Donna told me she almost couldn’t get to work today because the buses weren’t running.

“Why aren’t they running?” I wondered.

“Because the drivers are on strike,” she said. “Check nola.com.”

So I did, and sure enough, they’ve posted a story about it:
RTA sick-out strands riders, may affect Jazzfest

Recently nola.com has moved to what appears to be a real blog format, meaning that visitors can leave comments on any story and rant anonymously. As one might imagine, there are a few comments on this story, and things are already getting kind of ugly.

I support the idea of organized labor, and I like to see working people flex their muscles and remind society that we need them to function. But this action also hurts thousands of people, mostly working people like Donna. Regarding the drivers, she said, “They should just be glad they have their little job.” Donna’s co-worker Juanita couldn’t make it to work at all today because of the strike. So I’m not sure what to think about this.

And right now getting around the city is further complicated by heavy rainfall which is causing street flooding. Out my office window I can see some kind of horrendous jam up on Carrollton.

  1. Bus drivers better beware. I don’t know the rules of the “collective bargaining” but these drivers might find their jobs in the hands or our newest demographic!…viva la taco!

  2. I had to respond to this one. I’ve been a bus driver too long. Bus drivers don’t like to strike. We know that we have to see you all again after the strike, and you won’t all look kindly on us. A well prepared strike would involve lots of publicity aimed at the passengers, otherwise management appear to be the good guys. If the public understands the issue and supports their drivers, a strike can often be averted. This sounds like bad leadership.

    I participated in a sick in. It turns out our timing couldn’t have been worse. The sick in was called for Monday, September 11th, 2001. I got to sit home and watch a lot of television that day, but I was back to work, in shock, the next day. Given the mood of the next few weeks, it is not surprising that our grievances were never addressed. There has been no discussion of job action since then.

    A few years earlier, management tried to force a strike, by refusing to negotiate with us. Our Union Officers brought the problem to the attention of the local press and we refused to strike. Instead, we continued to work under the terms of the old contract. We had some success at getting across the idea that management was the problem.

    Finally, NOBODY should have to be “glad they have their little job.” If you’re not negotiating you’re a slave.

    Gratuitous comment, thanks for your great blog.

  3. Good comment, Jon.

    It does seem the bus drivers could have communicated their motivations for the sick better (riders shouldn’t wonder what’s going on, they should know) , but I’m inclined to give the drivers the benefit of the doubt. Labor stoppages sometimes are the only way for workers to make their value known and to put heat on management. I don’t know the specifics of these negotiations, but given how the city has screwed over the firefighters, I can only imagine how shabbily they (it’s the RTA, I know, not the city, but still…) would treat transit workers. Plus, this is the South, a nightmare region for organized labor.

  4. Maybe management should be scared. Earlier this week, I sat in stopped traffic for 45 minutes while 10,000 of those ‘tacos’ marched for their rights. One big banner read, (in Spanish) “May Day is the day of international worker’s rights and solidarity.” I think they know the rules of “collective bargaining”.

  5. Whenever anyone strikes someone–or lots of someones–suffer the consequences. That’s what make strikes a powerful bargaining tool. It’s just hard to watch people you care about suffer those consequences.

  6. Well…I guess bus strikes also tend to affect a more “disadvantaged” (poorer) part of the population, so in that sense they can be different from the average strike. So that makes them trickier to sort out morally.

  7. True Chris. That’s why a Jazz Fest sickout is better. The poor really aren’t on most folks radar. So what if they don’t get to work. (Not my attitude.) But piss off a few Jazz Fest goers and you can get a hearing.

    Because I work with the poor, I know how terrible a bus strike can be for them. However, the folks who count (Again, not my view) aren’t affected.

    I don’t know much about the bus drivers’ situation, but if they chose to strike it’s probably for a good reason.

  8. Let me see now.

    Current bus drivers strike for a raise while many former bus drivers are still not employed and bus service (routes and ridership) is still well below pre-k levels.

    I’m not sure where the social justice is here.

    Perhaps the RTA as a largely tax funded agency should publish their current budgets on their web site.

    If RTA were to advertise for experienced bus drivers with appropriate licenses how many applicants would they get? If more qualified people are willing to drive more buses for the same pay as previously paid would we as a city be better off?

    It seems to me in the post_K pattern we are paying more for less and many people previously working for subsidized enterprises are being left behind.

    RTA has agreed to increase pay from $17.05 an hour to $18.99 an hour.

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