In the game of chess, the pawn is the piece of lowest value. And while there are more pawns in the game than any other game piece, in most circumstances it also is the weakest.
This is how many members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998 sees ourselves, as pawns in the public transit battle that is taking place in Milwaukee right now.
Why? Because between the “official” information, or lack thereof, that we are receiving from MTS management, along with the rumors and blatant lies we’ve heard from our union leadership, we simply don’t know what to believe.
The scare tactics being used are doing nothing but causing confusion, further distrust of MTS and conflicts between co-workers who clearly stand on different sides of the issue.
Union leadership and MTS management have encouraged us to quit our jobs, take our pensions and run because if MTS loses the transit contract, we won’t have jobs or pensions. We’ve been told that MV will cut our pay in half and send our pension dollars to Dallas where they are headquartered.
We are being bullied to tow the company and union line or risk losing our jobs in the fallout.
And quite frankly, we are tired of being told what to do. The “official” union position against MV is not the position of the full union membership and that should be publicly known.
What we do know is that County Supervisor Chris Abele has recommended MV Transportation to become the new manager of the Milwaukee County Transportation System.
And contrary to what our union leaders and MTS are saying about MV, there are some of us who have taken the time to do our own unfiltered and unbiased research of the company that could likely become our new employer.
What we’ve uncovered is a company that seems to value employee input and engagement, and supports the people who are the public face of the system: the bus drivers.
We’ve learned that MV will offer cash incentives to drivers who perform their jobs safely, and will implement aggressive safety measures that not only keep the riding public safe, but the drivers as well.
MTS has never done this, and has routinely blamed and reprimanded drivers for defending ourselves against verbal and physical attacks.
When a bus rider spit on a female bus driver, an MTS official who will remain nameless told the driver “it is your job to get spit on.”
Yes, that’s the kind of support we’ve gotten from our leaders at MTS.
We’ve encouraged MV officials, that if the County Board of Supervisors approves the contract, to work closely with local law enforcement to implement a public awareness campaign that reduces incidents on the buses and make them safer for all.
Many of us, who came together to draft this letter, have been drivers for 10 or more years, and would like the opportunity to grow and become managers.
Opportunities with MTS are limited and even the union doesn’t encourage or support its members to become managers.
Things are not all good at MTS, and prior to this RFP process, the union wasn’t satisfied with the company. Now all of a sudden that has changed?
That’s cause for major concern. What will be uncovered with MTS out? Perhaps the more than $70 million that we understand is missing from the pension.
MTS and our local union leadership (with the help of international union leaders that have spent weeks here criticizing MV even though they work with MV daily in their respective communities) has been encouraging the members to help them campaign against MV, the County Executive and anyone who supports a change in management of the transit system. Some of us no longer what to be their pawns.
We want new leadership, new direction and a bus system all of us can be proud of.
Even if MV Transportation is not the successful company, MTS should be replaced, right along with the leaders of the ATU 998.
Pawns No More – A United Group of Independent- Thinking Milwaukee Bus Drivers