Disenfranchisement and Paratransit Services

By Driver Number 39

You don’t have to be a political pundit to know that our right to vote is under continuous attack by the forces of wealth and power. In the past the profoundly privileged relied on scaring the middle class and drumming up any class conflict except against theirs. Even the lower middle class bought the bill of goods about killing the goose that might lay a golden egg for their children.

As successive slices off the middle class have been dumped into the ranks of the working poor with fewer and fewer opportunities on the horizon for their children’s education and “American Dream” type jobs, this pitch does not sell as well.

Since the disillusioned and discouraged clearly outnumber the Top 1%, the Top 5%, and are on the way to over running and outvoting the whole top quintile, the only solution, short of a fascist coup, is to throw every legal barrier imaginable between them and the ballot box. Even outside the scramble for electoral representation the same drive to squelch the democratic process can be found, using many of the same tools of disenfranchisement.

This development was made clear locally at the NLRB hearing between Paratransit Services and the union representing the bus drivers. The main issue was an upcoming election for Paratransit employees whether to decertify the union or not. The Union was pushing for a mail in ballot and Paratransit’s attorney was arguing for an on site election. What’s the difference you say?

Paratransit has more direct access to the many replacement drivers they have recently hired. Those recent hires are still grateful to be working and have not had time to become soured by some of Paratransit’s Dickensonian behaviors, such as not wanting to give drivers time off to attend a wife’s funeral. Meanwhile, the Union has been effectively quarantined away from the replacement drivers as far as introducing them to what the Union has to offer. Although the replaced drivers are still technically Paratransit employees and can vote on Union decertification, showing up to a specific place for them during a short time period is more difficult.

The combination of a strike and lockout has left many drivers stretched thin. Some have increased their hours at second jobs. Others have job interviews out of the area that they have to be available for. More and more are taking temporary jobs to make ends meet. That is my situation.

The Paratransit attorney made the absurd argument that if striking bus drivers found it convenient to picket the bus yard and follow buses to do bus stop pickets they shouldn’t have any trouble making it to a specific location to vote. What’s so absurd about the attorney’s remark? Think about it. Hint: This was a strike followed by a lockout. Give up? Paratransit is referring to activities during the strike which were reduced to a token presence for part of the lockout then disappeared altogether. The current lockout period is when drivers have started to hurt otherwise they would not have given up the strike. Therefore, Paratransit’s reasons for opposing the mail ballot during the lockout are irrelevant.

Only the most naïve would believe that each side’s attorneys are making arguments for purely technical reasons to rack up billable hours. It’s clear that each side believes their preference will give their client at least a slight advantage or they would not be arguing the point. It was decided by the NLRB judge at the meeting that each side would be submitting their written arguments to the NLRB District Director who will make a decision next week.

Going back to my situation will take the Union’s attorney’s argument out of the realm of pure theory. As soon as Paratransit stopped talking to me in any meaningful way I filed for unemployment and began looking for my replacement job. I spent time and money to activate my guard card through Universal Protection and waited. The only post that came up was the hard to fill Calpine site. The turnover is huge due to accessibility problems that destroy cars and suck gasoline. The West side is nearly impossible to reach by bus/bike combo. In one week’s efforts to reach the East and West sides of Calpine I have had days that ran from 14 to 16 hours. I consider this a temporary job since I have no idea how I will get to work when 16% grade roads start getting snow bound. The Paratransit attorney refuses to consider this impediment to on site elections.

The movement to destroy meaningful representation in this Country progresses through a series of measures that seem reasonable on the surface. But the intent and the effect is to reduce suffrage for lower income, disabled, marginalized, and people without fixed residences.

It all starts locally with people who still have jobs with at least some representation. If companies such as Paratransit Services can implement election conditions that will trim off just a few percentage points of the “wrong” voters it could translate into total control for them and another slide backwards for more Lake County workers.

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