Sunday, December 4, 2011

Preparing for a bus strike (Sept. 15, 2008)

Current mood: enlightened

The intended audience for this blog is anyone who uses Port Authority of Allegheny County transit service to get around. As review, I am a regular rider myself, and know quite a bit about what's going on in the bus system, and why there may well be a transit strike. I should also issue the disclaimer that I am not an entirely disinterested party in the matter, as I have applied for work as a driver, though have not yet been called to join a class.

Here's what I know: The drivers and mechanics are represented by a labor union whose contract with Port Authority expired June 30. Negotiations to work out a new contract started a long time before that. State law requires that differences be laid out by a state-appointed fact finder. The report was made public on August 30. Had both labor and management accepted the recommendations in that report by Sept. 13, a new contract could have been drawn up fairly soon. However, labor rejected it, which now gives them the legal right to strike at any time.

So far as I know, no strike is imminent, but it could happen at just about any time. Negotiations will now resume in the presence of a mediator, but if talks break down, labor could walk.

Here's what this means: You could wake up at 5 a.m. and find that you have no way to work that day. Once they walk, there's no telling when the buses will roll again. The 1992 strike lasted 28 days, ending only because a judge ordered them back to work, but even then, while the strike ended in mid-April 1992, it was close to Christmas before a deal was finally hammered out.

What this really means for riders: Make sure you have a Plan B, ready to put in place at a moment's notice. Frantic calls to co-workers and neighbors at 5:17 a.m. to figure something out is not a Plan B. The 5:17 a.m. call would be "OK, they walked, let's put The Plan into action."

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