Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Pat McMahon: Dead Weight*

In this blogger's humble opinion, if you're not fed up, you're not paying attention (or you're staunch Union).

Upon reading the article by Joe Grata in today's Post Gazette, I became even more upset about Union's handling of contract negotiations with the Port Authority. The more I hear quotes from Pat McMahon, the more I see his words as irrational posturing for a strike. It seems more clear every day that Mr. McMahon and apparently the entire ATU 85 Board are completely unwilling to work constructively towards a contract solution. In fact, he and the Board that represent ATU 85 are dead weight. They are merely dragging along behind those in Allegheny County and Pittsburgh who are trying to move forward, and bring the region into the 21st Century, attempting to desperately hold onto ridiculous benefits, with little regard whether they pull Allegheny County and Pittsburgh down with them.

I've obviously taken a pretty adversarial view of Mr. McMahon's words and actions, so just to recap the facts on why I stand where I stand, here we go:

Compensation: Each transit operator does now and would continue to earn a MINIMUM, one more time a MINIMUM of $48,653.00 in wages. This does not include the opportunities for overtime, that could raise that figure even higher. The fact finder's report stated a 3% raise in hourly salary should be awarded to transit operators (which I agree with, for the record). This would help them retain their title as highest paid transit operators in the country (when cost of living is taken into account).

Health care: While most of America's work force with Employer provided health care pays for about 25% of their premiums, Workers in the ATU 85 pay 3%. Up until a few years ago, they payed NOTHING! The Port Authority wants them to pay approx. 9 %- 10% of their health care premiums. No one would argue that agreeing to these items would be concessions by ATU 85, but there is still little room to complain, in my mind, given the disparity between the benefits of most working Americans vs. transit operators in Pittsburgh. It would be a small price to pay to continue to enjoy some of the most generous benefits ANYWHERE in the United States.

Retirement: Currently, ATU 85 members can retire in their 40's or 50's based on years of service. They also are currently provided with extremely inexpensive employer provided health insurance. The Port Authority wants to raise the retirement age to 60 with 25 years of service, and get rid of employer provided health insurance (which is a HUGE drain on the Port Authority's budget).

Again, these are concessions, but few Americans are given such generous benefits (I call this the U.S. Army, which provides retirement at age 40 with 20 years of service and government paid for health care, then again, many retirees have been shot at and jumped out of planes for many years, so I'm willing to give them a pass. Driving a transit vehicle and expecting the same thing, however, is asking a little much). To want more benefits with no sacrefices in a time where most Americans are forced to concede to much greater cuts in benefits to me is ridiculous.

Bottom Line: All the facts in the world don't seem to be enough to change the mind of Mr. McMahon. It's a shame, because apparently some operators have come to think the way I do. They are happy to have a job with good benefits, and are willing to take a tiny cut to keep them, especially in these turbulent economic times.

The only fact Mr. McMahon seems interested in is the fact that he will not budge on benefits, and cannot be logically persuaded to do so. I do believe that in the end, the right decision will be made, unfortunately it may be made by a federal judge somewhere after days or weeks of grid-lock.

*I am not slamming Unions (not that it matters because I'm pretty sure no one reads this). I know most people in Unions, like any other workplace go to work, do their job with pride and go home. I am slamming the leadership of ATU 85. There are larger issues at stake than paying more for health benefits, there are alot of people that rely on the Port Authority, and I am pretty sure that they don't want to be taken down the road to a strike, although they obviously have no choice in the matter.

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