By Non Union Driver Number 39
The Lake County Transit Authority meeting had the usual multiple reports by Mark Wall.
Paratransit Services padded their appearance with two representatives. In addition to the local Operations Manager Wanda Gray’s bi monthly presentation of mundane statistics, a big wig from corporate also added some numbers. Why couldn’t she have handed her numbers to Wanda? To me it seemed that the corporate hanger-on was mostly at the meeting to do a shameless plug and self congratulation for Paratransit Services. (Yes, once again Corporate American has shown they can close ranks to crush the ungrateful peasants, rioting in the streets for a few more crumbs and a modicum of respect. Paratransit has boldly stepped up to put these rabble-rousers in their place under our shoe as decreed by Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen!) At least that’s my take on the corporatese. More on this later.
Mark Wall reported that ridership was down which he could only attribute to a reaction to the last fare increase. I offered other reasons outside the Authority’s control, but never mind. An unintentionally comical response came from Board Member Dickson who suggested we needed a marketing campaign featuring “nice looking people.” I did a double take. Obviously we don’t want to use the typical transit rider in photos. Hell no, we don’t want to scare people off.
But what happens when someone gets suckered, I mean encouraged, to give the bus a try? As they step on the bus for the first time since grade school will they see the suited-up business people, cheerful soccer moms, garden club matrons, or uniformed blue collar workers toting thermoses and lunch boxes in glossy posters? No. They will be treated to a cornucopia of Lake County’s flotsam and jetsam. A howling crowd of the broken and deranged, furtively sipping out of brown paper bags as tattooed tweaker moms scream at their unwashed children. As the transit tenderfoot gets wider and wider eyed they may wonder “Where are the well scrubbed commuters in the pictures? These aren’t workers unless the circus is in town.” And that will be the end of that sustainability experiment.
The next report Mark Wall whipped out was the independent audit based on him giving documented answers to 60 questions. The result: No findings, nice job Lake Transit, and don’t forget our firm when it’s time to do your next audit. I don’t know if driver turnover was in any of the questions but it should have been. When you pay 10 and a half and your neighbor is paying 14 and a half you lose a lot of drivers after their training and a little experience. Since a large percentage of new drivers is a system stability factor I would think that should be part of the audit.
Lets return to the corporate snow job. The Paratransit exec stated they pulled trainers and drivers from five, that’s five, Paratransit accounts to restore full service in Lake County. That’s a lot of muscle to wear down 39 striking drivers. She volunteered that this was not “Union busting.” I’m certain it was a huge expense. Was it backed by an anti union group? Will we ever know?
Now the Board responds. Actually just Joey Luiz. Normally Joey’s a go-along-to-get-along person but today he seized on Paratransit’s glaring contradiction in their stated primary objective to restore full bus service in Lake County. If restoring full service at no additional cost made all other considerations secondary then this could have been achieved the day after the Union voted to end the strike on August 15th.
Paratransit had a two phase plan to restore service with replacement drivers. The next phase was going into effect, restoring 60% of the routes. I would guess that meant 60% of the drivers were replaced. The other 40% of the routes could have been immediately filled with some of the original drivers. They weren’t. Paratransit chose to roll at 60%. Screw the Union. Screw the riders. Screw Lake County. And we’re supposed to believe Paratransit isn’t first and foremost a union buster.
Paratransit chose to interpret the law in a way that suited their private agenda. The law gives companies up to 5 days to get reorganized after a strike, if they need it, before putting the unreplaced old workers back on the job. Paratransit said “Oh goody. This means we can continue to train drivers already hired plus pull a few more applications off the pile for 5 more days, continuing to replace drivers for two weeks until September 3rd, even though it means an additional and unnecessary 2 and a half weeks without full service.” That’s Paratransit’s “parareasoning.”
As Joey Luiz pointed out the discrepancy in Paratransit’s post strike behavior, Board Member Jeff Smith rushed to Paratransit’s defense with an admonishment that this was interfering in the LTA/Paratransit contract. No Jeff. The contract is service focused and this was a service criticism. The corporate drone responded off point. This was not so for Mark Wall.
Some of us remember Mark Wall claimed to be neutral in this labor dispute. He didn’t have to but he did. After Paratransit dropped the ball in their own defense, he offered as their reason for leaving riders high and dry, that since the Union had no contract yet they could go out on strike again after Paratransit’s replacement juggernaut had been disbanded. There was no reason to believe this any more than the replacement drivers could go out on strike.
We are suppose to forget that the reason the strike ended was because the Union misinterpreted a LTA contract provision that was their sole wedge issue. When that proved wrong and the Board stated they had no basis to intervene outside the contract, the strike ended the next day. The Union folded under a rain of replacement missiles. Mark Wall expects us to accept that the extended 14 day service disruption after the strike, caused by Paratransit, was due to the fear that a union saturated with replacement employees, with no functional strategy against Paratransit’s concentrated system-wide firepower, and with no remaining wedge issues with the LTA, “could” strike again? Give me a break. There is no reason to believe the Union is suicidal.
Mark Wall and Paratransit’s motives clearly are punitive against the Union rather than cautionary for the public. It stinks of prior restraint. It feels like shooting the wounded and stripping the dead after a battle. Since this 14 day victory dance was at the expense of the riders I must cry fowl and demand accountability from the Lake Transit Authority.
Here is the best analogy I can think of for Paratransit’s post strike behavior. Say two armies are blazing away at each other until one has clearly lost and surrenders. The victors stride triumphantly onto the field of battle and disarm the vanquished. But instead of everyone going home the victors declare that their attorneys have interpreted the accepted laws of war to let them shoot as many dazed and wounded as they can for five days so these class inferiors will never dare step out of line again. That’s what Paratransit Services has done, apparently with the Lake Transit Authority’s blessing.
Remember the number Paratransit – 528. Remember the number Lake County Transit Authority – 528. Remember the number residents and voters of Lake County – 528.