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!

Friday, May 7, 2021

Snakes and Rats Abound

Choking smoke, pandemic discipline. How much more
can we allow before we RISE?

Deke's Note: Lately, we received notice that our social media/blog posts are on the chopping block of management's constant attempt to silence our collective voice. I have constantly fought for our right to be respected. For almost eight years now. I wrote a book about what it takes to take the seat of a city bus every day. From before I was hired through the first 4.5 years, I chronicled the amazing sights I saw and felt while operating. Since then, I have witnessed the horrid downfall of what was once an honorable profession. It all boils down to one infallible edict: respect.

At this point, my voice is but one fed up with local transit management's abusive treatment of those whose jobs make theirs even possible. Too many of us have fallen victim to a cabal which has no demonstrative oversight. The local media's silence is abusive as well. We do our jobs the way we know best. We show up for work no matter what assails Portland, and this has been so during our 100+ years of service. Fifty years ago began a steady decline in employee morale which has been supported by those entrusted to prevent just that. 

From trainee to retiree, I invite you to RISE and insist this downward spiral be rendered extinct. WE can make it happen. It only takes one fluttering flake of snow to fall to create an avalanche. Help US stop the abuse, or we'll be the village ultimately buried by the unchecked behemoth we have allowed to overwhelm our honorable profession.

* * * * *

Given the amount of ridiculous disciplinary actions lately, it is vital to warn my beloved brothers and sisters. There are rats (one in uniform) who will throw any of US under the very vehicles we drive, just to save their own worthless ass. Their venom is forced through even the most restricted fangs of imagined "solidarity" in a cowardly strike meant to save the snake's own skin.

Be careful what you write on social media: the vultures are watching, waiting, and poised to feed on your discarded bodies. Disclaim EVERYTHING related to your job.

I thought our newly-installed (albeit "interim") GM, being a former operator, would put a stop to the constant harassment and unnecessary discipline of frontline workers. However, it seems amplified, like a Led Zeppelin tune forced through 100 speakers in a 90-sf room with no windows through which the public can witness countless abominations.

Portland, your transit operators are under siege. You think the protests and riots are bad? Pfhtt. Try looking through our windshield, while the media ignores attacks and the public tosses poisonous darts from outside AND within our vehicles. 

* * * * *

People everywhere are sick and tired of wearing masks. While their presence is annoying, WE have worn them long before they became a mandatory part of our heavily-restricted uniform. Not only for our own safety have we donned this questionably-efficient safeguard, but for YOURS as well. We each serve over 100,000 people every year. There is no way of imagining how many viruses confront our collective faces whenever passengers board. It's a miracle Portland bus operators haven't massively been infected with COVID-19, yet we have somehow escaped  infection rates of other locales. Compared with cities like Seattle, LA, New York(!), Chicago and others, the last I heard less than 100 of our numbers have been infected. Somehow, none of us have reportedly died from it. 

Management will undoubtedly attribute our "luck" to its one-step-behind and often-ineffectual dictates including widely-available mask supplies and hand sanitizer on OUR (yes, when you board a bus, it is MINE for as many hours a shift I operate it) vehicles.

However, what you don't see is our vulnerability. "MASKS REQUIRED" blares our overhead signs, but there is no bite to this "requirement". WE are NOT ALLOWED to refuse service to those who do not, will not, wear what often becomes a chin diaper to those who flaunt transit's failure to enforce a state/federal mandate. We are at risk to these maskholes, but our jobs are at stake if found to be momentarily maskless. Hypocrisy abounds, and we are sick of it.

Part of our inability to enforce federal law stems from management's feeble attempts to "protect" us from an unwilling segment of society that despises being told what to do. THEY (public crybabies) run transit, not any Code of Conduct. THEY believe transit has no "right" to tell them how to behave while riding OUR vehicles, and have shown their disrespect in many violent ways against any operator who expects them to obey the rules. WE are vulnerable to hundreds who refuse to safeguard others, yet WE are persecuted for so simple an infraction as lowering our mask to take a drink and taking a few seconds too long to re-cover our faces. 

This hypocrisy puts US in danger every moment we operate a 40-foot-long Petrie dish in which our every respiration puts our lives, and that of everyone we love, in extreme peril. If our management truly cared about US, it would allow us to not only enforce this rule to its utmost, but would provide immediate support upon pushing the ultimately-ineffectual "Mask Refusal" button on our console. Every operator who sends this message is simply saying "here's another person who shouldn't be allowed to ride but we have to or you will suspend us". 

Gee, thanks. You folks who are entrusted with our safety and well-being are more concerned with pampering those who fail to even pay fare, let alone obey the rules. Heroes, my ass. You couldn't even use the chunk of dough the feds gave you to provide us with hazard pay during this pandemic, as other cities did. Our union had to call in the International Amalgamated Transit Union heavies to get you to even listen to our representatives at the negotiations for our yearlong contract talks. Negotiations in which you insisted upon a terribly-long list of "takeaways" while ignoring our pleas for the most basic of necessities. In the end, we get a pittance of what we have earned through our professionalism despite your harassment. Wow, I truly feel heroic with a pay raise that once again failed to match the increased cost of living. It certainly doesn't reward us for choking through the past year where every moment on the job we risked our very lives.

All this... as management wussies blatantly bragged about working from home as we slaved away "out there" in the trenches of public service. All this... whilst you lauded us as "heroes" while suspending many of us for pure ridiculousness. All this... as we braved tumultuous protests and tear gaseous violent riots through downtown Portland's war zone. All this... while we choked through the smoke of last summer's disastrous fires that displaced many of our members and increased our risk of COVID-19 exposure because we were forced to close our windows just so we could breathe while driving.

Now, as we choke down the contract YOU hail as a major compromise between ATU757 and management, the threats of suspensions and terminations increase every day. Operators with decades of exemplary customer service and safety awards are being harassed by middle management hacks who have never driven a city bus in service or forgot what it's like to be in the seat. None of them have suffered through what we have this past year of pandemic, riots and choking smoke. 

It's insult approaching damnation from an undisciplined group with no apparent oversight. I thought our acting GM would, given his history as a former operator, strictly forbid such behavior. No. It's only getting worse. Evidently, management is encouraging union members to snitch upon our own to further its unfathomable desire to rain down terror upon those who have suffered more than its feeble words of "heroism" could ever eradicate.

  • Suspensions for "mask rule" violations of the most ridiculous circumstances: taking a drink at a stoplight, or daring to grip the steering wheel instead of pulling that pesky mask back over the nose when it slips down.
  • Taking the side of habitual whiny dipshidiots who complain when an operator refuses to accede to their demands, even when doing so breaks every safety rule imaginable.
  • Harassing veteran operators who receive a complaint for not reprimanding maskholes for refusing to comply with the overhead "MASKS REQUIRED".

WE are required to kiss every ass, albeit grossly derelict, unrepentant or outwardly-hostile to our noblest efforts to please everyone. 

Well, folks, I believe my lips have puckered enough to these un-supervised assholes who think they are in control of my ride. I refuse to kiss their often-unwashed butt cheeks. To do so is blatantly disrespectful to those with whom I share this honorable profession. Unfortunately, in doing so I am in direct conflict with  managerial intent on rewarding misbehavior while disciplining us for doing just that.

I was trained to OPERATE within SAFETY guidelines, and to insist everyone who boards behave accordingly. Anyone who (actually) pays fare should be expected to abide by the ages-old Code of Conduct. Those who refuse to pay are often the most poorly-behaved and most vocal complainants. Unfortunately, the only one held to account is the very person employed to convey each passenger safely to their destination. Management's idea of "customer service" is wildly-divergent from transit reality, and WE have a proud 100+-year history of safe service. MUCH longer than this hypocritical, manic war upon common sense.

Once upon a time, transit management and its operations staff considered ourselves "family". Many a retired employee has stated they don't understand how today's environment evolved from that which they remember. Most are aghast at our working conditions, and fret over each contract negotiation because they fear past promises to them are trampled over every time. To me and many others, today's relationship between management and union employees is disgusting. Revolting. Sickening. Yet the local media REFUSES to investigate. Shame on you for supporting this abuse of those who make Portland's economy roll. Given your collective silence on such malfeasance, it would seem your lack of journalistic ethics is paid for by the powers which hold us accountable for those who abuse us. 

It's time we be granted the right to STRIKE again. Oregon's Legislature needs to return our power to hold these incompetents liable for their collective tyranny. Failed to fund the retirement fund for 30 years? No biggie. Secretly raised the salaries of non-union employees while hollering to local media that union employees were "greedy"? Oh well, we'll pass on that issue. Hire a replacement for GM McFarland who was fired in Canada? It's what he wanted, so we'll just agree to disagree with the union. In short? Yeah, they fall right there

Good grief, Portland. Transit management is failing not just US, but YOU, in heaps. You're being duped by remaining blissfully ignorant, complaining about those who safely guide you to your destination while unfairly demeaning us by your willful ignorance. The occasional compliment is nice, but your refusal to support US amplifies management's belief your silence is golden. And so, they pounce on us with disgusting glee, with NO meaningful oversight.

* * * * *

To those of you who are new, get this decades-old rule among frontline workers: NEVER, I repeat, NEVER EVER, throw your fellow union members under the bus. Have a complaint? Tell your union rep. Somebody piss you off? Maybe it was a misunderstanding or simple mistake. Whatever the case, keep it blue-on-blue, or soon to be polyester-on-uncomfy-fucking-polyester. You may learn something, but even more important, you may save a fellow brother or sister undeserved emotional pain from a management hell-bent on making our lives miserable. Even if another Operator pisses you off beyond imagination, do NOT report it to management. This is a union rule as old as transit itself: DO NO HARM TO YOUR FELLOWS. Period

To our passengers: We'll get you home or to your appointment or your buddy's house for a 30-rack of drunken bliss, in spite of your collective rudeness. There are still enough decent passengers who are respectful of my service and smooth ride to thank me as they figure out how to successfully operate back doors of buses which change with each new model. 

I'm so glad MOST of my passengers are respectful. THANK YOU, faithful riders and readers. I just wish our management would take a hint on how to behave. I also wish our weak local media would take note and finally hold management responsible for its ineptness. Maybe then I wouldn't bitch so much.

1 comment:

  1. Never a truer word spoken or written! Be safe out there always! Hopefully things start to turn for the better for all of us sooner rather than later!


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