Attention: I'm the Blind Salamander, a proud Teamster, and I've hijacked Chairman Mal's Blog to provide the Peeps with the true story behind Cap Metro's attempt to bust the hard working citizen's who belong to the Amalgamated Transit Workers Union. Chairman Mal is such a technological dork, he probably won't notice. For instance, he was confused about the programming language, Lennox, because he thought it was just for air conditioners. It gets worse. When his computer crashed, the little Stalinist asked me, and I quote: "Could it be this Trojan worm? I thought a Trojan worm was a little tiny condom!" This is the same idiot that thinks he's going to begin telecommuting later this week. That grant fund and family trust had better prepare for a lot of expenditures for tech support! Anyway, the Chairman probably won't even figure out I took over the blog; so, here's the scoop:
Some of the peeps probably recall how Cap Metro staff published the income of some cab drivers who provide voucher service for STS passengers in order to get to and from dialysis, work, school, and return vouchers from doctors' offices, pharmacies and grocery stores. Some cab drivers spend a 16 hour day doing nothing but helping disabled folks in Austin with these trips, and some collected a lot of vouchers. Metro tries to con the press and the public by releasing the incomes of the biggest taxi voucher providers, with the implicit message that those drivers must be up to no good. We know that this was just a tactic to distract attention from their own incompetence in operating the Paratransit service, ignoring advice and complaints from the Access Committee and other disability rights organization year after year. That's why Metro found they had to back track and pay huge sums for consultants to have fake hearings, only to wind up in federal court, spending more tax money for an attorney who didn't even know that taxi vouchers have been used for STS passengers who have jobs with flex time for the past fifteen years.
Well, Star Tran has pulled the same tactic on the Transit workers union who voted to strike, mostly because Cap Metro staff wants to have the right to change their health care costs between contracts. The vast majority of the Union members seem happy with the pay increase, and they don't even want the bonus money as long as the contract provides secure health care. Metro administrators pulled the same tactic used on the taxi drivers on the union. They released the pay of union members , including their overtime pay. That was a dirty trick because Metro had quite a few drivers who work very hard, receiving quite a well earned overtime compensation. As a result, the Union had to answer to press and taxpayers who thought bus drivers shouldn't make up to ninety grand. The peeps in the disabled community know how hard STS and fixed route drivers must work given the enormously stressful jobs they must perform each and every day. We know how difficult it is to afford to run a family household here in Austin, and health care can make or break a family budget. So, it's a small wonder that the Amalgamated Transit Workers decided not to work overtime during the busy weekend of Austin City Limits and the Texas Longhorn home game. Comrades, Star Tran and other Metro staff should stop the dirty tricks and really negotiate with the Union.
Recently, we learned of another union busting threat management has cooked up regarding the Paratransit system. Last year, to avoid paying a living wage and benefits to its Union drivers and mechanics, Metro cobbled together a contract with Austin Cab. Austin Cab procures vehicles; then pays drivers a salary to provide the trips that were previously accomplished by experienced cab drivers and transit professionals with the union. From the outset of this contract, Access members have been deluged with complaints about the so-called PTS vehicles and drivers. We have heard repeatedly that the vehicles are sub par, sometimes old cabs that flunked City inspections and were taken off line. Moreover, complaint after complaint has been made about the quality and lack of professional behavior of the low paid PTS drivers. Mary Ward, STS Subcommittee Chair, told Metro staff that she smelled liquor on the breath of more than one PTS driver, and other members have had frightening experiences because of careless driving behavior. One PTS driver has a reputation of being a long time crack smoker within the taxi driver community. The personal hygiene of some PTS drivers does seem to indicate either a serious substance abuse problem or too little pay to afford soap. Comrades, I guess after these complaints you might think the contract was cancelled, right? Wrong! Metro claims they are working with PTS to improve driver training and making sure the vehicles are safe, but repeated requests by Access members for details about the PTS contract specifics and details of how complaints were remediated have been totally unsatisfactory.
In fact, Inez Evans, Paratransit Director, indicated at a recent Access meeting that Cap Metro may actually expand the flawed PTS program; even budgeting funds to buy brand new vehicles for Austin Cab. Now, we know congress just refused to use taxpayer money to bail out Wall Street, and we don't need our tax money being spent to bail out a failing cab company here in Austin. If Austin Cab can't obtain the financing for new vehicles, that is just tough. They have no business with the contract. Instead, Union drivers should be driving the vehicles Metro plans to lend or give to the owners of Austin Cab. The blind and disabled deserve nothing better than a first class program; one that rivals any in the nation. We had a program like this before current management ruined it with hair brained, union busting schemes like the PTS program. Even Ms Evans admitted to Access that Austin cab should have named their program PS, instead of PTS. Paratransit should be a two letter acronym!
In solidarity with the workers of Austin,
The Blind Salamander
Power to the Peeps!