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Beginning March 1st, Twin Cities Metro Transit bus driver, Jim Jeffries, provides a daily journal of commentary concerning the bus driver strike and need for community support. Also includes an easy way to message elected representatives.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

(Revised)
Another important reason for the strike -

There are now a significant number of legislators in the MN House of Representatives, who along with Governor Pawlenty truly believe that mass transit is a waste of money. These representatives, now with the added power of the governor's office, have been able to substantially decrease funding to our bus system. They believe that it would be far more productive to build roads with any mass transit dollars they can get their hands on.

Why do they vote this way? One theory is that all of these Senators, Representatives and the Governor are captive to the desires of the Minnesota Taxpayers League and that they are captive because of campaign contribution bribes previously accepted. I do wonder how elected managers/decision makers, such as the governor, could ever have taken a MN Taxpayer League pledge to not raise any taxes including the ancient gas tax. Yet that's what they and he did. On the New York Stock Exchange or the NASDAQ would any of you feel good about investing in a company whose CEO had pledged never to raise prices? I can't help but feel that these elected officials and the governor have been recruited and employed by this wealthy, single issue, ultra-right wing, verging on Nazism group disguising themselves as simple conservatives to the detriment of the majority of MN citizens.

So where are you in this argument? I would offer that it is far too costly to continue to try to enlarge current metro freeways by widening bridges and buying homes and buildings through condemnation. Adding roads further out from the downtowns is less costly and necessary, but they too will quickly become congested within 5 years at the most and then we're back to the cost of widening them after development has occurred around them. The solution to the congestion after a highway has been built is the bus. The reason is simple, the cost per passenger mile is lowest with buses. When you consider the cost of road construction, plus road maintenance, plus fuel, plus cost of operation for both buses and cars and then divide by the number miles traveled times each passenger, the bus wins easily every time. The idea is to build the best original road we can afford and then use that road in the most efficient way possible to lower the cost to society. This is why all great cities subsidize a mass transit system. Duh. Will Minneapolis/St. Paul continue to remain one of the great cities, or become a regional "also ran" like Kansas City and Cleveland because a powerful lobby, the MN Taxpayer League, has its way with us and is able to deprive us of valuable infrastructure?

The governor has offered to install a system whereby one highway lane would be reserved for those able to pay a toll. Those who couldn't afford the toll would be crowed into the other lanes. Those who could afford the toll would use the free lanes until they became congested and then pay their way out. This is the old elitist philosophy of "everyone for themselves." Minnesota does seem to be moving toward this more and more, however, with increasingly higher and higher fees for public parks, school extracurricular activities, college education and spectator sporting events. "If you can't pay, you can't play." The best example of this I'm aware of is in Chile which, although probably the best model of democracy in South and Latin America, offers chess instruction in parks to it's youth. There are an abundance of instructors and all that's required by the youth to learn this great game, is the payment of a fee each day. This is just the opposite of what made MN into probably the premier state in the country.

The governor, through Met Council chair Peter Bell, keeps saying there is simply not enough money to fund 100% of our current system as it is, but that's really a smoke screen. What there is not enough of, is priority to mass transit.

Thursday I'll reprint an article from Saturday's New York Times about the transit problem in Connecticut. It's an example of what can happen when a state makes incorrect long term transit choices.

Friday I hope to answer questions I have been asked, while picketing downtown, by a few intellectually curious lawyers who question the value of our strike and who wanted to know the exact numbers about our substantial increase in healthcare premiums the state is demanding of us plus what we gave up historically to obtain the good health plan we have but which is now in jeopardy.

Saturday or Sunday I will finally get to some of the awful, heartwrenching stories I hear everyday while picketing in downtown Minneapolis. These are about no transit, no job, no home, no kids, no life.

Please send one or two sentence messages to:
Your governor and my boss - Tim Pawlenty
(651) 296-3391
Senator Steve Murphy, powerful chair of the Senate Transportation Committee
(651) 296-4264
Your state senator and representative
(651) 296-2146

Pass along this blog address www.tcmetro.blogspot.com
The union cannot succeed without great citizen support.
We need to get 10s of thousands of messages to our elected leaders!

Jim Jeffries

Monday, March 29, 2004

Here is the latest from the Associated Press about another transit labor negotiation. I don't think this compares with the Met Council's Metro Transit difficulties because Laidlaw/Greyhound primarily operates far easier inter-city routes lacking the high multi-tasking, high stress of our major metro routes. Nonetheless, it does appear that the workers were able to offset healthcare and some other expenses with their wage increase and keep from losing their standard of living.

DALLAS - Drivers and mechanics have approved a new contract with Greyhound Lines Inc., the bus company said.

Under the contract, employees will get a 2 percent wage increase in 2006 and an increase in the company's contribution to the health and welfare plan. The increases are almost completely offset by other contract modifications, the company said.

The contract was ratified Friday by the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents nearly 4,400 workers, including drivers and about half of the company's mechanics.

The new deal was to take effect Saturday and expire on Jan. 31, 2007.

Greyhound president and chief executive Stephen E. Gorman said the ratification was good news for the bus company and employees.

"Over the past months, we have taken numerous steps to stabilize the company," Gorman said. "This contract is another, important step toward securing our future."

Greyhound generates about $1 billion in annual revenue but often lost money for parent Laidlaw International Inc., based in Naperville, Ill., which emerged from bankruptcy last June after paying creditors $1.2 billion in cash and almost all of its common stock.

Union President Greg Herbold of Carson City, Nev. said the membership hopes Greyhound can recover from its recent financial problems.

"They understand that Greyhound is not doing as well as it might and felt this (ratifying the contract) was better than a strike," he said.

In October, Greyhound cut about 300 administrative and management jobs, blaming falling revenue and higher costs due to a weak economy. Over the past two years, the company has also cut runs on some routes and reduced staff at some stations, and it changed CEOs last June.

Please send one or two sentence messages to:
Your governor and my boss - Tim Pawlenty
(651) 296-3391
Senator Steve Murphy, powerful chair of the Senate Transportation Committee
(651) 296-4264
Your state senator and representative
(651) 296-2146

Pass along this blog address www.tcmetro.blogspot.com
The union cannot succeed without great citizen support.
We need to get 10s of thousands of messages to our elected leaders!

Jim Jeffries

Sunday, March 28, 2004

One important cause for the strike.

This strike is about a forced decrease in driver and mechanic standard of livings due to the failure of our governmental leaders to do anything substantial to solve the very long standing problem of healthcare inflation and cost escalation. Our leaders need to be held accountable for that failure, but that can only occur on election day.

Today on KSTC's cable channel 12 program At Issue, former Minnesota senator Dave Durenberger, now Chair of the Minnesota Citizens Forum on Health Care Costs, revealed his main recommendation to contain costs. He advised that if the system were to operate faster, cheaper and better, we could save 20%. OK, I'll take it. Go do it Dave, Governor Pawlenty and President Bush. Between now and the time when our leaders achieve this 20%, it would be nice if the whole state community of 5 million souls temporarily suffered the pain together instead of only us 2200 workers individually. We have an American motto "E Pluribus Unum" - One For All. This means that when Americans have a problem, they face it and suffer it together. The motto could be "everyone for themselves," but it isn't. We therefore should let the bipartisan coalition of 10 state senators and representatives who want to move $13 million into the MN mass transit fund have their way and end the strike until achievement of the referenced 20% occurs.

Please send one or two sentence messages to:
Your governor and my boss - Tim Pawlenty
(651) 296-3391
Senator Steve Murphy, powerful chair of the Senate Transportation Committee
(651) 296-4264
Your state senator and representative
(651) 296-2146

Pass along this blog address www.tcmetro.blogspot.com
The union cannot succeed without great citizen support.
We need to get 10s of thousands of messages to our elected leaders!

Jim Jeffries

Friday, March 26, 2004

Seems awhile since I last wrote. I have many more stories, but I think we've come to a fork in the road. We either make this blog produce a result, or I find some other way to spend my time.

This column gets 50 to 100 hits per day. We need a solid 1000 hits per day and we need each hit to generate an email to the governor, each citizen's state representative and senator and the senate transportation committee chair every day.

To be effective, each of you blog readers needs to not only give this blog address to 10 of your acquaintances but further have each of those follow thru and email their 4 elected officials every day. This is enormously hard to accomplish. Nontheless, this is what we need to do or else write off the high end metropolitan bus system we currently enjoy.

I was once an awarded Boy Scout leader. The Boy Scouts are about what you do more than what you say. I now need you readers to become doers by contacting your representatives each and every day.

Please send one or two sentence messages to:
Your governor and my boss - Tim Pawlenty
(651) 296-3391
Senator Steve Murphy, powerful chair of the Senate Transportation Committee
(651) 296-4264
Your state senator and representative
(651) 296-2146

Pass along this blog address www.tcmetro.blogspot.com
The union cannot succeed without great citizen support.
We need to get 10s of thousands of messages to our elected leaders!

Jim Jeffries

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Today I received important constructive criticism which I must share -

JFitzgibbon wrote to me:

> On March 7 you wrote,
>
> "Our transportation bright spot is Metro Transit, an
> agency that previous administrations -- Democrat,
> Republican and Independent -- have built into a
> high-performing organization that delivers one of
> the most cost-effective transportation services in
> the nation. Indeed, Metro Transit consistently ranks
> at the top of the nation in efficiency, it has
> restructured its routes to be more cost-effective,
> and it has brought to fruition what the Bush
> administration considers one of the best rail line
> starts in America."
>
> However, on March 22 you wrote,
>
> "One observation this weekend from a friend familiar
> with the organizational chart at Metro Transit was
> that the operation is top heavy with managers. My
> thought is that if the Governor finally agrees to
> the drivers' need and funds it as Peter Bell has
> suggested by cutting back service by 10%, some of
> the reduction in headcount could come from
> management."
>
> You can't in one statement say that Metro Transit is
> one of the most cost efficient and in another say it
> is top heavy with management. If you do your
> research and it looks like you do a good job, you
> will find that Metro Transit is in fact one of the
> leanest transit organizations in the country from a
> management staffing perspective. You can't be a
> "bright spot" and be "top heavy" at the same time.
>
> Thank you for your blog. It is well meaning and
> actually fairly well balanced.

Dear JFitzgibbon,

Thank you for your constructive critique.

I agree with you. My March 7 comments were the result
of what I learned had been published in trade
periodicals. My March 22nd comments were inconsistent
with the former and were the opinion of one person. I
should have been more careful.

Sincerely,
Jim Jeffries

Please send one or two sentence messages to:
Your governor and my boss - Tim Pawlenty
(651) 296-3391
Senator Steve Murphy, powerful chair of the Senate Transportation Committee
(651) 296-4264
Your state senator and representative
(651) 296-2146

Pass along this blog address www.tcmetro.blogspot.com
The union cannot succeed without great citizen support.
We need to get 10s of thousands of messages to our elected leaders!

Jim Jeffries
Strike Day 21
Drivers'/Mechanics' Cumulative Loss $10,584,000 (wages)
Riders' Cumulative Loss $10,631,250 (75,000 riders' parking and gas less bus fare)
Metro Transit Approximate Cumulative Gain $6,300,000 (per own statements)

I picketed yesterday downtown at Marquette and 7th. The traffic on the street was heavy during the rush hours but the sidewalks were almost empty. Joel, my partner picketer, talked with some merchants who said their businesses were awful and that they had to lay off some employees.

Talked with a lawyer from Winthrop & Weinstein who couldn't believe what the Met Council is asking us to pay for healthcare even after I explained how bus driving is a known unhealthy occupation. He asked if we had really done a good job of shopping the insurance companies after I told him the premiums which Health Partners is charging. I explained how the Met Council had just cut a five year deal with Health Partners but had barred our union from participating in the health insurance search process. I also informed him how Mary Brainerd, President and Chief Executive Officer of Health Partners was married to Dick Brainerd, Met Council Director of Human Resources. "There it is," he commented. The state's buyer, the husband, was negotiating with the insurance seller, his wife, all the while barring participation by an independent third party! If it looks like corruption, smells like corruption, feels like corruption - it's probably corruption.

Also heard that a bipartisan group of 10 state representatives led by Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, proposed to solve 50% of the difference between the Met Council and us drivers and mechanics by moving $13 million from the state highway fund to the Met Council, but that a powerful state Senator who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, said he had no intention of stepping in to resolve the strike. Thank you Steve Murphy. By the way Steve, where was your vote when Senator Michele Bachmann offered a bill to show leadership, a sharing of the pain, by having all senators, representatives and top state constitutional officers lower their compensation by 4%? Yes, the bill which never even made it out of committee.

I have to admit that personally I feel unwanted, unsupported. We work hard to provide the 6th best bus system in the country, yet we are the only ones in our chain of command up to the governor who are being required to reduce their standard of living, may be conspired against in the negotiation for health insurance and have powerful people in the state who were part of the financial mismanagement of public funds dead set on correcting their mistakes by using us at the bottom.

What is happening to our great state of Minnesota?

Please send one or two sentence messages to:
Your governor and my boss - Tim Pawlenty
(651) 296-3391
Senator Steve Murphy, powerful chair of the Senate Transportation Committee
(651) 296-4264
Your state senator and representative
(651) 296-2146

Please pass along this blog address www.tcmetro.blogspot.com
The union cannot succeed without great citizen support.
We need to get 10s of thousands of messages to our elected leaders!

Jim Jeffries

Monday, March 22, 2004

Strike Day 19
Drivers'/Mechanics' Cumulative Loss $9,576,000 (wages)
Riders' Cumulative Loss $9,618,750 (75,000 riders' parking and gas less bus fare)
Metro Transit Approximate Cumulative Gain $5,700,000 (per own statements)

News items: The state mediator has requested another Met Council/Union meeting for this afternoon; apparently two unnamed legislators are preparing a bill to further fund the metropolitan bus operations; the Governor continues to seek to expand use of the Met Council's above cumulative cash gain to create new programs for those most transit dependent, in this case, students. This latter seems like the latest implementation of a plan to create new facilities for the most needy group of riders maybe with the final result being a dismantling of Metro Transit for all able bodied, non-welfare riders who use the system for efficiency, productivity, cost, convenience, environmental purposes or because buses require less total tax dollars per passenger mile than cars. This would be inline with the wishes of the famous right wing extremist lobbying group called the Minnesota Taxpayers League whose strategy to keep our state's quality of life at the very top is to follow the example of states like Wyoming and others which never even get a quality of life ranking in public surveys, but which do have lower tax rates.

One observation this weekend from a friend familiar with the organizational chart at Metro Transit was that the operation is top heavy with managers. My thought is that if the Governor finally agrees to the drivers' need and funds it as Peter Bell has suggested by cutting back service by 10%, some of the reduction in headcount could come from management.

I'll be picketing tomorrow and Wednesday at the Minneapolis downtown transit store at 719 Marquette between 2 and 6 pm.


Please send one or two sentence messages to:
Your governor and my boss - Tim Pawlenty
(651) 296-3391
Your state senator and representative
(651) 296-2146

Please pass along this blog address www.tcmetro.blogspot.com
The union cannot succeed without great citizen support.
We need to get 10s of thousands of messages to our elected leaders!

Jim Jeffries

Friday, March 19, 2004

Strike Day 16
Drivers'/Mechanics' Cumulative Loss $8,064,000 (wages)
Riders' Cumulative Loss $8,100,000 (75,000 riders' parking and gas less bus fare)
Metro Transit Approximate Cumulative Gain $4,800,000 (per own statements)

Reprint from Minneapolis Labor Review
By Barb Kucera, editor

St. Paul - Longtime transit employees say their strike is all about the past - and the future. Over many years of bargaining, they made concessions to get the health care benefits that are now under attack, they say. And they believe the future for new transit workers is dim if the union doesn't take a stand.

"The people before us fought for this and we intend to fight for the new drivers, mechanics and others coming on," said Dave Schwintek, a 28-year Metro Transit employee. He walked the picketline Thursday morning at the entrance to the East Metro garage with other Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 members.

Peggy Schnack, another 28-year employee, nodded at Schwintek's remark. "We gave up wage increases in the past to get the benefits we have now," she noted.

Added Schwintek, "You started out here and took the hard times to go with the good times. You thought you had a decent retirement at the end and then they pull the rug out from under you."

All along the line, strikers said that the Metropolitan Council's attack on health care benefits, particularly for retires, was a key reason they overwhelmingly rejected two contract offers. They expressed concern that Governor Tim Pawlenty, Met Council Chair Peter Bell and others are misrepresenting the issues and ignoring the sacrifices that Metro Transit employees made in the past.

Cheryl Kienietz-Hall, a driving instructor who has worked for Metro Transit for 25 years, said it was "scary" to be on strike, but exhilarating at the same time.

"I'm glad that our union is taking a stand on the fact that health care is going up and that [total] wages keep going down," she said, adding that the strikers are acting for all workers, not just themselves.

Please send one or two sentence messages to:
Your governor and my boss - Tim Pawlenty
(651) 296-3391
Your state senator and representative
(651) 296-2146

Please pass along this blog address www.tcmetro.blogspot.com
The union cannot succeed without great citizen support.
We need to get 10s of thousands of messages to our elected leaders!

Jim Jeffries

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Strike Day 13
Drivers'/Mechanics' Cumulative Loss $6,552,000 (wages)
Riders' Cumulative Loss $6,581,250 (75,000 riders' parking and gas less bus fare)
Metro Transit Approximate Cumulative Gain $3,900,000 (per own statements)

Yesterday was truly a sad one for our state. Our governor proclaimed "As governor, you have responsibility to solve large problems. Bottom line: I don't want to lose the Twins or the Vikings on my watch." He should have added "Our mass transit infrastructure, also a large problem costing the community $1,000,000 per day, is simply less important than helping two of the wealthiest people in the world, and important contributors to our party, add financial value to their entertainment assets so they can sell them for maybe twice what they paid."

Introverted, quiet Carl Pohlad is one of the most brilliant businessmen in the world who has almost never sold any asset for less than he paid. I think he's around 100 on Fortune's World's Wealthiest list and easily the wealthiest baseball team owner. Actually he is one of Minnesota's great citizens because he shares his wealth and personal time contributing to many local and state community organizations without fanfare. In business, however, his whole body and mind can only work one way - buy low and find any legal way to add value and then sell, even if it's at taxpayer expense. So while our governor is looking for ways to shrink our mass transit infrastructure which benefits the community at the rate of $1,000,000 per day, $365,000,000 per year, he has found reasons to expand our entertainment assets which benefit the community with a clutch of low paying mostly, part time maintenance and food service jobs and a one time injection of maybe $500,000,000 into the local construction industry using a disproven theory about how extra taxes from more revenue to the teams will pay for the extra debt the state will have to incur. This is simply a twist on the new tactic in Washington D.C. which is a transformation from the "tax and spend" of the 70s and 80s to the now "borrow and spend." The reason for the new scheme - Citizens ages 1 to 35, those who are stuck with the debt burden, don't too often bother to vote and don't contribute money to political campaigns.

Governor, please re-shuffle your priorities and begin to think hard and deep about keeping Minnesota one of the top states in the country for the next 30 years. Think about both K-12 education and the University of Minnesota. Think about other infrastructure like transportation, gas and electrical supply and clean water and air. Think about growing our important medical service and products industries which can export around the world. Our economic health is about science, engineering and math savvy students, the best infrastructure like our number 3 in the world airport, primary research at the U and a healthy environment, not the performance of millionaire entertainers for our viewing pleasure.

Please send one or two sentence messages to:
Your governor and my boss - Tim Pawlenty
(651) 296-3391
Your state senator and representative
(651) 296-2146

Please pass along this blog address www.tcmetro.blogspot.com
The union cannot succeed without great citizen support.
We need to get 10s of thousands of messages to our elected leaders!

Jim Jeffries

Monday, March 15, 2004

Strike Day 12
Drivers'/Mechanics' Cumulative Loss $6,048,000 (wages)
Riders' Cumulative Loss $6,075,000 (75,000 riders' parking and gas less bus fare)
Metro Transit Approximate Cumulative Gain $3,600,000 (per own statements)

The drivers and the public continue to suffer. The Met Council and the union continue to show up on radio and TV talk shows but there is no new information provided. Basically the union still is trying to maintain the standard of living of its members and the Met Council still is claiming that with the continued decrease in its funding from the governor and legislature it can only (1) raise fares by something like 30%, (2) decrease the number and frequency of bus routes by 10% or (3) reduce the standard of living of the bus drivers. The council has chosen the latter claiming that the bus drivers are overpaid anyway.

Speaking only for myself, I suggest that option 3 is the worst choice. Had the governor, senators and representatives chosen not to cut funding, the solution would have been spread over the state's 5,000,000 population. 1 and 2 essentially solve the financial problem by spreading the solution over the 75,000 to 100,000 bus users. Solving the problem using 3, however, spreads the burden over only 2,200 drivers, mechanics and a few clerks. Consequently, the pain inflicted on these latter few becomes enormous. In year three of the offered labor contract I think the decrease in the take home pay of a driver at the highest rate of pay with dependents would be somewhere around 10%. Drivers would be unable to make their mortgage payments!

I would think that option 2 above might be the better choice because the 10% decrease in bus service, resulting in the loss of 10% of the workforce, could probably be accommodated through normal attrition given the fairly high rate of retiring drivers. From a political perspective, however, option 3 is better because 75,000 to 100,000 bus users can easily affect the re-election of state officials while 2,200 drivers would have little effect on election day.

Please send one or two sentence messages to:
Your governor and my boss - Tim Pawlenty
(651) 296-3391
Your state senator and representative
(651) 296-2146

Please pass along this blog address www.tcmetro.blogspot.com
The union cannot succeed without great citizen support.
We need to get 10's of thousands of messages to our elected leaders!

Jim Jeffries

Friday, March 12, 2004

Strike Day 9
Drivers'/Mechanics' Cumulative Loss $4,536,000 (wages)
Riders' Cumulative Loss $4,556,250 (75,000 riders' parking and gas less bus fare)
Metro Transit Approximate Cumulative Gain $2,700,000 (per own statements)

About "Privatization."

This is a concept often favored by right wing extremists as a solution to difficult public challenges.

One example of privatization in the news lately is the growing use of private companies to do in Iraq what used to be done by the military. Dick Cheny's former company, Halliburton, has a long term strategy begun in the 1960's to do this kind of work. The risk of privatization is that the public can lose control over important operations. We have all been reading about how Halliburton has been accused of and is being sued for multiple instances of cheating by providing less service than it is being paid to perform.

Back in the 60's the Twin Cities bus transportation system was run by private companies, the largest being Twin City Lines, Inc., (TCL) which was owned by a Carl Pohlad investment group named Minnesota Enterprises, Inc. (MEI) which among other things also owned most of the Pepsi bottling plants in the Midwest. The Twin Cities metropolitan area, like all metropolitan areas, was very dependent on the bus company to provide an important piece of the transportation infrastructure. Citizens were complaining that the service provided by TCL was below standard and getting worse. TCL was not sufficiently re-investing in its operation. One result was that the average age of its buses was a reported 16 years. (I think Metro Transit's current fleet age averages about 6 years) Eventually the state, through the Metropolitan Council, offered to buy TCL as their only way to upgrade the bus system but the Pohlad group, of course, wanted too much money to give it up. Here again, when the public doesn't own the infrastructure on which it depends it is at the mercy of the private owners. On 9/18/70 the state had to finally obtain control of TCL through condemnation court proceedings letting the court decide the price. The bus system began to improve and today is considered to be about the 6th best metropolitan bus operation in the country.

Now, do we really want to go back to the bad old days of depending upon a private company to own and operate our transportation infrastructure?

Please send one or two sentence messages to:
Your governor and my boss - Tim Pawlenty
(651) 296-3391
Your state senator and representative
(651) 296-2146

Please pass along this blog address www.tcmetro.blogspot.com
The union cannot succeed without great citizen support.
We need to get 10's of thousands of messages to our elected leaders!

Jim Jeffries

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Did another 4 hours of picketing duty outside the massive Overhaul Base of Metro Transit on Cleveland Avenue last night. The drive-by St. Paulites were the best. I, 27 years a SW Minneapolis resident, had no idea about the degree of social justice values so easily visible in the drive-by St. Paul population. These folks are mostly of ethnic Irish ancestry I'm told, long terribly abused by the vastly more wealthy English in Minnesota, such as the famous James J. Hill, builder of the still legendary Great Northern, now the Burlington Northern railroad. These are the ancestors of the families who remember how their loved ones were simply considered "items of production" to be consumed as simple "energy" in the most efficient way. Our strike is a big deal for them. They don't want to backpeddle from their status today as equal citizens back toward the status of some of their family as only energy.

Again heard lengthy airtime given to Mr. Peter Bell, the Governor's spokesperson, on MPR Mid Morning yesterday. Again heard Mr. Bell, Metro Council chair, emphasize two points - (1) I have no money in my authority to continue the status quo for bus drivers and (2) privatization is the best model for transportation (as well as other) infrastructure in Minnesota.

I will attempt to investigate this call for "privatization."

Please send one or two sentence messages to:
Your governor and my boss - Tim Pawlenty
(651) 296-3391
Your state senator and representative
(651) 296-2146

Please pass along this blog address www.tcmetro.blogspot.com
The union cannot succeed without great citizen support.
We need to get 10's of thousands of messages to our elected leaders!

Jim Jeffries

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Strike Day 6
Drivers'/Mechanics' Cumulative Loss $3,024,000 (wages)
Riders' Cumulative Loss $3,037,500 (75,000 riders' parking and gas less bus fare)
Metro Transit Cumulative Loss < $0 (per own statement)

Yesterday I had my first experience picketing. Spent 4 hours standing within a small area holding my strike sign and waving to passersby. It was hard on my feet and knees. About 75% of the cars driving by either honked their horns, waved or flashed their lights. That was most heartwarming. Incredibly, one motorist stopped by with two bags of McDonalds burgers for the 6 of us, another with a large McDonalds coffee for each of us and, to my amazement, a third with a large plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies which were some of the best I've ever had. Wow! We had little conversation with these "Good Samaritans" but it seemed that they echoed the concerns in some emails I've received, that many consider us bus union members to be harbingers of things to come for much of the rest of Twin Cities workers. There is concern that just as in the 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's, when the healthcare benefits, improved wages, 40 hour work weeks and other forms of compensenation won by unions flowed both horizontally and vertically to non-unionized workers in the country, so too the proposed decrease in standard of living desired by our governor for operators of the bus system will soon also accrue to other modest earning middle income folks and that if this portends a continued shrinking of the American Middle Class, which is the engine of our economy, then all who earn most of their incomes from work as opposed to investments will be in trouble.

Please send one or two sentence messages to:
Your governor and my boss - Tim Pawlenty
(651) 296-3391
Your state senator and representative
(651) 296-2146

Please pass along this blog address www.tcmetro.blogspot.com
The union cannot succeed without great citizen support.
We need to get 10's of thousands of messages to our elected leaders!

Jim Jeffries

Monday, March 08, 2004

Strike Day 5
Drivers'/Mechanics' Cumulative Loss $2,520,000 (wages)
Riders' Cumulative Loss $2,531,250 (75,000 riders' parking and gas less bus fare)
Metro Transit Cumulative Loss < $0 (per own statement)

The following is a reprint of a very well written article by Ted Mondale in the Star Tribune's Sunday opinion section.

Transit policies hurting competitiveness
Ted Mondale

March 7, 2004

"The Twin Cities region competes every day for economic growth in a highly competitive world economy. We have been fortunate to have had visionary leaders -- Republicans and Democrats, business executives and civic activists -- who recognized that our success depends on our quality of life, our workforce and our infrastructure. The "good life in Minnesota" has depended on leaders of all kinds who created many of our competitive advantages in the new world of regional competition.

Still, we have weaknesses, especially in our transportation system. Unfortunately, Gov. Tim Pawlenty has decided to play games with our transportation system rather than sustain it, and the only winners are the other regions that are attracting economic growth away from Minnesota.

We rank at the top of the nation in quality of life, income, home ownership and employment opportunities. We can point to many things with pride. Our transportation system is a different story.

Our severely underfunded system gives us the second-worst record of congestion increases. People here spend more of their income on commuting than almost anywhere else, and every year we lose billions of dollars in productivity to congestion. It's no wonder that visionary business leaders have begun to advocate for an improved and fully funded transportation system.

Our transportation bright spot is Metro Transit, an agency that previous administrations -- Democrat, Republican and Independent -- have built into a high-performing organization that delivers one of the most cost-effective transportation services in the nation. Indeed, Metro Transit consistently ranks at the top of the nation in efficiency, it has restructured its routes to be more cost-effective, and it has brought to fruition what the Bush administration considers one of the best rail line starts in America.

This great success has come despite funding that is roughly half of the amount for similar-sized regions around the country. For their commitment, in both the Carlson and Ventura administrations, Metro Transit and its talented employees were told that the state of Minnesota would reward high performance. Metro Transit and its employees played by those rules and were successful.

Enter the Pawlenty administration. The first sign that the transportation rules were changing was the appointment of former House Transportation Chair Carol Molnau as commissioner of transportation. Every year of the Ventura administration, when I chaired the Metropolitan Council, we proposed and passed in the Senate bipartisan proposals for road and transit improvements that would ease our transportation gridlock. Every year it was Molnau who killed these widely supported initiatives.

Next, the Pawlenty administration successfully sought a $16 million decrease in transit funding and no real increase in road funding except one-time borrowing. Then it successfully undermined the community-supported and nationally acclaimed transportation and land use components of the regional growth plan.

Finally, and most tellingly, the governor demeaned the region's transit operators on his weekly radio show by labeling them "unskilled workers."

It was a classic bait-and-switch. The Pawlenty administration blocked essential improvements to our road and highway system, worked systematically to dismantle Metro Transit, one of the most efficient transit systems in America, and now wants to blame transit employees for the administration's sorry record on transportation priorities and funding. The Pawlenty administration ultimately decided that forcing a strike was the best way to handle the fiscal crisis that its own budget cuts had created.

The governor could have asked the Met Council to explore other options, such as reducing inefficient routes or shifting funding away from the state. Instead, he has changed the rules for transit workers, weakened our regional competitiveness and undermined the good life here. Business and civic leaders should join their voices to demand that the administration fund the investments in transportation that Minnesota needs to be competitive, and that Pawlenty seek an open and honest resolution to the transit strike.

In Pawlenty's transportation game, our region is losing."

Ted Mondale, CEO of Nazca Solutions Inc., was chairman of the Metropolitan Council from 1999 to 2002.

Please send one or two sentence messages to:
Your governor and my boss - Tim Pawlenty
(651) 296-3391
Your state senator and representative
(651) 296-2146

Please pass along this blog address www.tcmetro.blogspot.com
The union cannot succeed without great citizen support.
We need to get 10's of thousands of messages to our elected leaders!

Jim Jeffries

Friday, March 05, 2004

Strike Day 2
Drivers'/Mechanics' Cumulative Loss $1,008,000 (wages)
Riders' Cumulative Loss $1,012,500 (75,000 riders' parking and gas less bus fare)
Metro Transit Cumulative Loss < $0 (per own statement)

Won't write again until Monday.

Please send one or two sentence messages to:
Your governor and my boss - Tim Pawlenty
(651) 296-3391
Your state senator and representative
(651) 296-2146

Please pass along this blog address www.tcmetro.blogspot.com
The union cannot succeed without great citizen support.
We need to get 10's of thousands of messages to our elected leaders!
Jim Jeffries

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Strike Day 1
Today I attended the multi-union rally in front of Metro Transit headquarters at 2:00 p.m. It was heartwarming to join my fellow drivers, mechanics, clerks, lots of supporting Teamsters with their horn blowing trucks and others who want to stem assaults on the living standards of a growing number of Minnesota citizens. For my part, however, I don't think picketing and boisterous rallies increase our bargaining leverage. The only leverage public employees have, I think, is the supportive opinions of the general citizenry and its willingness to make a contact with elected officials.

Today, the Governor's spokesperson, Metropolitan Council Chair Peter Bell, stated that the only way by which Metro Transit could maintain the living standard of bus drivers would be to either raise fares by 42% or reduce service by 10%. Characteristically, he neglected the third and most logical option: Adjust the state's mass transit subsidy dollars to reflect transit related inflation and population growth over the past four years, or as many have suggested, give mass transit a dedicated source of funding so that this vital piece of infrastructure can be maintained and grow with the community.

Please send one or two sentence messages to:
Your governor and my boss - Tim Pawlenty
(651) 296-3391
Your state senator and representative
(651) 296-2146

Please pass along this blog address www.tcmetro.blogspot.com
The union cannot succeed without great citizen support.
We need to get 10's of thousands of messages to our elected leaders!

Jim Jeffries
Strike Day 1
Today will cost my family about $128 which is 8 hours X my $17/hr wage. No one in the state organizational chart above me has so far had to strike because no one above me, all the way up to the Governor, has been asked to lower their standard of living. That's what the state's offer to me, however, is demanding. Next year, after all changes are accounted for, I am being told to receive about $1200 less value than I am currently receiving for the work output I provide, and in the following year to receive significantly less than that. The Twin Cities is one of the most economically vibrant areas in the country, yet some of us are supposed to lower our living standard!

The living standard for those above me in the state organizational chart is a matter of record. Here are the results of my research -
(1) Metro Transit management received an average 5% wage raise this year
(2) The Governor's agency heads received an average 11% wage raise in 2001
(3) The Secretary of State, State Auditor, Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor received an average 29% wage raise in 2002
(4) In 2003 the legislators were asked by Senator Michele Bachmann to lower the wages of the top constitutional officers and their own by 4% to show that they could lead by example, but the bill never even got a committee hearing.

Why do those of us earning $17/hr need to sacrifice because of our leaders' $4.5 billion of financial mismanagement, while those earning more either maintain or even prosper?

This seems more like pre-1930's elitism than the social justice for which Minnesota is famous and which transformed the Twin Cities from just another metro to the best metropolitan area in the country per most standard of living surveys!

Please send one or two sentence messages to:
Your governor and my boss - Tim Pawlenty
(651) 296-3391
Your state senator and representative
(651) 296-2146

Please pass along this blog address www.tcmetro.blogspot.com
The union cannot succeed without great citizen support.
We need to get 10's of thousands of messages to our elected leaders!

Jim Jeffries

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Yesterday, on my last bus run of the day, and after I had announced to my passengers that a strike had been set for 2:00 a.m. Thursday, some of those passengers asked me why, as the governor's Met Council chairman has argued, should the state pay a higher income to its drivers, while the private sector pays less to its drivers. I described how comparing the private sector to Metro Transit is not logical but more like comparing apples to oranges.

I told them how I have spoken with numerous private suburban bus company drivers and pointedly asked them why they don't come work in the city for higher pay. Here are their answers: (1) "I don't want to drive those narrow and crowded Minneapolis and St. Paul streets" (2) "I don't want to have to drive on the weekends or at night" (3) "I don't want to get assigned to some Metro Transit garage far from my home" (4) "I don't want to have to deal with the difficult passenger behavior experienced on some city routes" (5) "It's too hard to stay on schedule when the trip doesn't have a long freeway run where you sometimes can make up lost time" (6) "I want to drive the more luxurious suburban coach buses"

I also told them that some private sector transit bus drivers do seek jobs at Metro Transit, but that most of them get turned away because Metro Transit has such high driver standards when it comes to driving records and other criteria.

The bottom line. Driving for Metro Transit is not the same as driving in the private sector. If driver income needs to be compared, then ours should be compared to other major city bus systems in the country. This was done in the Star Tribune where Metro Transit pay ranked sixth as it should, because we have built Metro Transit into what most experts agree is the sixth best city bus system in the country, thanks in no small part to the determined efforts of its drivers.

Please send one or two sentence messages to:
Your governor and my boss - Tim Pawlenty
(651) 296-3391
Your state senator and representative
(651) 296-2146

Please pass along this blog address www.tcmetro.blogspot.com
The union cannot succeed without great citizen support.
We need to get 10's of thousands of messages to our elected leaders!

Jim Jeffries
Well it happened. The union is going to try its only point of leverage with the state, a strike. This is awful. Bad for the drivers and bad for the community. In the past, however, Metro Transit claimed it was "OK" for them, because being subsidized like all public transportation systems, during a strike their expenses drop by more than their revenues. I was dismayed to hear on the TV news that the governor told reporters that he would not intervene at this time. It was a non-sensical statement since the Governor is the one we've essentially been negotiating with since last Fall!!

Please send one or two sentence messages to:
Your governor and my boss - Tim Pawlenty
(651) 296-3391
Your state senator and representative
(651) 296-2146

Please pass along this blog address www.tcmetro.blogspot.com
We need to get 10's of thousands of messages to our elected leaders!

Jim Jeffries

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Yesterday I was questioned about the high levels of stress and resulting disease and disability attributable to city bus driving and hence the need for us drivers to not compromise on the health insurance we have worked so hard to obtain over many years. Here are some quotes from a 1996 University of Nijmegen, Netherlands bus driving study which compiled data from 32 other studies over several decades:

Summary: Sickness absenteeism of bus drivers is significantly higher compared to other professional groups. The same holds true for the risk of disability. Bus drivers who have to leave their job for medical reasons do so at a younger age than comparable groups of employees. The main conditions leading to disability relate to the back, tendons and joints, mental disorders and cardiovascular diseases.

Main health problems of bus drivers:
"— Musculo-skeletal problems (lower part of the back, neck, shoulders, upper part of the back, knees)
— Psychological problems (fatigue, tension, mental overload)
— Stomach and intestinal disorders
— Sleeping problems"

Psycho-physiological costs
"Several authors studied the psycho-physiological costs of this occupation, during work and leisure. Most of them indicate relative high blood pressure among bus drivers (Table 1: 12, 15, 20, 26, 28, 29). Mulders et al. demonstrated relatively high levels of urine-adrenaline in bus drivers.5 Gardell et al. showed that bus drivers under time pressure have high cortisol levels.6 These high psycho-physiological costs are supposed to be, or are suspected of being, especially related to cardiovascular problems. In accordance, many authors report more diseases of the heart and blood vessels among bus drivers than other professional groups."

High and conflicting demands: Passengers, time pressure, safety
"The driver’s task is mentally demanding because of having to cope with conflicting requests. The company and the public want the driver to maintain good contact with passengers and to be service-oriented, for instance to travellers (providing information about timetables, routes, stops, fares, etc.). These are also important aspects for job satisfaction. In the operator’s daily life, the demand for service by the individual passenger often conflicts with the need to keep to a tight schedule in dense traffic. The third demand on the driver, also conflicting with the other two, is the demand to drive safely according to traffic regulations."

"It is more and more common for transport personnel (bus drivers, tram and train conductors, and subway operators) to have problems with disorderly and troublesome passengers. These problems often occur when passengers do not possess, or do not want to buy, passenger tickets. Sometimes drivers are robbed or assaulted. Physical harm is increasingly becoming an occupational risk for bus drivers, especially in large cities and during night shifts. Also soccer fans and youngsters returning home late after having visited inner-city night life are liable to make threats and be violent."

Please send one or two sentence messages to:
Your governor and my boss - Tim Pawlenty
(651) 296-3391
Your state senator and representative
(651) 296-2146

Please pass along this blog address www.tcmetro.blogspot.com
We need to get 10's of thousands of messages to our elected leaders!

Jim Jeffries

Monday, March 01, 2004

Aaaaaaaack, Aaaaaaaaaack, Aaaaaaaaaack.

I turn off my alarm. It's 4:00 a.m. I get up, stretch, shower, shave, have my juice and cereal and drink a half cup of coffee.

I remember that today is D day. Our union and the state have their final meeting. It's a formality as everyone knows that (1) the state is dead set to reduce the income of us transit workers and that (2) too many of us transit workers can't afford a $100/month reduction in our take-home pay which is what wll happen next year after our 1% pay raise if we want to keep our same medical insurance. Despite warnings to me from my dentist, I start grinding my teeth. I'm one of those who can't afford to give up any pay. Over the years we have negotiated and sacrificed pay and other benefits to finally get some decent insurance and now the Governor is offering that we cut our income or cut our insurance. I earn about $15/hour and simply have no ability to help the state at this time. I know there is financial difficulty at the Capitol, but why must I and our 2200 other drivers shoulder the burden of the Governor's and legislature's financial mistakes over the years? It's very hard to volunteer to sacrifice when research shows that others up the state government organization chart are not doing the same. It's true, our health insurance is unusually expensive because bus driving is one of the highest stress and consequently most illness prone occupations. It's precisely for this reason the we need the state to remain a good partner with us concerning our health care needs.


Please send one or two sentence messages to:
Your governor and my boss - Tim Pawlenty
(651) 296-3391
Your state senator and representative
(651) 296-2146

Pass along this blog address www.tcmetro.blogspot.com
We need to get 10's of thousands of messages to our elected leaders!

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