By Dante DeAmicis
The bus driver labor dispute has ended. The Lake Transit contractor labor policies are still an issue. At this point residents need to focus on cost numbers to determine who is lying and who is telling the truth. The fact that labor is contracted out does not absolve Lake Transit in the long run of the responsibility for what is in the contract. The mysterious number that would answer most questions I call the “diamond number.”
This number is the total cost of the Union’s pre-strike contract proposal. Paratransit took one look at the Union’s demands, stated it would cost an extra half million, then stopped talking. The drivers had two choices and good faith negotiations wasn’t one of them. They could take the contractor’s first, last, and best offer or they could strike. The drivers decided they swallowed what they had to in the last contract with Paratransit, so to maintain some vestige of self respect, this time they would strike – even if it meant their jobs.
This was a judgment call as far as the drivers were concerned but for those who depend on the buses for day to day transportation it was a lifestyle issue. It was Lake County riders who were damaged the most in a labor/management struggle which clearly involved out-of-county parties with their own agendas. The single best way to determine who was mostly at fault is to obtain the figures and crunch our own estimate for the cost of the Union’s demands, the trigger for all that followed. Once this number is calculated by competent disinterested parties, we can begin a public campaign to hold those responsible for harming our residents and discourage this from happening in the future.
What are the components of this diamond number that will make further debate superfluous? So far my algorithm looks like this. Everyone agrees the big issue was the 10 step raises the Union wanted replaced. Paratransit offered no step raises. The senior driver stated these steps averaged 44 cents an hour for each step. This was the one solid figure I could get from a driver. The one public number was disagreement over the cost of living increase amount. The Union wanted 2 to 2.5 cents an hour more. I am going to high-ball my crunch at a flat 2.5 cents an hour more.
Now we get to the hardest number to figure because of assumptions that need to be made. Other than a few entry level drivers, everyone “bids” on fixed route/run packages based on seniority. What we need are the number of budgeted hours in each package, the wage of each driver assigned to each package, and the “odds and ends” hours that will probably be filled by entry level drivers. The difficulty is in guessing what bid package drivers will choose as their seniority increases. Due to lifestyle considerations, we cannot assume everyone will choose a route with an increase in hours just because a driver is now eligible to choose it.
This leaves the medical co-payment issue. This issue also requires an assumption. When economists are clueless about a non trivial probability they usually assume 50 per cent so they will be better than 50 percent right. So unless a knowledgeable person has a clear reason for a different figure, I will assume that a substantial reduction in driver co-pay will result in doubling the number of full timers that will subscribe for medical coverage. I just need the change in co-pay the Union demanded and the number of full time drivers currently subscribing.
An e-mail from Lake Transit’s Mark Wall indicated that the Authority has always publicized pay rates. Teamsters representative Ralph Miranda stated his excel spreadsheet projection was public.
I am inviting the Teamsters Union, Paratransit Services, and Lake Transit Authority to submit any figures required in the previous paragraphs to create a transparent empirical picture for the transit using residents of Lake County.