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Strike News from the Conservative Spin Room

Matt “Jubal” Cunningham at Red County/OCBlog posted this Tuesday and I’ve got to say this is one of his best twists of the truth ever.  

Teamsters Unfair To Newer Bus Drivers

Steve Greenhut blogged this excellent post on Orange Punch a short time ago:

Forty percent of OCTA’s Teamsters bus drivers need to be wondering why they are out on the picket lines, given that the union is insisting that ALL the pay increases go only to senior drivers. The union’s 60 percent of drivers who have been on the job for more than five years already get the best routes and the best hours. They want OCTA to give them even more pay and benefits, and these union leaders are perfectly happy that the younger drivers get nada.

You can read the rest of Steve’s post here.

For the record, Steven Greenhut doesn’t know what he is talking about, and obviously Cunningham is just sucking this stuff up faster than Greenhut can type.  Talk about your misrepresentation of the facts.  If any of Greenhut’s claims were true, he should be able to show us the documentation that led him to his conclusion.  God knows I’d love to see it. At a minimum, his claims are framed outside the context of the conversation specifically to support the OCTA position and distort reality to make the union position appear unreasonable.

The issue is that OCTA wants to increase the entry level wage for new drivers in an attempt to address retention issues while NOT providing an equitable increase to senior drivers who have previously taken no increase in order to bring the salaries of the newer drivers closer to theirs.  The problem of retention however is not a problem of money; it is a problem of working conditions that OCTA simply refuses to address or negotiate on. Throwing more money at newer drivers will not solve those issues.  OCTA management and the Board know this and now Greenhut and Cunningham are using it as a Red Herring argument in a hopeless attempt to distract readers from the real issues in dispute.

There is currently a multi-tier system of pay for OCTA coach operators, a relic of the Republican response to the County bankruptcy.  A couple contracts ago the senior coach operators took no pay increase to fund increases for the less senior drivers. Gradually, the less experienced operators have had their pay scale move closer to the scale of the more senior operators.  In fact, the drivers with less experience have received salary increases every six months, while the senior drivers have only received an increase once a year. The discussions this time around are not about short-changing less experienced operators; rather they are about more evenly distributing wage increases now that scales are closer in line with each other.

But as usual, Greenhut bought the party line of the OCTA Board Chair Carolyn Cavecche rather than checking the facts and now Matt Cunningham has simply reposted it on OC Blog along with the usual mantra of “the Free Market is the answer to all ills.” 

Matt writes;

Scarcity of transit options is a government-created shortage — the result of a regulatory regime that makes it difficult for entrepreneurs to create a genuine transit marketplace in which people who don’t own cars are hosed if the government transit monopoly shuts down.

If such a transit market existed, the OCTA bus drivers union would be much less likely to call a strike because bus riders would have alternatives and a strike wouldn’t be nearly as destructive — and it’s that pain the union is counting to force the OCTA Board of Directors to capitulate.

For now, the OCTA Board needs to stand fast and bring the Teamsters to heel. In the long run, this episode illustrates the importance of allowing the free market in transit to develop.

OCTA Board needs to stand fast and bring the Teamsters to heel?  Who the heck does Cunningham think he is?  The men and women of Teamsters Local 952 are not dogs that should be brought to heel.  They are dedicated and hard working people who work full shifts without the benefit of a lunch break or rest break. They are public servants providing a valuable public service.  Matt, how dare you compare them to dogs.

The fact of the matter is that public transportation is a public service and should not be run based upon the principles of an unregulated profit motivated business model.  The clear indication of this is the fact that OCTA cannot even manage its contract with the lowest bidder for the ACCESS van transport services Veolia Transportation Services.  It is clear, even for Carole Cavecche, that this “free market” vendor s unable to do the job effectively.

From the Orange County Register March 26, 2007:

Orange County Transportation Authority board members expressed their frustration with Veolia Transportation Services, which for a year has had trouble meeting performance standards and has repeatedly received complaints from customers.

“You thumbed your nose at this county,” said Chairwoman Carolyn Cavecche, who had previously urged the board to hire another contractor. “If I could cut the contract and get you out of the county, I would.”

So I’ve got to ask, is this really evidence of free market success?  Is this really what we want to strive for?  I think NOT!!!

There is an inherent problem with classifying public services within the frame of unregulated for profit enterprise (Free Market).  The objective of for profit enterprise is to produce the greatest amount of profit, by providing the least amount of service at the lowest cost.  That runs contrary to what a public service like public transportation is supposed to be all about. The objective for a public service is to provide the optimum amount of service to meet the need. Controlling the cost of meeting that need is a secondary concern not the primary one.

Like with public safety; we do not, or at least we should not, determine the staffing of a fire department, or the number of stations and personnel assigned to them based upon cost.  We base that decision upon what will best meet the public need, and then we figure out the best way to pay for it.  I am sure that most people would strongly object to the fire station in their neighborhood being closed because it doesn’t make business sense.

Or better yet, try explaining to your family that your house had to burn to the ground because the fire station that was closer had to be closed because the free market contractor decided it wasn’t profitable, and it took an extra 15 minutes for the fire truck to find your house.

The neo-con belief that government services are best delivered by for profit contractors is a myth.  It is also a myth that the best model for the management of government services is a business model.

You gotta love it though, no matter what these guys stay on message.