Metro drivers' wages have barely kept up with inflation

A union president rebuts salary figures from an earlier Crosscut article, and says the union is working hard with management to find efficiencies.

Not so merrily we ride along. (Chuck Taylor)

Not so merrily we ride along. (Chuck Taylor)

Our union, the Amalgamated Transit Union, shares Michael Ennis's desire to provide the public with the greatest level of service at the lowest cost while providing public employees with fair wages, benefits, and working conditions. But the arguments Ennis puts forth in a recent Crosscut article are based on erroneous salary figures.

An honest evaluation of driver wages paid since Metro was formed in 1974 reveals that wages just barely kept pace with inflation. The Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) floors and ceilings Ennis complains about are, in actuality, budgeting tools to help management to predict future expenses. The Consumer Price Index, published monthly by the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, is a common way for employers to determine the actual increase in cost of living. Historically, our COLA is paid at 90 percednt of the actual cost of living increase, causing our Transit Operators and employees in the 114 other classifications covered in our KC/Metro contract, to slowly fall behind in wages. Over the years, the union has negotiated small wage increases at the start of a new contract to keep our represented workers’ wages reflective of actual cost of living increases.

Ennis suggests Transit Operators are making too much money per year, yet the transit audit argues that increasing work hours for part-time Transit Operators and increasing overtime opportunities for full-time Transit Operators will save the county money by utilizing each employee to a greater extent, as opposed to employing more people at the cost of providing additional benefit packages. The union and management are in agreement with this audit finding and are working on solutions at the bargaining table.

From reading Ennis’s article, one might conclude that union and management are locked in a heated battle over wages. In reality, union and management are working together at the bargaining table to find creative solutions to improve efficiencies while maintaining wages, benefits, and working conditions. Our state legislators have made it quite clear that lowering costs are a prerequisite for providing additional and stable funding. To that end, I have assigned two union officers to work directly with Metro’s scheduling section to find every conceivable inefficiency while maintaining the quality transit service for which we are famous.

Some managers believe that increased efficiencies are gained through reduction in recovery time (time between each trip in a Transit Operator’s daily schedule). There is a risk in attempting to squeeze efficiency through reduction in recovery time. Transit Operators use recovery time to get back on schedule when they are forced off schedule by traffic conditions, breakdowns, and emergencies. With little or no recovery time, schedule disruptions tend to snowball.

So for Metro, "adequate recovery time" equates to excellent on-time performance. To the public, adequate recovery time equates to the bus beginning each trip on time and reliably transporting them to work or school in a timely fashion. For the union, adequate recovery time equates to reasonable breaks for Transit Operators, including a chance to use the restroom or eat a snack.

Ennis also takes issue with my reported comment in Mike Lindblom’s September 7, 2010, Seattle Times article suggesting Metro could “cut some of its services and not take away pay.” Ennis incorrectly expands on my thought by stating I’m suggesting “the meteoric growth in salaries is not enough, drivers should be paid more money, and Metro should cut service to pay for it.” I made no such statement, and in fact the union has yet to formalize its wage proposal in the present negotiation.

I do believe Metro could save a lot of money if it weren’t for the 40-40-20 rule of the King County Council, which mandates maintaining inefficient service in areas of King County outside Seattle. Metro does not want to be forced to pay for buses running with light loads, or even empty, to satisfy the whims of politicians. That’s costly inefficiency.


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Comments:

Posted Tue, Oct 5, 12:31 p.m. Inappropriate

Thanks for this piece and thanks to Crosscut for providing balanced coverage of the issue. I do remain troubled by reports that Metro's drivers are better paid than drivers in some metro areas with much higher costs of living. However, this does get at the heart of the issue that Michael Ennis failed to address in his piece (and I confess that I didn't follow through to the WPC report): what exactly is a fair wage for bus drivers? I don't believe that public policy should be aimed at pushing the wage as low as possible, nor should the recession be an opportunity to take advantage of workers who may be anxious to keep their jobs, as much as I feel strongly about optimizing Metro's budget and keeping service going for people who depend on it.

On the subject of recovery time, is there a safety issue as well? I imagine that putting too much of a time squeeze on drivers--not letting them rest and causing delays to accumulate--could also jeopardize safety.

Posted Tue, Oct 5, 6:05 p.m. Inappropriate

After slamming you in comments elsewhere, it is nice to see a more thoughtful and lengthy response from you.

I still think maintaining service is more important for a public transit agency than increasing wages, but I especially question your concern about wages when Metro drivers are amongst the highest paid in the nation.

It's also clear that part-timers are not being used effectively, resulting in a select number of full-time drivers making extremely good salaries for ANY public sector job -- at the expense of many of their union brothers.

At a time when other unions are making tough wage concessions and forgoing COLAs, I think your union would see much more support if it was willing to analyze its own inefficiencies in the policies it supports.

Mickymse

Posted Tue, Oct 5, 9:07 p.m. Inappropriate

Question for Paul: does "finding every inefficiency" include permitting part-time Operators to volunteer for work that would otherwise be offered to full-time drivers at the overtime rate? Not so far.

"Every conceivable inefficiency"? You're a LIAR.

Posted Wed, Oct 6, 8:46 a.m. Inappropriate

The tone of this rebuttal reflects how out of touch the transit union is with the realities of employment outside the public sector. I notice on the King County Metro website that a pension is part of the drivers' benefit package. I've never worked anywhere that offers a pension. I'm guessing that drivers' health insurance package is more generous than what my employer, a non-profit, is able to offer: if you want to cover your spouse and children, you kick in $700 a month. Where I used to work, any cost-of-living increase was more than eaten up by rising health care insurance costs. Maybe these points were made in Westneat's column or elsewhere, but let me say again, it's hard to sympathize with public union employees. You guys have it better than a lot of workers whose jobs require about the same amount of skill/training/education and you should consider how entitled you seem to some of the rest of us.

Posted Wed, Oct 6, 9:18 a.m. Inappropriate

I suppose that, as usual, there's more to the story than is shown here. While the COLA's may only equal 90% of the CPI, I suspect that total compensation for Metro drivers has been more generous, when fringe benefits, especially health care costs are taken into account.

Does anyone have more data on the rate of total compensation vs. just the hourly rate of pay?

Goforride

Posted Wed, Oct 6, 9:24 a.m. Inappropriate

hummingbird-

I drive for metro. You ever been spit on at work? I have-twice. You ever been punched? I have-once. How often are you threatened with assault. I get threatened at least once a month.

Remember the last time you drove a few hundred miles. you were happy to get out of the car right? Well I drive a 60 foot bus through downtown Seattle traffic eight hours a day dealing with yuppies, ex-cons, gang bangers, homeless, drunks, rowdy teenagers. cell phone yellers, smelly cigarette smokers, and the mentally ill. Those folks you see on the street and ten cross the street to avoid. They got there on the bus.

I'm sorry that your job is not as well compensated as my job. perhaps instead of wanting to drag me down to your level you should unionize-or if you have the balls take up bus driving. Here's a piece out of the current ATU587 (transit operators) newsletter.

Police Officers and
Transit Operators
Have More In
Common Than Not
Cherise Millhouse, Transit Operator, Ryerson Base

At our recent pick I was having
a conversation with our
Local 587 Recording Secretary,
Brian Sherlock. I mentioned to
him that I had been a police officer
in Oregon for 8.5 years and a part
time operator for five years. I said of
the two professions, I found being
a transit operator more stressful.
Like police officers, transit operators
have regular contact with
people who suffer from mental
illness, people who are homeless,
people who are intoxicated, and
people who are gang affiliated. The
difference is police officers get to
deal with these individuals faceto-
face and operators have these
people sitting and standing behind
them. A dangerous situation can
arise without warning and as transit
operators we may not be able to
see it coming because our eyes are
focused forward on the road. That
is a stressful situation.
When I was a police officer working
patrol, even on a day when I just
went from one call to another, I had
more down time then our full and
part time operators have. Having
time to regroup and be able to relax
is critical. Like police officers, transit
operators have to be constantly
vigilant, looking on all sides of the
bus prepared for the pedestrian who
abruptly steps in front of your bus,
or the cyclist who cuts in front of
you, or the car that darts in front of
your bus and then slams on their
brakes. Paying attention to all of
these potential hazards on top of
scanning your bus zones, pulling in
and out of traffic, trying to stay as
close to your schedule as you can is
very draining. It is a stressful situation.
Can I get a witness?
By the end of my police career
I had no adrenalin, zero. So when
I had a close call, say someone
pointed a weapon at me or someone
tried to assault me, the flight-or-fight
mechanism that adrenalin provides
didn’t kick in. That could have cost
me my life or someone else their life.
It took me about two years after leaving
law enforcement for my body to
be able to produce adrenalin again.
After driving part time for 5 years
I once again am without adrenalin.
I’m willing to bet a pay check there
are other transit operators, who are
also without adrenalin.
Police officers are responsible
for peoples’ safety, just as transit
operators are. As an operator, when
we are stressed out and mentally exhausted,
we are more likely to have
accidents…accidents that could lead
to one or more fatalities.
For the last two shake-ups recovery
time has been shortened, which
means operators are not getting adequate
time to get out of the seat and
recover mentally and physically.
This is unacceptable. Constructing
run times is not a numbers crunching
thing it is a potential life or death
thing for operators, riders and other
members of the community. King
County Leadership needs to treat
this issue with that reality in mind.

Posted Wed, Oct 6, 10:44 a.m. Inappropriate

@Hummingbird: I acknowledge a high degree of training and / or education isn't necessary to operate a bus, but you miss the mark as far as skill goes. If you look at the statistics for accidents compared to the number of years driven by the people involved in them, it is very clear driving a bus is not as easy as most people think. I'm going off memory of the graph I saw, but the number of first-year Metro Operators involved in accidents probably accounted for at least a third of all Metro bus accidents. Don't kid yourself, our job is essentially running an obstacle course using heavy machinery. That's challenging enough without all the distractions mentioned by reverandmoney. If Metro didn't compensate Operators as much as they do, many of the Operators wouldn't continue working for Metro. And while many people might apply for the openings, a good chunk wouldn't make it through the first year. This not only creates additional costs for the County paying for accidents, it also creates increased costs for training. A submit, a high rate of turnover very well could cost the County more money than the current rate of pay and benefits. (I admittedly don't have the numbers on this).

@Mickymse: See above and below. Additionally, the bureaucracy of Metro, and its relationship to King County, make for a more complicated situation than may of the other Union's relationships with the County. Since our pay is derived from the bus run times, for example, making the run times more efficient may do more to address budget concerns than looking directly at rate of pay.

@pepper2000: Recovery time is absolutely a safety issue. As much as Metro tells drivers "don't let the schedule drive you", most people will feel a sense of stress when they're fifteen minutes late because they were handed an unrealistic schedule. Yesterday I drove a 65, then dead-headed back to the U-District to drive a 75. I arrived at the 75 terminal four minutes after I was scheduled to leave it. And I have a history of being early to most of my timepoints. So I'm left with the question of whether or not I take my guaranteed 5 minute break (which, since there's no bathroom near the terminal, would end up longer than 5 minutes), and therefore run my trip starting as much as 9 minutes late. The human body is not meant to sit in one position for 2 1/2 hours. But I felt alert and my need for a bathroom wasn't urgent, so I left immediately with no break.

@Hummingbird (again): Do you have to make those kinds of choices where you work? What kind of pay do you think a job that requires that kind of choice is worth? And these were on routes *without* a high potential for harassment by passengers.

@Jeff: The basis for your contention that Bachtel is a liar is at best a matter of disagreement, and at worst blatantly taking the quote out of context.

Where you quoted from, Paul was speaking specifically to inefficiencies in scheduling. How do I know? Because there WORDS prior to your quote, it says so.

But lets address your point in spirit. You advocate increased utilization of the Part-Time workforce. But I don't think you understand the issue fully. You (and, historically, all Part-Time drivers that advocate greater PT utilization) seem to think this is a question that pits Full-Time overtime against giving Part-Time drivers the opportunity to work more. There is another element traditionally ignored, the reduction of the number of Full-Time drivers. If 587 approves greater utilization of Part-Time drivers, it will allow management to cut Full-Time positions, and that's what they're more likely to do.

Think about the math. Yes, it MAY (see below) be less expensive to give OT work to a PT driver at straight time instead of giving out at time-and-a-half to a FT driver. But less expensive than that is to eliminate a FT position completely and hand out that once-FT work to two PT drivers and the OT to a third. Which is great for management, but for the workforce that now leaves three underemployed drivers working split shifts over a 13 hours spread, making it difficult at best to find employment that makes up the difference. I don't find that position favorable.

I say "may" because I'm not actually convinced it's less expensive for Metro to give OT work to PT drivers in the way you want. The more work that is given to PT drivers, the more PT drivers will reach the 4 hour threshold that qualifies them for full benefits. This costs Metro significantly more money, and depending on the amount of OT, costs Metro more than it would to simply pay the FT driver to run it at OT. This seems to better reflect the conclusion management has come to, which is why for a couple of years recently there was a very short waiting period for PT drivers to go to FT while Metro reduced the PT workforce in favor of FT drivers. Now that they've come closer to the balance they're looking for, FT recruitment has slowed. But if you open up PT utilization? You're going to see the balance shift the other direction. I.e., less FT jobs, more PT jobs. Again, I don't find that position favorable.

Taken one step further, PT jobs usually have a higher degree of turnover than FT jobs do. This results in increased training costs for Metro, and increased risk and liability. I don't see that position as favorable for Metro, either.

The truth is, from what I've seen most PT Operators that insist on increased utilization want to have their cake and eat it to. They don't want to give up weekends off or better working hours by going FT. They want to be able to pick and choose their schedule, i.e., when they do and don't work more than a few hours a day. They want all the benefits of FT driving with all the luxuries the PT position has to offer.

Sorry, it doesn't work that way. If you want the FT hours, go FT. If you don't have the seniority to do so, there are usually ways to make it work at PT until you do. When I was PT, I worked my butt off for 2 1/2 years to make it work. In my first six shakeups, I drove at six different bases, qualifying at almost every route at each of those bases within the first month of the shakeup. I qualified on the school trippers that no one else wanted to drive. The first route I qualified on for ATL was the 358, knowing full well that was where the work was. And I did this while working two other jobs that fortunately had flexible scheduling. One shakeup later, I was able to go Full-Time.

Posted Wed, Oct 6, 10:58 a.m. Inappropriate

Mike Lindblom of The Seattle Times had difficulty signing in to comment, but here's his response:

Mr. Bachtel's comments about me are off-track:

* The $60,806 figure we published (for average driver wages) came directly off a chart by Metro, and was supplied by agency managers to a regional transit task force. I didn't perform any arithmetic, nor rely on Washington Policy Center data. During our interview, Mr. Bachtel himself reckoned that a veteran full-time driver makes around $59k without overtime.

* Also, he implies I've got some beef with bus drivers, that "some people don't let facts get in the way of their opinions." This story has nothing to do with my opinion. During this recession and contract stalemate, it's legitimate news to air the figures, and raise questions about overtime, the hard schedules and lower pay for some driver classes, and possible 2011 COLA rates.

See the story here:
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2012834601_metrodriver08m.html

Posted Wed, Oct 6, 11:20 a.m. Inappropriate

@hummingbird,

Paul Bachtel is not "the union". He is the most recently elected President of the union. I do not however believe that he speaks for all or even most members in his statements to the press.

@Joshua,

Bachtel IS a liar. That is hardly a matter of interpretation. He lies in this article, and he's lied elsewhere about other things. The man is flat-out dishonest.

In this particular instance - the one I cited - he claims that he in contract negotiations is looking for "every conceivable efficiency". This is flat out false. A lie. Union leadership specifically is fighting against allowing part-time Operators to work beyond certain limitations that create an artificial demand for overtime. The audit has called for such efficiencies, and the union (past and present) continues to fight for artificial demand for overtime, primarly for more senior full-time bus drivers. To claim that he has assigned people to find "every conceivable inefficiency" is a bald-faced lie. He is interested in keeping at least some aspects of work assignments INEFFICIENT, in order to pad the wages of senior full-time operators even when part-time Operators are willing, available, and capable of filling hours at straight time.

This isn't something that's a matter of opinion or open to interpretation - it's established fact. I'd be happy to cite the specific contract language and audit recommendations (and in fact have done so on my own blog) to back that up if you like.

Regrettably, Bachtel's ineptitude - and dishonesty - cloud the legitimate points that he makes, and harm the entire membership while aiding our opponents in helping turn public opinion against Operators during this vital contract negotiation period.

Posted Wed, Oct 6, 11:26 a.m. Inappropriate

@Joshua,

You said: " If 587 approves greater utilization of Part-Time drivers, it will allow management to cut Full-Time positions, and that's what they're more likely to do."

Nonsense. The number of regular part-time assignments (with dual trippers counting as 2) is limited by contract to 45%. Higher utilization of part-time operators for - in line with the audit recommendations - "backfill" wouldn't eliminate one signle full-time position, it would simply allow part-time Operators to work assignments that would otherwise be filled at the overtime rate (over $40.00 an hour for a full-time Operator at Top) for less cost to the taxpayer.

Not sure where you get this idea that having a part-time Operator on the ATL be assigned a run at straight time rather than giving it to a FTTO at overtime would elminate a full-time position. Nor do I see how allowing a part-time Operator to work a bridge assignment (tunnel closure, special event, etc.) that goes past 8:30 p.m., takes their daily work over 7:59, or fills in for a sick driver on a Saturday or Sunday would do that either.

Complete nonsense.

Posted Wed, Oct 6, 11:35 a.m. Inappropriate

@Joshua,

" The more work that is given to PT drivers, the more PT drivers will reach the 4 hour threshold that qualifies them for full benefits."

Another non-issue, at least where drivers who are ALREADY at the 4 hour threshhold go. Any driver who picks (or works an average) assignment of 4 hours or more qualifies for "full-benefits", i.e. the same medical coverage that full-time Operators qualfy for. Many - if not most - part time Operators ALREADY fall into this category. How does it save money to prevent a part-time operator ALREADY RECEIVING FULL BENEFITS from working extra hours, resulting in a situation where - according to the union contract - a piece of work is assigned at several hours of overtime just to avoid paying a part-time operator even one-minute of overtime? Your "argument" doesn't hold water. As you said - check the math. You may also want to take a look at the audit, which takes benefit costs into account. In many instances it's cheaper to the taxpayer to have a part-time Operator provide "backfill" than a full-time Operator.

"PT jobs usually have a higher degree of turnover than FT jobs do."

Part of the reason that Part Time Operators leave at a higher rate at Metro is that the working conditions for part-timers are intolerable. People can't afford to live on 2.5 hours a day; the picks are brutal, the working conditions difficult and the union hostile towards them (even though they pay the exact same dues). Improve the working conditions for part-time operators - including making it possible for those who need the extra hours to get them - and turnover will decrease.

Yes, career part-timers stay that way because there are things they like about not working weekends, etc. Regarding "cake" - and anothe term I've heard, "paying their dues" - part-timers pay for this "privilege" in real dollars - to the tune of the tends of thousands less they earn than their full-time counterparts.

Posted Wed, Oct 6, 12:07 p.m. Inappropriate

I respect the fact that transit drivers have difficult jobs and keep me and my wife safe everyday. However, it seems absurd to me that in 10 years drivers making $75,000 would be approaching almost $100,000 if they were given "modest" 2.5% COLAs each year...not to mention their benfits and pensions. At some point, we need to say enough is enough. Driving a bus, no matter how difficult, is only worth so much to society.

I know the funding streams are different, but doesn't it seem wrong that we value bus drivers more than teachers?

Posted Wed, Oct 6, 12:30 p.m. Inappropriate

@pinmlt,

A 2.5% COLA would not automatically translate to an $82,000.00 a year income for those few drivers (less than 10%) currently making %75K per year. At any rate - even that 10% earns that amount working a lot of overtime - the equivalent of a second part-time job. Anyone working 2 jobs in the private sector making that kind of money wouldn't raise an eyebrow. If anything they'd get a pat on the back for their industriousness.

Your comment also ignores the 90% of drivers earning a hell of a lot less than $75K a year, and for some bizarre reason makes the claim that $82K is "approaching almost $100,000".

I also don't believe in your comparison between bus drivers and teachers. I'd guess that society values both bus drivers and teachers more than "Communications Coordinators" - yet when you look at what that job title earns at King County, the base salary is over $100K - at 40 hours per week (no overtime).

Posted Wed, Oct 6, 3:36 p.m. Inappropriate

@Mike Lindblom,

You're defending apples by offering oranges.

In your defense here you say:

"The $60,806 figure we published (for average driver wages) came directly off a chart by Metro, and was supplied by agency managers to a regional transit task force. I didn't perform any arithmetic, nor rely on Washington Policy Center data. During our interview, Mr. Bachtel himself reckoned that a veteran full-time driver makes around $59k without overtime."

Trouble is - in your Times article, you didn't use the $60K figure in relation to veteran full-time drivers. You claimed it was the AVERAGE income of bus drivers.

From the Times article:

"Metro drivers rank third nationally in wages, with a top rate of $28.47 an hour, and the average yearly income, including overtime, is almost $61,000 a year, according to a Metro review that includes full- and part-time drivers."

Bachtel is - and was - correct in stating that a full-time Operator earns close to $59K without overtime (actually I believe it's around $57K based on a calculated 40-hour week; 52 week year). That is a long way (and completely different) from your claim that this number represents an AVERAGE of driver wages.

It appears that your "correction" needs a correction.

Posted Wed, Oct 6, 3:47 p.m. Inappropriate

I know, and tragic inicidents have proven, that some drivers work in dangerous situations. However, the union does not appear to be arguing about perilous working conditions, but instead about COLAs. I suspect that the driver's union, like many unions, insists on a payscale and pecking order based on seniority, so that the issue of who has to drive the worst/most dangerous routes is in the union's hands, not the public's or the management's. And that demanding hazard pay for certain routes is also something the union could do, but might not if it means that seniority system will be disturbed. My heart goes out to reverandmoney. But I also know there are plenty of drivers who do not face the same kinds of threats.

And finally, if we are looking at payscales for dangerous jobs, consider a beginning community corrections officer's pay: $33,000/year. This unionized job requires a degree, involves supervising felons, and the daily risk of facing violent behavior.

Posted Wed, Oct 6, 8:29 p.m. Inappropriate

@hummingbird,

You said:

"the union does not appear to be arguing about perilous working conditions, but instead about COLAs."

As Bachtel noted - it isn't the union who's been arguing about COLAs, but Dow Costantine, the Seattle Times, the Washington Policy Center, Crosscut, Publicola and other press outlets. In fact - everyone BUT the union appears to be arguing about COLAs.

The union has yet to make a public statement or statements directly relating to COLA's, and aren't even at that point in the bargaining process yet.

You mention the starting wage for a DOC CCO. Actually the starting pay that I can find online is more like $39K - $51K. The starting wage for a Metro bus driver is just over $19.00 an hour - with a daily guarantee of only 2.5 hours a day. That's around $13K per year. Oh - and we also supervise felons and run the daily risk of facing violent behavior.

Care to try again?

Posted Thu, Oct 7, 2:57 a.m. Inappropriate

Jeff,

Please cite your source that "most" PT drivers are earning full benefits due to being at the 4 hour threshold.

Posted Thu, Oct 7, 9:11 a.m. Inappropriate

Crosscut might consider accompanying every broadcast from the Washington Policy Center with a rebuttal. I've never seen anything come out of the WPC that could be considered to be objective.

Posted Thu, Oct 7, 11:08 a.m. Inappropriate

@joshua,

I'll look into it - but it isn't relevant anyway.

One more time: preventing a part-time operator who is ALREADY RECEIVING FULL BENEFITS from working additional hours doesn't cost the County anything, in fact it saves the taxpayer money.

Care to disagree?

Posted Thu, Oct 7, 11:12 a.m. Inappropriate

@joshua,

Also - you mis-quoted me. I said "many - if not most". I don't believe that I need to provide evidence that there are many part-time operators (certainly in the hundreds at least) are receiving full-benefits; and the word "if" qualifies the second part.

Now - care to defend the idea that paying a part-time Operator at straight time rather than a full-time operator at the $40.00+ per hour overtime rate for backfill, special work, sick reliefs etc. would somehow cost, rather than save the County money?

There will always be overtime - and in many cases having FTTO's work overtime DOES save the County money.

Details here: http://pstransitoperators.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/audit-on-overtime-more-or-less/

Posted Fri, Oct 8, 5:33 a.m. Inappropriate

Jeff,

The reason that the amount of PT Operators receiving benefits is relevant is two-fold.

First, if it is not "most", then giving additional work to PT Operators is, in fact, going to increase the amount of PT Operators who earn full benefits. Yes, of course PTO's already earning full benefits will cost the County less than paying out the work at OT to FTO's. But that's not what will happen. The additional work will enable additional PTO's to earn full benefits. This will cost the county more money.

Second, if it is not "most", then this is an indication that you are making misleading, perhaps untrue, statements. If that's the case, then your overall grasp and basis for understanding the situation is flawed, and there's no point in having a discussion with you. I did not mis-quote you. You stake a claim on "many", which as an indeterminate amount could mean anywhere from, say, 30% to 70%. You suggest "most", which is also indeterminate, but in some people's minds might suggest as much as 90%. The number I've gotten from someone that works out of the union office is just over half of the PT Operators earn full benefits. I hardly call that "most".

Now, if you *really* want to explore costs to the County, let's look at how a good chunk of those PT Operators get full benefits. In order for a PT Operator to get full benefits, they either need to work an average of about 4 hours a day over 26 pay periods, or they need to pick a 4 hour piece of work. Doing either of these will get them full benefits, starting at the end of the calendar year, for the entire remaining duration of the Union's insurance agreement with the County. So, for example, a PT Operator can pick a 4 hour piece the first shakeup of the agreement, earn full benefits, then return to working nothing more than a minimum piece of work of 2 1/2 hours for the next 2 1/2 years, yet still earn full benefits. How many jobs do you know where someone working 2 1/2 hours can earn full medical, dental, vision, life insurance, AD&D;, and Short-Term disability? If your motivation is really about saving the County money, I think that's a much better place to look first.

Posted Fri, Oct 8, 12:05 p.m. Inappropriate

Joshua,

"if it is not "most", then giving additional work to PT Operators is, in fact, going to increase the amount of PT Operators who earn full benefits."

Not necessarily - or significantly. As work via the ATL is assigned by seniority, it's likely that Operators on the ATL are already earning full benefits.

When I said "many - if not most", I was admittedly guessing. Could have been wrong. That's not misleading, that's just conversation. The answer is out there. "Most" in my view (and in the view of any dictionarly definition that I can find) would mean a majority - more than half.

You yourself just said that the information that you have from the union office is that the number of part time operators earning full benefits is "just over half". So I stand by my statement. If your information (and my guess) is accurate, then most part time Operators are already earning full benefits.

At any rate - it's nit-picking and irrelevant. Put it this way: allowing part time Operators who already receive full benefits to work extra hours would not cost the County money, but would save the County money. The audit has specifically recommended that part-time Operators be allowed to fill-in for a broader range of work than they're allowed to now and said that it would save money to do so.

Sorry - but I don't see cutting benefits to our union brothers and sisters (and their families) as a good place to look for cost savings, nor does the audit. Your arguments don't add up.

Posted Sat, Oct 9, 10:57 a.m. Inappropriate

Jeff,

Listen to yourself. When I ask you to cite your source on "most", you distance yourself from the comment by saying you qualified it with an "if". Then, when *I* provide you with a number, you admit you were guessing, state guessing isn't misleading (even though the statement was made in the context of supporting an argument), then say you stand by your statement because one definition of "most" in the dictionaries happens to fit your usage of it. Do you believe this makes you sound credible?

(FYI, as my answer to that question is "no", I won't be coming back to this thread again.)

Posted Sun, Oct 10, 11:53 p.m. Inappropriate

I challenge the assertion that wages have "barely kept up with inflation." The COLA is based on a "market basket of services" and is an educated guess at "inflation" at best. Even so, a COLA increase increases the pay *range* of the (in this case) drivers. From what I know, drivers also get a pay raise based on miles driven, and these would average one every 12 months if they didn't work overtime, less than every 12 months if they did. Inflation is well eclipsed if this is so. In state government, these raises are 5% every 12 months until the (unionized) worker reaches the top of their pay range. In addition, it's my understanding that drivers don't pay medical premiums for themselves or their families. Health care inflation is about 10% these days. Altogether, taxpayers are probably paying for a COLA pay raise, a longevity type of pay raise, and the full brunt of health care inflation for driver and their family. That's doing far better than the private sector...and no, I'm not suggesting that we drop everyone to the lowest common denominator. That would be socialism. What I'm advocating is that we curb what is "Cadillac" compensation to what's no longer what my statistics friends would call "an outlier."

And, certainly when revenues are flat or falling - and sales tax, the primary revenue source for Metro (70% or so) is - expenses should be kept flat as well: no COLAs at the least, curbed other increases, the same for whatever is applied to their non-unionized work force. At the same time, the taxpayer should know what the compensation plans are, both union and non, what the union contract's key provisions are, a list of who's making $100,000 and more, what the agency is making major purchases of and at what cost, etc., on their website. Frankly, I have concerns about having a bus driver who's worked a 16 hour day, had 8 hours off, then another 16 hour day, and perhaps repeating this cycle a few times in the same week, specifically from a rider safety perspective and the risk this places to at least a several thousand investment in a vehicle. That should take precedence over a senior driver having the opportunity to increase their income. Unfortunately, this will probably need to be legislated.

I agree with the need to find efficiencies. The performance audit, which all agencies should be forced to have periodically, was a great start, finding slightly over half of the then-$100 million that Metro needed, a good chunk of which was in scheduling. While good, it's short-term, and eventually the problem will return, as expenses continue to go up faster than sales taxes, which is why we've kept voting on whether to increase them or not over the years; we're presently maxed out on that at 0.9%. It's been worse of late, as drivers aren't retiring as much, so we're not replacing higher-paid drivers with lower-paid drivers. As for 40/40/20, I agree that it's inflexible, but then you'll have folks in sub-areas that will clamor that they should get twice the service that they get now to match what they pay in, yet the ridership on their present lines would not justify it. What's the remedy, I don't know, perhaps replacing bus service with van service in those areas? Have separate operations in each sub-area, including separate financing? I think this issue will come to a head as a way to deal with what will be fewer drivers that we can afford.

Mr. Bachtel has the job of maximizing what he can for his membership. That's the highest pay and benefits that he can negotiate for them, the best working conditions he can negotiate for them, and the most-favorable situation for his most-senior members, and it sounds as if he's succeeded on at least many counts. It's also in his best interests to omit what doesn't make his case look favorable, which it seems he's done with this article. But, I suspect he and other public servants will painfully realize that we have reached the end of the line of increasing sales tax rates or shifting money from other areas to pay for what amounts to an "outlier." In the case of Metro, the squeeze on costs is also being brought upon by new technologies and higher fuel costs. The end result seems clear to me, but not to Mr. Bachtel and some in this thread: keeping the same cost structure will result in ever-declining numbers of drivers and service unless taxes are raised and/or cuts are made to other areas to pay for them...and, will voters who don't enjoy anywhere near this type of compensation structure - which is most of the politicians' constituents - be willing to support this?

bricsa

Posted Tue, Oct 12, 10:54 a.m. Inappropriate

Joshua,

You want a source for the "most" claim? Here you go: YOU. You yourself said that someone at the union office told you that "just over half" of part time Operators are receiving full benefits. Most= over half.

Are we done with that canard yet?

STILL waiting for you to explain how paying a part-time Operator ALREADY RECEIVING full benefits for backfill rather than paying a full time driver $40+ an hour is cost-effective.

Still waiting.

And waiting.

Posted Tue, Oct 12, 10:56 a.m. Inappropriate

abcs,

Once AGAIN you repeat what you have been repeatedly told to be false. You said (again for some odd reason): "also get a pay raise based on miles driven". That is false. Drivers get no such pay raise or any premium whatsoever for "miles driven". WHY do you keep repeating this complete falsehood? It has no basis in fact. It's false. It ain't true. It's a lie.

Stop that.

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