Shake On It

For the past four days, Phoenix, Arizona has been the site of a tense stand-off.  This time, it’s not about illegal immigration or SB 1070.  There hasn’t been a scuffle with any drug cartels.  It has nothing to do with a publicity stunt by a Sheriff who likes loves attention however he can get it.  The battle that unfolded surrounds public transportation and the fight over “unfair labor practices”.

Notice sent a few days into the strike

I rode the metro bus system for several months during the summer of 2010 when gas prices were well over $4 per gallon, and my youngest was in daycare.  We couldn’t afford the gas for both of us to drive to work.  Driving myself, I could get to work in 45-minutes.  The bus ride took 1 ½ hours. This was especially cumbersome if one the kids got sick and needed to be picked up early.

It wasn’t all bad, though.  This is how I wrote most of my first novel.  Three hours a day with no one to bother me – except the inevitable drunken or smelly guy who’d sit next to me.  I seemed to attract people with a creep factor of 7 or higher (on a scale of 1 to 10).

Ah yes, those were the days.

In the midst of the strike, the frustration is thicker than the frosting on a wedding cake.

The union representing drivers opposes “unfair labor practices”.  For over two years, the union and the company have been unable to draft a contract acceptable to all parties.  The last article I read (click here to read) stated the dispute wasn’t over money, but “bad faith bargaining.”  If the numbers are correct that 97% of drivers make over $50,000 a year and the contract included:  a 10% wage increase over 5 years, 5 weeks paid vacation and payment of 94% of the employees’ health insurance premiums, I’m not sure how much public sympathy they’ll get.

The riders are caught in the middle.  The bus system runs around 100 routes.  Half of those routes are at reduced or no service right now due to 900 drivers on strike.  Many bus riders are blue collar (low-wage) and have no other mode of transportation.  (Phoenix isn’t a walkable city.  And if you want to live, I wouldn’t advise riding a bike on a major street…or anywhere within city limits, for that matter.)

Without a way to get to work, their jobs could be at risk.

News came Wednesday afternoon that the union and company may have reached a tentative agreement.  The drivers vote on Thursday and if they approve it, bus service could be ‘rolling’ on a full schedule again on Friday.

Here’s hoping they can shake on it and get back to work – and leave the strikes to bowling.

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14 thoughts on “Shake On It

    • jannatwrites March 15, 2012 / 8:44 PM

      Yes, I agree. In the insurance industry, it’s alarming how much work is being outsourced to other countries.

    • jannatwrites March 15, 2012 / 8:45 PM

      I cringe when I think about what the workforce will be like when my kids are grown.

  1. Greever Williams (@GreeverWilliams) March 15, 2012 / 5:33 AM

    “I seemed to attract people with a creep factor of 7 or higher (on a scale of 1 to 10).” Thanks Janna – I now have some ideas on how to generate my next horror story idea…sit next to the creepy people on the public transportation system! ; )

    • jannatwrites March 15, 2012 / 8:48 PM

      I guess you can try it, Greever, but I’m telling you it stinks in the summer. (Really, it does stink.) One of the strangest fellows was a drunk man who complained that his son was supposed to meet him at a bar and stood him up. Then he started telling me about how he was married 3 times and all died under suspicious causes. Then he made a comment about how I reminded him of his 3rd wife. Thank goodness he got off before my stop.

  2. nrhatch March 15, 2012 / 3:35 PM

    Sounds like a pretty well-paid job . . . with good benefits.

    What are they complaining about? Too much sitting down on the job? Not enough bathroom breaks? No chocolate in the vending machines? 😉

    • jannatwrites March 15, 2012 / 8:51 PM

      I was wondering the same thing, Nancy. There’s got to be something more to it that the media isn’t covering. They have better benefits than I do, and I have a pretty good job!

      No chocolate in the vending machines….hahahaha 🙂

  3. pattyabr March 15, 2012 / 10:38 PM

    I feel bad for the people who depend on the bus for their transportation 😦

    • jannatwrites March 15, 2012 / 11:05 PM

      Me too, Patty. It’s not an easy way to travel. Thanks for your visit and comment!

  4. Debbie March 16, 2012 / 8:27 AM

    When I was a reporter, I covered some strikes like this. There always is more to the picture than is presented. When you see what these drivers are getting and compare it with your own benefits package, you have to wonder — still, it’s hard for a community to be without bus service.

    • jannatwrites March 16, 2012 / 9:46 PM

      It sure seemed like the drivers had a decent deal, but the media could have been sympathetic to company and skewed the news to fit that perception. Bus service was back to full capacity today, so the week of hardship for the riders is over. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Debbie!

  5. pattisj March 18, 2012 / 7:20 PM

    This stinks in more ways than one, Janna! I feel for the people who are trying to earn a living, and have to depend on public transportation to get to and from.

    • jannatwrites March 18, 2012 / 8:06 PM

      The strike was hard on those dependent on public transportation. I’m so glad it is over. Thanks for visiting today, Patti!

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