Bus drivers need to put the public first and forgo pay raises | Editorial
July 22, 2011 · 10:38 AM
A recent development in New York regarding unions may once again put a tough decision on the backs of union members here. If so, we hope they serve the public by keeping the buses running – and their members on the job.
New York’s second largest union of public workers has agreed to cut their wages and benefits to prevent layoffs of their members. If members agree to the deal, there will be no across-the-board raises for three years, members will have to take furlough days and pay more for their insurance coverage.
New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had threatened to lay off hundreds of workers, members of the Public Employees Federation in order to save the state $75 million this fiscal year and nearly $400 million over the course of their contract, the governor’s office said.
Unions here have faced similar decisions as local governments and the state itself have scrambled to balance budgets in a down economy. These local agreements, as tough as they were for union members to accept, saved union members’ jobs when the state was in no position to continue “business as usual.”
One union, the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents King County Metro bus drivers, may face one of these tough decisions again. King County Executive Dow Constantine wants a temporary $20 car-tab fee to help fill a $60 million budget hole and avoid a 17 percent reduction in service, which means a cut in union members’ jobs.
The County Council could pass the car-tab fee this summer, but it would take a supermajority vote (five of the nine members) and that is considered unlikely. The issue could be put to a vote of the people, but passage also is “iffy” and the election itself would cost the county $1 million to conduct.
In a previous move, Metro Transit drivers gave up their 2011 cost-of-living increase to help balance the county budget. But unlike workers in New York, they still are in line for a wage boost this November and next. In addition, they would get a pair of raises during 2012.
Union members once again may be asked to come up with the solution. If so, we hope that they would put the public first and forgo more money in order to keep their members on the job – and the buses running.
Yes, not getting any raise for an extended period is tough to accept. The only thing worse — not having any job at all.