TriMet continuning to ramp up PR campaign against ATU757

The other day, Portland Transport reported on the Westside Service Enhancement Plan. While wondering about the funding sources for such an ambitious expansion of service, I did take it seriously as a planning activity–and indeed, there are quite a few good ideas in there that I would love to see implemented.

However, in my wonky haste to discuss all the fun parts–I missed this little tidbit at the end:

Additionally, full implementation of the plan is limited until we are able to restructure our employee benefits.

A few readers have suggested that this “plan” is little more than a public relations ploy which TriMet is attempting to use to drum up support for its position in the ongoing contract negotiations–and something to be discarded if and when the agency wins the concessions from the union which it seeks. I have little reason to doubt the good faith and professionalism of TriMet’s planning staff, and it’s commonplace for planning activities to include more than an agency has the ability to pay for (this provides decision-makers with more options to consider). However, when planning documents (and planning outreach materials) come laden with an asterisk, it raises red flags all over the place.

And then a link to this “Save Our Service” page appeared in my inbox–promoting a “Transit Day” event at the state capitol in Salem, at which concerned riders will be invited to–well, it’s not precisely clear what participants in this even will be asked to do, beyond generic types of political activity. But the page in question is chock full of dire warnings, including the recent warning of 70% service cuts in the future, unless “reform” to the union contract happens. (ATU, naturally, disputes these warnings).

At any rate–given that the disagreement is fundamentally over healthcare benefits and costs–union workers aren’t getting richer if they have their way, it’s just that a particular defined benefit (health insurance) has gotten ridiculously more expensive over the years–perhaps reform of this problem would be more productive? After all, the medical industry is claiming an ever-larger share of the economic pie–and everyone else is left fighting over whose own piece will have to shrink as a result. In the private sector, workers have continually gotten the short end of this particular stick. HCR is, of course, a difficult nut to crack–even the modest reforms that made up Obamacare were quite politically costly for the Democrats, and in the current political climate, further reforms are pretty much off the table, at least at a national level. But this, folks, is the real problem–those of us who care about transit, whether as riders or drivers, are right now fighting over scraps.

12 Comments

12 Responses to TriMet continuning to ramp up PR campaign against ATU757

  1. bjcefola
    March 6, 2013 at 5:39 pm Link

    Further health care reform at the national level may be unlikely, but there are more local options.

    At the state level Coordinated Care Organizations may offer more medically and cost effective care. The governor has made no secret of his desire to enroll public employees in them.

    And even closer to home is the Atlantic City option promoted by Steve Novick. That involves bringing providers in house and integrating care to some extent into the workplace.

    None of those options work though if people don’t understand or care about lowering health costs.

  2. dwainedibbly
    March 6, 2013 at 5:53 pm Link

    MediCare for all. Take responsibility for healthcare away from employers so that they don’t have to build those costs into their pricing model.

    (I know. It’ll never happen.)

  3. Al M
    March 6, 2013 at 10:43 pm Link

    This is a 5 star post!

  4. al m
    March 7, 2013 at 12:42 am Link

    Time will inevitably uncover dishonesty and lies; history has no place for them.
    (Norodom Sihanouk)

  5. Jason Barbour
    March 7, 2013 at 10:41 am Link

    Before I believe their “Save our Service” campaign, I’d like TriMet to defend the reasoning behind giving pay increases to administrative executives while publicly claiming “we’re broke”:
    http://rantingsofatrimetbusdriver.blogspot.com/2013/02/top-50-salaries-at-trimet-pork-factory.html

  6. al m
    March 7, 2013 at 12:31 pm Link

    Before I believe their “Save our Service” campaign, I’d like TriMet to defend the reasoning behind giving pay increases to administrative executives while publicly claiming “we’re broke”:

    ~~~>It’s corporate thinking. (blatantly lying is another matter however)
    See austerity is for the masses, austerity does not apply to the executive class.
    It’s just too bad they have a solid lock on the mainstream media. The contrary voice will never be heard by the vast majority of people.

    It’s the world wide movement, Its Greece, Spain, Italy, Scott Walker, Michigan, sequester, personified at Trimet.

    That’s why I battle, this is the hub of the fight for me. I wish I had a better feeling about the outcome, but I just see dark days ahead. They have already stolen 25% of my pension, will steal more, and if I actually get sick I am screwed. The health plan they want to stick to everybody is basically trash.

  7. zefwagner
    March 7, 2013 at 1:05 pm Link

    OK, I totally understand why people are upset that roughly 50 management people make over $100,000 per year and are getting raises. That makes sense. But I can’t help think this is an unhelpful distraction from the scale of the problem. Say they all got their salaries cut to $100,000. That would still (maybe) be enough to attract decent management. Some people like to act like that is still too much, but remember that professional staff generally have to pay 10s of thousands of dollars to get their degrees and have to pay off their loans. If TriMet can’t pay a competitive wage, they will get jobs elsewhere. Many of these people have also been there for decades, and don’t we believe in rewarding long-term service? So anyway, we put a $100,000 ceiling in, but how much would that save? Maybe $1 million per year? That is small beans compared to the whole operating budget and projected shortfall. Let’s just keep it all in perspective–you can’t solve this purely through cutting management salary, any more than you can solve it purely through worker benefits. There need to be cuts all over, unless we can get new revenue.

  8. Cameron J
    March 7, 2013 at 2:08 pm Link

    Zef, the point is that TriMet has repeatedly said they’ve cut everywhere and have frozen non union salaries, when that’s a lie because not only have they not taken even a penny from top management salaries, they’re giving themselves more money in this so-called crisis. If they’re lying about that, then what else are they lying about? We cannot trust them. We cannot trust any news from the source. McFarlane has proven that he is willing to make things worse for everyone while making things better for himself.

  9. Lenny Anderson
    March 7, 2013 at 8:44 pm Link

    Time for ES to do a comparative analysis of management salaries and union pay/benefits; say between TriMet, SF Muni, Seattle Metro, and the Twin Cities public transit. How do things stack up here on upper management salaries and rank & file costs? Please!

  10. al m
    March 7, 2013 at 11:52 pm Link

    There is no excuse for the level of executive salaries ANYWHERE!
    There is no excuse for the CEO’s outrageous salaries anywhere!

    “Talent” my F%$#ING A#$!

    It’s called lets perpetuate a myth so we can keep control of the money and power.

    I can’t believe what I read from what would appear to be intelligent people.

    Completely deluded by the paradigm, hard for me to fathom actually.

  11. zefwagner
    March 8, 2013 at 3:36 pm Link

    I think it would be great to have an independent audit of both TriMet and the ATU. That would clear up a lot of this “he-said she-said” mud-slinging. As for Al’s remarks, what can I say? I think highly-skilled work that requires an expensive education deserves a higher salary. I do think the gap between management and workers at most companies is too large, but I don’t see how that’s the case at TriMet. Plenty of drivers make between $50,000 and $100,000 per year, and so does most management. Both groups have really good benefits compared to private sector. In general, it doesn’t really make sense to focus on the highest-paid and lowest-paid people…I would rather see what the average is for each.

  12. Cameron J
    March 8, 2013 at 3:45 pm Link

    Zef, again, my point is not that TriMet execs earn too much, although I can debate that. It’s that they want the union to lose while they gain. I’d even be happy if TriMet actually enacted its salary and hiring freeze on the upper crust like they said they would instead of giving themselves raises behind the public’s back and lying to them. It’s unbalanced and dishonest, and it’s been happening for years. The paper that I got this from was one a reliable, unbiased acquaintance bought from the TriMet records for over a hundred dollars. It’s not some propaganda we’re pulling out of our hind ends, and it’s certainly not one we’re lying about.

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