a suburban-city girl stumbling her way through central PA.



I'm suppporting SEPTA and the union on this.  That doesn't mean this morning's commute didn't suck.  Maybe I'm supporting because I have other options to get to work (regional rail, cab, even walking forty minutes).  Or maybe because the biggest responsibility for another creature in my life involves a sad little ivy and some even sadder lucky bamboo.  But I like to think that I'm supporting the union because this issue is about being fair.

Before we start jumping on the "Be grateful you HAVE a job, Local 234" band wagon (since we will be using band wagons to get around town until this gets sorted out), we should look at a few facts first.

Contract negotiations are for a four year contract.  No one is getting a raise right now - we all know that - but in the next four years, the economy will probably bounce back and we'll all be back to getting our merit and performance raises just like we're used to.  If SEPTA goes with the city's proposal, they will end up with a 4% raise over the next four years.  1% a year.  Which is not a big deal in the end.  1%.  ONE PERCENT.  For the next four years.  So even if the economy is soaring with rainbow-colored ribbons in two years and stays steadily at that, SEPTA will still be locked into their measley raise of one percent a year.

The current median yearly salary for a bus driver in Philadelphia is $25,100 while the median yearly of bus drivers nationwide is $33,900.  So even if we give SEPTA their FOUR PERCENT OVER FOUR YEARS raise (GASP!)  the average bus driver in Philly will still be making 20% less than all those over bus drivers.  Where are the cushy bus driving wages?  Are they in cities that are full of potholes, traffice, absent minded pedestrians with ipods, and vigilante cyclists?  With all that our bus drivers have to deal with, I'd be pretty pissed too if someone told me that they weren't even going to give me a few bones to inch me closer to the national average.

Let's do some quick math here.  One percent of $25,100 is $251 dollars.  I'm averaging here for the sake of averaging.  $251 a year is $4.83 a week.  That's what the raise the union is asking for.  Five dollars more a week.  The city won't agree to that.  Our bus drivers aren't worth that.

Here's the other problem: the people making these big contract decisions - are they even paying attention to the system?  On a daily level?  Of course not.  It's widely known that in the District of Columbia, the people who sit on the Board for WMATA do not ride the system regularly.  Those people, in fact, get discounted (perhaps even free) parking in the city.  How committed are you, Sir or Ma'am Metro Director, to fixing the problems of the system if you aren't even inherently familiar with the system?

It's the bigwigs who are holding this thing up.  Not your bus driver.  Remember that.

Also, remember that for an extra five dollars a week, you'd be pissed too.

Photo by lindseyweb


Bear Cherian said...

Septa Drivers average $52,000 and are seeking 20% over 5 years, or 4%/YEAR. SEPTA is offering them 11.5% or 2.3%. I'm with Rendell and Nutter in calling this outrageous.

SEPTA Transport Union Workers On Strike

Philadelphia Transit Workers Strike

Anonymous said...

Your figures seem to be off, Bear is correct. That is outrageous and ridiculous that we have to go through this every 4 years.

miss bee said...

If my numbers are off then they are off. But I still stand behind the strike.

How much is public transportation worth to you as a taxpayer and to us as a city and society as a whole?

I happen to think that it's worth quite a lot.

Heather said...

I haven't gotten anything close to a 4% increase in the last 4 years (top performers only got 3%); I contribute 40% of my healthcare costs and I don't get a pension (but 3% match on 401K).

Why should SEPTA workers get a guaranteed 4% (doesn't take performance or the economy into consideration), not have to contribute more than 10% to their healthcare and a 10% increase in pension contributions?

I understand the importance of public transit, however why isn't Philly like other major cities where transit workers aren't allowed to strike.

The final nail in their coffin however, was when union leadership said they didn't care about current and recent economic conditions - they wanted the $$ anyway.

We're all taking hits these days - transit workers shouldn't be exempt.

miss bee said...

if they don't strike, then no one gives a damn, frankly. they've been working without a contract for months now and none of us seemed to care all the passionately about it.

allowing them to strike gives them the ability to show much their worth is to us. and since they've been in talks for months now, it appears to be the only way to show how much their worth is.