who promise to support legislation that benefits working people, regardless of their political affiliation.

We need to vote, in union and local or national elections. Demand that not only all votes be counted, but also that each member receive a ballot and encourage all to exercise their right to choose. Those elected should expect to be held accountable that their time in office be served with noble purpose. If we choose apathy, we're risking our powerfully-collective roar being tamed into a kitten's meow.

We're more divided now than since pre-Civil War days. Republicans and Democrats are so diametrically-opposed there is no more middle ground. Political debates often dissolve into childish name-calling and finger-pointing where there once was intelligent discourse and compromise. Coming together to find commonality and induce progress was first practiced here during the Continental Congress that led to the birth of our nation. Together, we should improve conditions for those who have already made this country great: the working middle class. Either we change this trend of negativity and divisiveness, or we are doomed to destroy that which our Founders so eloquently created.

The ruling wealthy class has achieved success in dividing us. We disagree on many fronts politically, and that's by design. We've been encouraged to fight amongst ourselves about religion, race and a political ideology based on fear. Instead of honoring and accepting our differences, we despise each other for them. The ruling class doesn't care about any of it, as long as they continue to hoard the wealth WE work to secure for them. It's senseless to fight among ourselves when the bigger picture urges us to band together. Union workers have always benefited in the power of numbers. Simply adding new members has come under attack over the last few years. Our management denied new operators the benefit of attending ATU 757 initiation during training, which has until now been a historically-accepted practice.

ATU International President Larry Hanley says transit agencies will continue "a full range of abuse as always from transit management." He also said we can "expect outright attempts to get members to leave the union." Still, Hanley recognizes not all management will follow this lead. "There are some managers who understand the role the union plays sustaining the industry, including their own employment," Hanley told me. "Although a smaller group, they will not abuse this."

The Janus decision also begs a few questions about loyalty versus representation. Should those who opt out of paying dues have the same rights to union representation as those who pay? Will the district somehow favor non-members? I don't know how unions will treat those who don't contribute a share of their salary. What I personally believe is that those who refuse to pay for a service shouldn't be allowed to benefit from it. If you don't pay your electric bill, you're not allowed to use that service until the bill is paid. There will be plenty of debate about this, and other issues that arise.

President Hanley says the SCOTUS decision means "we will need to spend more time building solidarity, and in the end, that's a good thing."

It is up to us, especially now, to improve our collective strength. We must protect our retirees, secure our future, and build up those who follow. A happy workforce supported by intelligent and supportive management, rather than that of a punitive micro-managing oligarchy, is good for all who use Portland's transit system. Working together in a positive atmosphere of trust and goodwill could once again propel us into prominence once again as the finest transit system in the world.

The benefits for all cannot be realized by the goodwill of a few. It's time to STAND, and by my union and as an  American citizen, I do.

In solidarity, I am
Deke N. Blue
ATU 757 and PROUD!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Just Workin' that Transit Roll

It's been a long, strange week. Well, that's a weak adjective to use. Perhaps it's better described as an intriguing exercise in weathering the temptation to explode. Since this is my therapy, I'll vent a bit, but it's mild, I promise.

Given my frustration with the Supreme Court's decision on the Janus case, which I will respond to in my next post, it was no surprise that I'd be on-edge this week. A lot of things swirl about my mind as I drive. It's mostly a way to keep focused, even though one might suppose otherwise. Yes, my focus is centered upon handling the beast. Yet that now occupies a mere 30% of my consciousness while rolling now. Rather than dwelling on the mundane, I tend to blog as I drive. The Janus case post has occupied me since it was announced, but if a play-by-play announcer was calling my route, it would resemble Bill Walton trying to stay on task during a basketball game. Following is an example of several days driving condensed into a few minutes.

Damn, that bicyclist is playing with a Zippo on a case of nitro. Came six inches within my back bumper when I stopped to avoid pulverizing that old dude who stepped out in front of the bus. (Will we lose union members because of the Janus decision?) Go ahead and run that red light, Bozo. Good thing you missed Fido as he stopped to sniff the dead nutria in the left lane as the pedestrian timer slipped to green. (What shenanigans await us as management rubs its hands in glee over this case?) Wait, is that light ahead stale red? Maybe I'll catch it this time... no, guess not. There's Freewheelin' Fernando zipping up to the stop in his mobility device flagging me down. Ramp it and stamp it, now it's stale green. Better wait, now we be late. (Should we stab a scab, or be cool with the fool?) Sweet, a freight train is inching along, I'm gonna get a transit green. Makin' up that time spent behind a newbie and zip into the long part of my route in the green for once. (Sure was fun talkin' with that radio fella in Canada; where's Deke gonna pop off next?)

Long ago and far away, on the board.
Uh oh, early afternoon and traffic is backed up worse than my colon on junk food... gonna be a few minutes down by the next time point if this keeps up. Oh well, my On-Time Performance stats ain't a gonna improve on a day like this. (Book sales need a boost, where's the marketing magic marker?) Wait, what's this message on my CAD? Turn off the HVAC and close the windows, there's another classic Portland protest a brewin'. (Maybe the Transit Spirit will blow the teargas straight over to DC and shove their heads up their asses... oh wait, I'm actually hoping for the opposite.) Left mirror shows Betty Beemer stepping on the gas in the left lane, about five car-lengths between my front bumper and the rear of Harry's Hummer on the left... she's gonna shoot the gap and switch lanes sure as shit, buzz in between us and slam on the braks just before eating Dusty's newfangled Duster. Yep, called that one, stopped smoothly before it happened, and you're welcome. Dumbass. (Amazing how many times I call people that in one shift... yeah they deserve it.) Saved another few lives today, especially the "Baby on Board" in the back seat. Bet that doesn't make it on the news tonight... another fool stepped in front of a MAX train earlier. Dirty laundry, Don Henley sang. Oh yeah.

Downtown behind, eastward bound and time to grind. DING! Service the stop, but with doors open and nobody departing, I get a sheepish "I meant the next one, sorry." (Your mama said that when asked if you were "perfection.") "That's an extra five bucks," I say instead with a smile, a few chuckles reward the joke. I roll to the next stop not a hundred yards hence. (Lazy bastard... how's about exiting HERE in penance for your pulling the cord too damn early? Try walking that distance and maybe you'll burn off that Whopper you slammed down before you exited.) Only running six down after the downtown shuffle, but I got a standing load. Easy on that brake, Goofus. Keep 'em standing. (Quiet as a bus full of convicts on their way to the slammer. People so plugged in and tuned out, it's getting worse by the day.) "Okay folks, I don't mind if you eat on board, but we have provided for your convenience not ONE, but TWO trashcans. Remember, the clean bus you're traveling in is the result of my gift to you, spending minutes of my break to clean up after ungrateful sloths. I'm not a maid, and I'm too ugly to be yo mama."

Sure would love trying to lumber across this beauty in a bus.
Sun in my eyes, last round trip. Clouds on the horizon dancing to Grateful Dead tunes in pink and purple leotards. (Wait, I don't drop acid, man. I'm a bus driver! Okay, yeah. I didn't. Honest.) Light bounces off a stop... is that a passenger or just a bum slumming in the shelter? He doesn't look up, I breeze by, he jumps up with his arms extended in a "Hey man!" gesture. Sorry dude, you weren't paying attention. Now maybe you'll be ready for the next bus. (Damn my shoulder aches. Is it bursitis or a quickly-passing stab of guilt for passing that guy up? Give me a sign, dumbass, if you actually want a ride or prefer to stare blindly into space looking for passing aliens.)

Last break of the night. Downtown has settled down into a more peaceful homeless shelter. Sleepers on the sidewalk no longer bum me for a smoke. I'm vaping, but that doesn't matter to the nicotine addict. "Can I toke your vape?" Hell to the fucking nah, dude. Keep your nasty lips on that hooker over there. (Wait, she's a he. Sorry; Lou Reed's song "Take a Walk on the Wild Side" still sticks here.) Still, no, you can't draw my vape

Rolling into the TC to drop off the lone guy snoring in that back seat. Legs splayed across the aisle onto the opposite seat. Remembering Operator Irving Levine (RIP) of Winnipeg, I hesitate before waking him in fear he'll stab me to death. Fuck it, I wanna go home. I rap on a stanchion with my wedding ring, and say gently: "Hey buddy, last stop. You need to wake up now, come on." He opens one squinty eye and focuses on me, just a few feet away. No danger in this guy with a hard hat in his lap. "Shit! I wanted to get off at..." We passed that stop half an hour ago. You work too hard, brother. Next bus is a few minutes out. "Thanks dude, sorry I worked 14 hours today, 15 yesterday. I'm beat. Rent, child support, you know the drill." I get it. Gotta work three times harder these days just to pay the man for a place to sleep a few hours before going back in to earn enough just to cover the taxes The Man won't be paying due to his one percent suckup deductions. Watch your head, bud, that's it. I'm sorry... if I knew where you wanted to be, I'd have come back and woke you up myself. Next time I'll remember. Working stiffs gotta stick together, brother. You're welcome, sleep well, see you tomorrow, eh?
Deke visits a remote Arizona canyon.
Mr. HardHat and I get out and smoke. Nice guy, smart and friendly after he wakes up a bit. Hangs drywall in another new apartment building no working stiff can afford to live in. I offer him a ride back to his stop, miles down the road. No need for him to wait another 10 minutes; my deadhead is back the way I came  anyway, so what the hell. He smiles, wearily grateful, and accepts with an offered handshake. Another friend made on the battlefield of transit. He falls asleep quickly, reclining in the Priority Seating area. He  thanks me five times after I stop and wake him at his destination. (It's truly my pleasure.)

We help each other "out there." Wish management had MY back like I had this guy's. All in a day's work. Amen.

The Sun Sets

Patrick's Note: It has been nearly a week since Deke N. Blue passed from his bloggery life. It has taken that long to come to terms with...