Mike Lindblom has the details ($):

[Amalgamated Transit Union members] have overwhelmingly rejected a contract offer to freeze wages for 2014 and 2015, followed by an inflation-indexed raise in 2016.

The count by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587 on Wednesday was 839 yes, 1,595 no — a pass rate of 34.5 percent — to oppose union leaders’ call to accept the offer.

The next step will likely be binding arbitration between the union and the county.

Although by law the union cannot strike, this is probably bad news for riders, as it may put further pressure on Metro’s budget. On the other hand, perhaps the signal that the County is driving a hard bargain with organized labor will appease at least some critics, easing the path to a more general funding solution.

As I’ve argued before, drivers are entirely justified in advocating for themselves, but it’s hard to argue that the interests of riders lie with them in these cases.

60 Replies to “Union Rejects Metro’s Wage Offer”

  1. And given the history in the past several years of the union providing give backs, wage freezes and deferments, and changes in work rules that pit needed crew breaks against schedule pressure, I’m not in the least surprised that the union’s goodwill is exhausted. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that people think the union is only advocating for themselves and not acknowledging what they have done over many years to help Metro.

    It is time that the politicos find a permanent funding solution for transportation. Special levies and transportation districts are not the answer.

    1. Voting down the Seattle transit funding proposition isn’t an answer either.

      Transit has multiple permanent funding sources. But all of them have their ups and downs. There is no magic bullet.

      Transit is far too complex to expect that one or two dedicated funding streams will take care of everything.

  2. If Bob Pishue declares the contract offer “fair and reasonable”, and arbitration leads to a substantially similar contract, will Bob then defend Metro operator wages as “fair and reasonable” the next time a countywide funding proposal is on the ballot, or Metro lobbies for more funding authority before the state legislature?

    1. Hi Brent –

      I said the offer was fair and reasonable because it provided pay raises for public employees and would enable King County leaders to preserve more bus services without raising regressive taxes.

  3. Oh, I don’t know, it doesn’t seem that hard to argue that this is in the interests of the riders. Terrible wages or working conditions can lead someone to just quit. If good drivers quit, then service can suffer. For a lot of routes, the difference between an experienced driver and a rookie is substantial. An experienced driver can maneuver through traffic faster, resolve payment issues faster, and just plain get the rider to the destination in a lot less time. That’s just the obvious stuff. There is also the issue of dispute resolution, as well as simply making people happy to ride the bus (http://www.theurbanist.org/category/the-view-from-nathans-bus/).

    Having a public service union strike is never good. As you said, that won’t happen (it would be illegal). Binding arbitration is a good way to settle this. A judge (or is it a panel, a don’t know) will help determine what is fair. Others may disagree, but I think it is better than simply telling the union to “take one for the team”. Why should they? There may be additional service reductions, but you can’t blame the union members for that. You can blame the county, the county voters and the state.

    1. Just because it’s “illegal”, doesn’t mean it can’t happen. It happens all the time. Teachers are prohibited from striking and yet they do–as they have the personal right to. So what if state law is arcane and anti-union, it doesn’t meant a strike couldn’t happen and cripple the whole Puget Sound.

  4. Because fair wages and benefits are intrinsically at odds with the interest of riders. Save service by driving the general welfare of operators into poverty and slave labour. This is absurd, Martin.

    1. Wages are not necessarily the problem. Part-timers trying to make ends meet until they can go full-time are getting p***ed on by provisions that benefit senior full-timers, especially the part that only full-timers can be offered extra trippers. When the rules push overtime over allowing part-timers to put some more crumbs on the table once in awhile, that is going against public safety, IMHO.

      I’d rather give the drivers their COLAs, and give part-timers first right of refusal on extra trippers. Tired drivers and starving drivers are both less-safe drivers.

    2. I’m going to agree with Stephen’s statement. Union-blaming is not an editorial position I would expect from Seattle Transit Blog. There are a lot of things that limit Metro’s scope and service, but maintaining a decent standard of living for the operators is not one of them.

      1. The Official CPI may say we have low inflation, but as someone who is currently shopping for apartments I can attest that inflation you and I experience has nothing to do with official numbers.

        Check this out… http://www.shadowstats.com/

      2. Official inflation is the across-the-board change in all prices and wages, or the value of the dollar. Individual items will always be higher or lower than that. Basic necessities are usually higher because there’s the most demand for them.

    3. I think it’s absurd to equate a two-year wage freeze in a time of low inflation with “driving operators into poverty and slave labor.”

      I want my bus driver to be paid a fair, living wage. It’s good for bus safety and it’s good for the community. However, the fact is that Seattle has some of the highest-paid operators in the country. These people are some distance from an unfair level of compensation, and freezing their pay for two years will hardly push them over that line.

      1. I think it’s absurd to equate a two-year wage freeze in a time of low inflation with “driving operators into poverty and slave labor.”

        I agree that’s going a bit overboard, but your framing exaggerates in the opposite direction. These drivers live in Puget Sound, where the single greatest cost they’re going to incur–housing–is not experiencing a period of low inflation. For renters, a wage freeze could lead to a substantial reduction in one’s standard of living

      2. What the Seattle Times article doesn’t mention were the serious cuts to drivers’ compensation when off work due to disability or an on the job injury. This was more of an issue than the wage freeze.

    4. Steven, do you think Dow Constantine’s offer is “poverty and slave labor?” If not, cut the hyperbole.

      1. To the degree that it disadvantages part time workers, yes, it is poverty. The fact that the drivers have given many concessions over the past few years should not mean that that is a normal means of operating a transit system. King County needs to find a way to create stable funding sources for our system. It is time King County played hardball with the Legislature. Perhaps sponsor a fiscal home rule initiative that would allow the county to tax its citizens as they see fit.

        As a voter and taxpayer, I’m tired of the games and politics and the death by drip our transit system is enduring. It isn’t the drivers fault.

  5. I think I will throw my 2 cents out there as a Metro Driver and a No Voter. A lot of it is that working conditions have gone straight to hell in the last few years that most passengers are just not aware of.

    First, many of our recovery times have been cut so harshly and our schedules tightened to the point where many of us struggle to do things like use the bathroom. At one of the bases, there is a placard that you can grab where you get your parking assignment to denote that a bus is unsanitary… And no, that unsanitary placard isn’t intended for an unsanitary passenger compartment. Many of us have given up trying to stay hydrated during our shifts because having to go potty is a struggle. I am saying this because it is the reality for so many people driving a very large, very expensive piece of machinery that can kill a lot of people very quickly if things go south.

    Second, we are treated like criminals by our customer complaint system. How would you feel if your boss dragged you back to their office and read you the riot act because you got a complaint from a passenger. Oh, and the complaint clearly isn’t you as it describes someone who looks nothing like you. We can be disciplined for complaints that may or may not even be accurate, by management that has forgotten what it is like to drive a bus in the first place.

    Third, our bosses got a raise. I know most of us are not bitching and moaning about the pay freeze (it was our 6th highest priority in negotiations), but it is hard when you are asked to sacrifice when those who sit in a cozy air conditioned office doing paperwork get a pay raise when then those driving the non air conditioned buses get peanuts.

    Fourth, it was a sense that we give without getting anything back. Our schedules are broken and not likely to improve. Our healths are degrading, injuries are piling up, and many of us are dealing with trauma that is hard for non-drivers to understand. We are always treated as the villains, by many riders, the news (I’m looking at you Seattle Times), and the other drivers on the road.

    The thing is… no matter what drivers do, they will lose. How would you feel if that was the mentality at the location you work?

    1. Kelly, if arbitration will result in an even worse contract, as is predicted, shouldn’t you have voted yes?

      1. Here is the thing… no one can say right now what an arbitrator will say. We were told after the first vote (that went down by higher margins) that we would get sold up the creek in arbitration if we vote no.

      2. “no one can say right now what an arbitrator will say.” According to the linked Times article, your Union is saying what the arbitrator will say. “Union President Paul Bachtel had no comment Thursday on the vote. He and the union’s executive board had predicted arbitration would yield an even worse contract, so they voted 14-2 to recommended the rank-and-file approve the deal.”

      1. Of course. They are mandated to pay dues, too. IIRC, the dues are the same for every member, regardless of their hours or wages, as well as for whichever bargaining unit they are from, even if the wage scale for that bargaining unit is significantly lower. I don’t know if that is a widespread problem, but my union prorates dues based on earnings, which seems the way it ought to be.

        This isn’t a problem with the Metro contract, of course, but with ATU’s own internal rules.

      2. Every King County Metro employee who is a member of local 587 got a vote. This also included Vehicle Maintenance, Facilities Maintenance, Rail (link light rail and streetcar), Supervision (First line supervisors), and many many other classifications that fall under 587’s umbrella.

    2. Kelly, I completely understand your sentiments. However, all those conditions you’ve mentioned, we’ve dealt with for eons. I’m a retired KCM operator who put in 30+ years and retired a decade ago. I started in the 1970s, not too long after Metro was formed, when we had the added burden of having to drive buses with no power steering, no air-ride seats, some even with manual transmissions with no synchromesh, and trolley retrievers that one really needed some physical strength to reset. Some of the buses we had to drive left us physically exhausted after a long shift.

      It was before part-timers but I do remember the “floating blue line” on the extra board where everybody on the board had to do their time on day runs, A-runs, combos, early-quit reliefs, relief runs, etc. depending on where you were under the blue line. They finally designated a “night board” to at least narrow it down somewhat so one could make some plans in advance.

      Schedules even back then were horrendous. I specifically remember an A-run, Sunset/2A, where no matter who was working it, veteran or rookie, never had the chance of “getting out of the seat” as you’d kept getting later and later at each terminal. I learned early on that you MAKE time to go to the bathroom as it wasn’t my fault for running late, whether it meant stopping in route or taking extra time at the terminal to do what I had to do. At that time, it was before they made a list of officially sanctioned restrooms so we had to figure out on our own where to go to the bathroom. In fact, I recall the old-timer I broke in with on that very Sunset Hill line (route 17, 130, and 132) “teaching” me to urinate out the crack in the back door at the lay over at Loyal and View. I always wondered why the neighbors put up with that as they had to know what was going on …especially on a hot summer day.

      The CAO situation sounds as if it hasn’t changed that much in those 40-years either. I remember a complaint being put in my file that was so ridiculous that I was laughing as I was being reprimanded. First, just like you mentioned, the description didn’t even exactly fit, and second, the complaint stated that I was speeding –complainant stated that she observed the speedometer reading over 90 MPH– down the hill on Market Street coming into Ballard. I tried to explain to the Assistant Stationmaster (equivalent to a what is now a Base Chief), that the person complaining had to be looking at the air pressure gauge as it was the farthest gauge to the right on the instrument panel on the 200-series coach I was driving. Geez, he put it in my file anyway saying that “well, we still need to document this” …really?

      But at any rate, yes, things have changed in the past 40-years but at the same time, they haven’t. I’m with you, Kelly. I voted no on may Tentative Agreements that the Officers and Executive Board recommended accepting …just because.

      1. Yes, it’s always been worse in the past. Deep snow, up hill both directions, manual transmissions, black and white television, etc. That’s why things MUST get better in the future. Or do you intend to deny the right of this generation’s operators to bitch and moan to the next?

      2. Chris, no, I really didn’t intend for it to sound that way. It obviously did. My intention was not to rub that fact in Kelly’s face and I apologize because you’re right, that’s what I did. I didn’t think before writing that diatribe. It was something I should have kept to myself because even though many things about being a transit operator have improved, it was odd to me that the underlying factors have not changed at all.

        I did support Kelly’s decision to vote “no” on the contract. As said, I voted no on just about every contract because of those very things that he/she is now citing. I’ll keep quiet now. I’m old and decrepit and debated about participating here. True, it wasn’t a productive post at all.

    3. Kelly, thanks for the report on your grievances. With luck some or all of them will be resolved.

  6. Martin, I’ll stop considering your position that lower wages for workers equal benefits to companies and customers as sanctimonious self-serving crap if you’ll answer a couple of questions for me?

    If workers such as transit drivers best serve the public better by accepting lower wages, why are managers. especially CEO’s, so adamant that the higher wages are for top management, the better service the organization and its customers, in this case passengers, get?

    Indeed, at top wage levels, whether for bosses or ballplayers, people are routinely hired who openly state that if they accept lower compensation, it’s points against them. Why shouldn’t every worker in the organization take the same position?

    However, my very many years in every seat on transit vehicles from the one comfortable one to all the rest tell me it’s not only legitimate but desperately critical for operating personnel to consider improved training, equipment, and working conditions to be the same as money itself. Knees, necks, and backs can’t be bought, or death by stoke repaid.

    Also best to consider every passenger to be a potential ally and political supporter, rather than a likely thief or a cargo less desirable than logs, steel, pizzas or poultry dead or alive. And remember that every rush hour minute you hold a crush-loaded northbound bus at Westlake while you argue fares with a wino is a minute shorter bathroom break for you.

    Mark Dublin, formerly 2495. Like the song says: “When I come down I had a number for my name…”

    1. Managers are exercising their right, just as workers are, to make the best possible case for a raise. It is not in the interest of riders for drivers or managers to make much above a competitive wage.

      I also explicitly did not ask or expect drivers to “take one for the team.”

  7. I think bus drivers deserve a decent wage and to be repeated with respect, and that doing that improves service for everyone.

    The response to complaints that part-timers are getting screwed and that there’s not enough money is to 1) be fair about compensation between drivers and administrators as long as times are tight; 2) fight for more money for the whole system. The response to complaints that drivers have it good compared to the average worker is to improve things for the average worker instead of rushing to the lowest common denominator. If we want to single out a party for blame, try anti-transit politicians and car-dependent voters who can’t see why improving transit helps them even if they never get on a bus or ride a train. Drivers and passengers are natural allies, and there’s no way we get better transit funding by making this even an optional us vs. them issue.

    1. I don’t mean to blame full-timers, but a contract that pits two groups of workers against each other is going to start out with a whole lot of No votes from the disempowered group from the get-go, as it should. A good contract should have something in it for every voting member, and avoid two-tier systems as much as possible. What did the part-timers gain in these negotiaions besides a pay freeze and worse working conditions?

      Management and the union can share the blame for pushing the overtime nonsense, since it was one of those poorly-thought-out suggestions from an audit. But since management represents the taxpayers, my job is to convince management to *ask* to remove the prohibition on extra trippers for part-timers and to ask that overtime control trump seniority when offering up extra trippers. Until they ask, the union is unlikely to.

      1. Like just about everything that has been wrong in this region’s transit for the last thirty years, Local 587’s ongoing division between full-time and part-time drivers results very much from an absence of the overarching political leadership, union and civic, that unity requires.

        But I think it would help if everyone outside the transit operating trade understood how different everyday life is between full and part-time transit work.

        In a real-life future, the crew of the Starship Enterprise would recognize the working life of a full time driver- except without the diversion of their officers frequently turning into Wyatt Earp. Similar different “space-time continuum” from rest of humanity really does create a planet with an alien cast.

        For the first ten years’ service, a normal family life is just about impossible. Weekends start out being, for example,Tuesday and Wednesday, guaranteeing two full-time shifts every weekend. Work schedule, along with routes driven, is almost certain to change three times per year. Since place in line for the choice goes by seniority, in their least experienced years every full-time driver has a much more disrupted life than a part-time of equal seniority.

        Remember that in this work, 61-seconds late for work a very few times will get you fired. And in general, time off, even for normal family occasions, is at the company’s discretion and very hard to get.

        Also, while a part-time driver generally drives the same route and run every day, the average full-time week can include five separate routes and work-times. Some appreciate the variety. But an unstable sleep schedule always does medical damage. Captors often gather information this way, but Geneva Conventions require water-boarding instead.

        Also, after eons of life as extremely active monkeys, human frames have not yet evolved to sit for eight to ten hours subject to constant lurching and shaking. While engineers evolved even more recently, the creatures really should by this time have gained the ability to position an accelerator pedal so it doesn’t destroy its user’s knee joint.

        Readers personally acquainted with drivers, notice the physical condition of drivers of similar age and seniority in both divisions. Switch from part to full time almost always brings an unhealthy change of both general appearance and body weight.

        After all this time, Local 587 should really be able to remove these issues that have divided the membership for so long. But by now, the average driver’s work shift should have long been around six hours per day, five days a week. And mandatory vacation starting with four weeks per year. With pay high enough that overtime will not be missed when it’s forbidden, as it should be.

        The improvements in safety and efficiency, and the plummeting health costs, will more than pay for these changes.

        Mark Dublin

      2. Also, after eons of life as extremely active monkeys, human frames have not yet evolved to sit for eight to ten hours subject to constant lurching and shaking. While engineers evolved even more recently, the creatures really should by this time have gained the ability to position an accelerator pedal so it doesn’t destroy its user’s knee joint.

        This is a very good reason (one of several) to oppose the rule that full timers get privileged access to overtime relative to part-timers.

      3. Given the kinds of egregious operator behavior that seem to go entirely unpunished — e.g., the middle-aged 44-43 driver who operates in the evenings, with no shortage of recovery time, but who can’t be bothered EVER to leave his terminal any less than 10 minutes late, and who drives extra-slowly so as to have extra time to inappropriately flirt with every young female who boards — I find it virtually impossible to believe anyone at Metro has ever gotten fired for being “61 seconds” late to anywhere.

        Any union that values the job sanctity of its worst members more than the well-being of its competent ones, be it the cops’ union or the drivers’, does not deserve the deference of a public that suffers from their actions.

      4. The law looks askance at drivers cuting short their lunch time, and their Commercial Driver’s Licence could be jeopardized.

        Metro operates under the Reasonable d.p.’s standard. If you find the behavior unwelcome, and report it, the operator will get talked to by his/her supervisor.

        Or, just tell the driver you don’t feel comfortable the way they are talking to you, and, very likely, they will stop flirting with you.

      5. Though I long ago realized that reporting drivers’ callous disregard for their very reason to exist was a pointless endeavor — who cares what goes in the “permanent file”, when no one ever gets fired for any reason? — this driver’s behavior was reprehensible enough that I did, in fact, place a post-facto daytime call to report it.

        The first night, he left downtown 22 minutes late on the 43. The next night, 12 minutes late from the Ballard Locks. 10:00 one time, 8:30 the other. Neither “lunch break” nor “traffic” had the slightest to do with it.

        The guy simply doesn’t give a shit about his role in making mobility function. Driving the bus is his flirtalicious human entertainment.

        The public should give just as much deference to the employment needs (and the union representation) of this asshole as it should to a cop who abuses authority or treats his civilian protectees as the enemy.

        Public-sector unions have earned the public’s generalized distrust through active hostility toward the idea that their members’ jobs exist to serve the public good.

  8. decent wage

    What constitutes decent wage ? Can someone enlighten me? Is a decent wage pay that allows someone to own a SFH within Madrona? …or rent of an apodment in Cap Hill? …or perhaps a cookie cutter within a subdivision in Arlington? The decent wage argument is as vague and nebulous as sustainability . It’s relative.

    When I look at the KC DOT Pay , I find that (starting on page 83) the highest paid bus driver earned $142k. Many others earned well north of $75k….far North of what many in this region make on a regular basis. So…the statement that many drivers eat paltry meals and live in squalor is nutty. I haven’t seen a pay increase in years (2007).

    1. Well, Charlotte, I think writer Michael Harrington’s definition of poverty has some bearing here: being unable to participate as a citizen for lack of money. Another important definition comes with the term “Mensch.”

      Yiddish is the language of the Northern European Jews. It arose from the German language centuries ago, and stayed very close to the German of that era as the Jews were forced into ghettos and separated from German society. But in Yiddish every word carries a wealth of additional meaning- a very common form of code in circumstances where the authorities’ literal understanding is fatal.

      Literally, a mensch is a man. But in Yiddish, the term absolutely always includes traits like kindness, fairness, humor and generosity, backed by hard work, bravery, and strength used in the service of others.
      Very close to the average definition of “decent.”

      So a good understanding of the meaning of a decent wage is the ability of people to earn, by their own honest and intelligent labor, enough money that their natural habit is to do, and be, all the things implied by the old Yiddish word.

      Which, like the Rights of Man, has always been understood to include women, girls, and though it’s sometimes hard to see it right away- boys.

      Mark Dublin

    2. How many out of 3000+ personnel make that kind of money Charlotte? Don’t base your assessment of fair wages on those few who through seniority and/or creative working the system have managed to make a good living.

      And to me, fair compensation for a bus driver who is responsible for a 1/2 million dollar vehicle (or multi-million dollar rail vehicle) and the lives of hundreds of people, is solid middle class wages that they can indeed buy a house and send their kids to college and still save some money. For a full time driver, that probably should be around $60-70K. Just because you or I might not make that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen.

    3. If we are going to discuss a “decent wage”, can someone please enlighten me as to how much a “typical” bus operator makes? Yeah, yeah. We always seem to hear about the guy who got all the OT and made $142k. And I’m willing to bet that, statistically, the driver who drove me to work doesn’t make $75k/year.

      So my question: How much DOES that typical operator make?

      1. I don’t believe there is a “typical” driver. As you know, there are so many odd work schedules a transit operator can work. Each run or pieces of runs are all different lengths of time. As the Times article stated, if a transit operator at top scale works exactly a 40-hour work week for the entire year, they would make about $63,000 a year: $62,836.80 to be exact assuming a $10.21/hr wage at 2,080 hours per year (bi-weekly = 80 hours x 26 pay periods in a year).

        However, no transit operator will typically work exactly a 40-hour week. Yes, if an operator has the seniority to pick a run that pays exactly 8-hours and works that run every work day for the entire year without putting in for any overtime because of traffic or other reasons, that operator would theoretically make that $62,836.80. But that does not take into consideration how that operator will take paid holidays and other perks and/or cash outs associated with the job. I would venture to guess that no operator made exactly that $62,836.80.

        There are so many variables on how much an operator gets paid. There are other “extras” such as spread time for combos and tripper combos, FLSA pay for record keeping tasks …accident reports, etc. And daily overtime when arriving late at the base because of traffic, etc. –just to name a few.

        And yes, there are those who purposely pick shifts that will have the potential to make a lot of overtime, specifically those which are referred to as “Report” shifts. Those are picked by seniority by full-time operators mainly who want to make overtime. I worked a prime “Report” shift during my last few years before retirement for the specific purpose of making as much as I could for the state retirement calculation. I happened to have made over $130k my last year on the job working one of the prime “Report” shifts plus working as many of my days off as possible but that was a decade ago so it reflected even more hours than what that figure reflects today because i was making less per hour than an operator is today.

        The driver who drove you to work during the rush hour could very possibly be a part-timer (a very good chance that they are) who may not be at top scale and who may only be working three hours a day (minimum pay used to be 2.5 hours …not sure if that is still the case or not). That operator could possibly be making less than $15,000 per year.

        So yes, there are those making $142k or more a year (very few) but some making less than $15,000 per year. There is just not a “typical” amount that a transit operator makes.

      2. An operator making only 15,000 a year is probably only doing one or two peak runs a day. Hardly a full time job. The real question is what’s the median wage among operators who work enough that we should reasonably expect that their employment with Metro provides the substantial majority of their income.

        It’s worth noting that operators working a standard 50 hour work week — at least that seems to be the _minimum_ work week expected for well paying salaried jobs in the area — will make over $80,000. So I’m perfectly happy to say that I’m not terribly impressed by claims that a lack of COL increases is forcing drivers into destitution.

      3. The only reason I suggested using that range is that many part-timers are in fact trying to raise a family on the income from the job while they are waiting in the seniority queue to become full-time. I know of many part-timers who find it difficult to work another job as they are waiting to go full-time at Metro (mostly because the majority of the available rush-hour work at the transit agency is in the late afternoon and effectively makes it difficult trying to work full time elsewhere).

        You may be correct in your contention that the lack of a COLA is not going to force a full-time driver into destitution. However, the importance of a COLA is deeper in its meaning that just the short-term several cents an hour increase in the hourly wage. During my time with them, the COLA was the only way we could keep relatively close to the rate of inflation as there was not an actual “pay increase” or a general raise in wages for years and years.

        We’ve established that the minimum gross yearly income for a full-time transit operator at top scale is $62,836.80. That can be compared to a staff person at King County working 40-hours per week, getting holidays off, and making the same wage (assuming $30.12/hour). From this, we can surmise that the “median” income for the full-time operator is substantially higher than the $62,836.80 figure. So yes, perhaps $80,000 as a median may be getting close but my guess would be slightly lower.

        The Seattle metropolitan area median household income for 2012 was $65,677. Therefore we know that the full-time bus driver who works no overtime and doesn’t earn a bit of extraneous income is going to be under the median Seattle area household income but their median income as a group will obviously be over the general median income for the area.

        This being said, I contend that Metro bus drivers are not being tremendously overpaid in comparison with other Puget Sound area workers. I say this especially in light of the hideous working conditions that bus drivers must prevail through if comparing. How many other workers must plan when they go to the bathroom during the day, or do not have officially scheduled breaks or lunch periods, or have highly irregular hours for the lower-seniority with difficulty getting days off or making plans in advance outside of work, or experience a much higher level of stress than the vast majority of professions which result in more health problems and earlier death rates than the average person? Yes, one doesn’t need a college degree to drive a bus but neither does the driver who picks up our garbage …and at the end of their current contract will be making a median yearly income of almost $100,000 (with overtime) with less stress than the average transit operator experiences …is the safety of our garbage being transported around the city more important than our own safety as we are transported to and from work?

      4. Thank you for that explanation. Just a gut reaction, as I am not directly involved in the bus business*, other than having a interesting in the workings of transit. But it seems that what a full-time bus operator is making isn’t out of line with what I picture what a person driving a bus around in Seattle traffic should be making. Especially given the realities of the cost of living in the Seattle area. I understand that many drivers are working more like 50 hours than 40 — and it doesn’t seem unreasonable to compensate them for that extra work.

        Given the level of training involved and the responsibility that comes with the position, it doesn’t seem that any “gains” that might be made by holding or cutting drivers pay is going to make enough difference to the agency to compensate for the effects of lower morale or a lower quality of service. Unless, of course, you’re one of those folks who think that cutting transit services would somehow save them money in the long run.

        *(But I am quite involved in a business that indirectly involves transit…)

      5. Hi Cascadia Bryan. I’ll try to explain a few things about the process in general terms but in reality, it actually has many more intricacies.

        First, a full-time transit operator has what is referred to as an “Eight Hour Guarantee.” This means even if they work what they are assigned and it is under eight hours, they get paid for eight hours. Full-time operators can either pick their own work (work the exact same shifts on a weekly basis) or pick an extra board position (the aforementioned “Report” position is a hybrid assignment picked by seniority that is a combination of a picked assignment and an extra board position …a “Report” operator picks a predetermined time of day they “report” to work to be on what can be described as a “standby” position where they can be assigned work at a moments’ notice to fill in where needed for a variety of reasons).

        Picking their own work: By seniority, an operator can choose to work the same or different runs each day of the week with set days off. Each run is “pre-cut” and has a predetermined time it pays. It has a set “report time” or time it starts paying time and a set “off time” or where it stops paying time. A run can be cut to pay under of over eight hours. Even though the goal may be to “cut” a run to as close to eight hours as possible (for absolute efficiency), typically, a run will be over eight hours …usually within 60-minutes of being over eight hours but some could be nine or a few minutes over that. If a run is under eight hours, it still pays eight. If a run is over eight hours, it will pay overtime at time-and-a-half for the time over eight hours. Very few (if any) runs will be (or can be ) cut to exactly eight hours. If any operator arrives at the base after the time that the run is predetermined to stop paying, that operator can put in for additional overtime (at time-and-a-half) and reasons for being past the “arrive at base time off” can vary but most likely will be for traffic conditions that are beyond the operator’s control.

        Full time picked assignments can also be what are referred to as “combos” or split shifts. These are two or three pieces of work that constitute a full-time work assignment for the day. These are, again, pre-cut and their pay times are predetermined ahead of time. Some, if not most, of these combo assignments pay a small extra stipend called “spread time” that gives a small compensation for working a spread over 10 1/2 hours within the maximum full-time operator’s spread. An operator working a combo obviously will be spending up to 12 1/2 hours to fulfill their eight hour guarantee.

        Full Time Extra board operators: These operators pick the “board” either by choice or forced to by low seniority and are subject to have a different assignment each day. The type of work assigned to them each day will depend largely on what position they hold on the extra board. Again, they may be assigned two small pieces of work which may only make one trip in the AM rush and one trip in the PM rush that fit within a 13-hour spread and that operator may be on the road for only four or five hours with a huge split in the middle but will get paid for 8-hours for that day regardless. Another operator on the “board” may work a nine hour run, for example, and then get assigned a 2-hour additional trip after (or before) completing the nine hour run. This operator will make three hours of overtime for the assignment that day …and even more if they come in late because of traffic, etc. An extra board operator is required to be available to work a 13-hour spread each day …therefore, an operator may have to tie up 13-hours of their day to make their 8-hours of pay that day. I believe such a requirement –to be available for 13-hours in order to get paid for eight– is exclusive to the transit industry.

        So, if you’re still following this, you can see where the typical full time operator will definitely be working or will be getting paid for more than a 40-hour week …unless they are lucky enough or have the seniority to pick a 7-hour and 47-minute run each day, for example, where they never have to put in for overtime for any reason –then, yes, that operator will work a paid 40-hour week. However, this is definitely not the norm and in fact would be an anomaly.

        Conclusion: yes, the vast majority of full-time operators will work over 40-hours a week but most will spend more time away from home and their family for the supposed “50-hour week” than the almost anybody else in the workforce putting in the same paid 50-hour work week.

        The above descriptions do not address the part-time classification of transit operator nor rail operators. Not described is any 4/40 shift. Also, I may have a few details wrong or some may be out-of-date as I’ve been away from it for some time (I retired about a decade ago from putting in 30+ years as a full-time operator). I welcome anybody to correct any errors I made but my point in posting this is to shed some light on why the majority of full-time transit operators are putting in more than 40-hours per week (many probably not by choice) and also the reasoning why they should get paid for any extra hours over and above 40-hours per week that they may work.

  9. The solution is to get rid of drivers altogether and the have buses driven by robots. No unions, no health insurance, no bathroom breaks between runs, and they can work up to 24 hours a day, without complaint.

    1. Of course, this system also requires a huge staff of robot mechanics to fix the bus driving robots when they break down, and another layer of robots to fix the repair robots, and when those break down…..think of a bar with mirrors for walls, reflecting each other down a visual hallway to Eternity.

      And the TS Elliot poem will have to be revised to read: …..this is the way the World ends: not with a bang, or a whimper, but a screech, a clank, a clunk, a sproing and any future sound effects that Ramtha can channel from Don Martin the afterlife.

      With everybody on the project except JZ Knight making 142K.


  10. I’ve been away and conspiciously absent from this debate…. on purpose.

    But I sure hope the arbitrator puts more focus on improving working conditions than wages.

    Why if I read the above correctly: More pay either from an arbitrator or jacking up regressive taxes will not fix s–t for a workplace and one of these days if the comments above are true somebody – or perhaps an entire busload or more – is going to get killed because of it! Fix the working conditions already and let these drivers/operators get the breaks they need to take – plus cut down on using part-timers!

  11. Unfortunately, public service unions are quick to appeal to threats to public safety when their contracts come up, but are rarely willing to back these claims up with hard evidence. And once they have their loot, they go back to ensuring that their members never face any consequences for dangerous on the job behavior. What happened to the LINK driver who decided that it was okay to drive her drain with the doors open? They long ago gave up their right to be taken seriously on this issue.

    Can anyone remind me again how many people died when Reagan called PATCO’s bluff and fired the lot of them?

    1. Yes, there’s safety. There is also skill. And there is getting the job done as efficiently as possible.

      I can drive a car. I can probably figure out how to drive a bus. And I could probably get that bus from here to Downtown without hitting something or killing anyone. Of course, if you would like me to do all of that AND keep the bus on schedule, well, you’d be out of luck there. Oh, and you wanted me to do that with the distraction of passengers on the bus?

      Yes, I believe that you could probably convince someone to drive the bus for $12.00/hour. And I would be really hesitant to ride the bus that was driven by someone willing to do this job for that wage. And, while it might be that no one dies, I think that you will lose in the long run in lack of efficiency.

      And now that you mention it, I could be an air traffic controller, too! But would you want me doing that??

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