Getting Up to Speed

Seems there are times where I get into these ruts where I end up pushing the website to the back burner, but usually return some with regular news. While many won’t have any interest in what I am discussing, it’s just one of those things I like to keep updated, especially when going back years later to reread what I wrote.

While nothing has had my undivided attention, the looming strike at work may be coming to the forefront as of Sunday evening. While it would be nice to have some time off, having that extended break would come with no paycheck. So a few days…sure. A few weeks…not really. Any period longer than that. Uh, no. I really don’t have an opinion I feel needs to be voiced about the situation. I say that because I don’t want anything to come back and bite me in the ass. And while the Internet is a vast, back hole, somehow I could see my opinions doing that. So, with that said, if indeed there is a strike, I will honor it, along with others in my union.

As I have said before, many employees who have never worked outside this company do not know how good they have it. United was a living nightmare for at least 5 years! Pay cuts, benefits cut, pensions cut. Yet, because of the love of the airlines, I wanted to stay. Unfortunately it got to a point where I knew I would not be able to provide for my family and have a comfortable retirement. So I did what was BEST for me.

That is probably my only point of contention when it comes to outsiders voicing their opinions when they do not have the full story. Each person in their given situation has the choice to get out and make life better for themselves. That is what I did and I was fortunate (and a bit lucky) to be hired by BART. I am thankful every day for it to, even those days when the shit is hitting the fan and things go from bad to worse. So while others might bad mouth some employee groups, those individuals can change things for the better, yet many will choose not to. I guess it is easier to bitch and complain, than doing something to better your situation.

Enough of that. I am still somewhat behind on the website for various reasons. I seem to have projects started that I cannot seem to finish or tackle a new job with finishing others. Just ask my wife. I have been meaning to get some well needed updates posted, but time has not permitted me that luxury. Not that I finally have my former game PC up and running in support of my ham radio, I should have the web cam back online shortly.

It’s funny, but as much as I complained about Facebook, I seem to frequent the site every day. Steph, you can STFU and stop telling me, “I told ya so.” Anyway, you can find me on Facebook with some updates, but this will always be my main playground. More later, as it is time to get off work.

Negotiations: My Impressions

*sigh* I remember the previous BART strike. Did I already talk about this? It was 4 years ago, I was working for United at SFO. I recall wondering how I was going to get to work, as I had been riding to and from the airport predominately since the 1:45 drive got long and tiring. Fast forward 4 years and I find myself no longer a paying patron, but a BART employee. So what does this have to do with anything?

First, I was never upset at BART employees. I was more upset with management and the fact they seemed to raise ticket prices on a yearly basis. It was no different than the bridge tolls going up a dollar every year since I lived in the bay area.

With contract negotiations going on this year, I have started reading some of the unofficial BART web sites on the Internet in order to get some reactions, comments and thoughts regarding the situation. Let me say, I am rather astonished at some of the attitudes on both sides. Being a patron for about 3 years I wanted the most economical, reliable transportation to and from work. BART was really the only option for me. Since then the economy has tanked. House prices has tanked. Jobless claims seem to climb on a weekly basis. Overall everything is down, yet my move from United to BART, everything was up.

I came out of a very bad situation at United Airlines, which culminated with 9-11. Things at United were bad years prior to that fateful day. After that day there were furloughs, retirements and an overall reorganization of the airline. Pay and benefits were cut as well, not to mention the company stock taking a huge fall. Over the course of 3 years I lost nearly 35% of my total pay.

It was not until my son was born in 2005 I realized I could no longer make a career, like my father did for 35 years, at United Airlines. I wanted to. I loved airplanes. I loved the job. But I hated the direction the company and it’s once proud principals were heading. I decided I needed a change. The opportunity to make that change came and I seized the day, so to speak.

On the day I was offered the job I immediately received a 30% pay raise for accepting the job. Based on the information provided from the Contra Costa Times and their nicely indexed salaries of all BART employees, my pay has increased another 31% since being hired. Nearly a 61% raise since making a decision to find a better job, with better working conditions and a future to look forward to.

I can understand and relate to the negative comments from many outsiders, looking in at BART. I understand the frustration and resentment of many patrons who are not happy with dirty trains, rules and regulations that are not enforced, high ticket prices and some front line employees who seem to come off with an “I don’t care” type of attitude. Unfortunately, everyone at BART suffers because first impressions do go a long way.

This is my first contract experience at BART. I can say I am comfortable with my yearly salary and benefits, based on where I came from, not the past practice at BART since I don’t know much prior to being hired. I hear employees from a few different unions voicing their displeasure with what management is trying to do or has (or hasn’t) been doing leading up to the July 1 deadline. Now we are 10 days past and still in negotiations.

Hopefully whatever transpires benefits all parties involved from employees to management to those patrons who pay their fares to ride daily. As optimistic as I would like to be, negotiations always seem to be ugly and someone always feels they get screwed. Hopefully it is not the patrons who feel screwed in the end.

My 3% (as opposed to $.02 cents)

I recall a former train controller trainee, when asked how he heard about the job, he Googled $100,000 BART jobs and was surprised to find an Excel file that held his answer. Being inside the proverbial “glass house” and looking out I think I am paid very well for what I do on a daily basis. Looking at this realistically coming from an airline that has been sliding downhill since 1999 (or a few years prior) I felt very fortunate to be hired. My pay had been reduced nearly 35% over the course of 4 years at United, in addition to furloughs and changes and more job responsibilities.

The hiring process at BART was long and the training even longer and more stressful than I ever imagined. I believe I earned every penny I was offered. Still do in fact. Now that the media has made all 3,200 BART employee salaries available via an organized database that can search by last name, department or job title. Amazingly enough each work has their pay broken down based on gross, net, overtime and other pay. Wow! Who would think the entire world could know how much I make. Again though, I stand by my previous comment, I believe I am worth every penny I make.

While the job I do is not for everyone, there is a very high (70%) failure rate for candidates who just cannot make the grade and end up failing out of training. Again, I should know because at a few points during training I could have been a statistic. Thankfully after countless discussions with managers and trainers I was able to refocus and adequately demonstrate my learned abilities to be certified. This was not a simple process. I don’t ever recall having such a difficult time during training, this training was different.

I won’t comment on the unions and their proposal for a 3% raise. Would it be nice? Sure, it would. Can I live without it, yup. I am more worried about medical benefits and retirement more so than giving concessions for a 3% raise of a proposed 2 year period. We all know the economy will turn around and the current situation will get better for everyone. Hopefully I don’t find myself walking a line with a sign in my hands because that is the last place I expect to be. I would much rather be at work, helping patrons get to work by keeping all the trains moving.

Is It Un-American?

‘Patriot Day’ the day is intended as a memorial to the victims of a terrorist attack and arguably has nothing to do with patriotism. Like many around the world I witnessed the events as they happened, and I will never forget the scenes or images as they unfolded in New York, Washington DC and Pennsylvania. I was not directly affected by those events, I did not loose friends or family in the terrorist attacks, but like many Americans my life was affected. There were a few hours I was unsure my sister’s status. She was a working flight attendant who was scheduled to arrive in Washington D.C. from Germany. About midway over the Atlantic, they turned the aircraft around and went back to Germany.

All Americans were affected if not directly, indirectly from these attacks. Personally, I lost nearly 30% of my salary at the airlines because of these attacks. A very small consolation compared to those who lost loved ones, I know. But the fact remains we, as Americans were ALL affected. Look at the supposed “increase in security” at airports as an example. Longer security lines, ridiculous restrictions as to what can be brought through security and boarded on an airplane now.

I know 9-11 is now a “sacred day” for many Americans, but honestly I don’t want to relive the experiences from that day. Is that wrong? Does that make me a bad or unpatriotic person? I don’t think so. We hear so many comments about how its vital we “not forget” and “is it too soon” to show documentaries or movies about the attacks. I admit I spent the better part of 2 years reading about events that led up to 9-11. I grabbed a copy of the 9-11 Commission Report and read it page by page, but nothing really answered any of the questions. We will never know the exact breakdown was or how things really transpired on Flight 93.

So, I will continue to be proud to be an American and fly the Stars and Stripes, but I won’t look back in retrospect (only from the conspiracy angle) at the events of 9-11. I will always live the fact it affected my personally to some degree. But we should be looking towards our government (God help us!) to fix the problems, which is asking a lot considering the bureaucracy, red tape and other problems that plague the United States.

Tired of Work

I’m tired…sick and tired of my job at the airlines. Now, along the way there have been some good times to go along with the bad that have dominated since 2001. I can remember back to my first date in June, 1995 when I was hired as a ramp serviceman in Los Angeles. Everybody sort of sizing each other up, making some new friendships and learning the ropes of a new job.

I grew up in an airline family, so was really the only industry I knew. My father was a pilot, mother a flight attendant and just a few months prior to my being hired, my sister was hired as a flight attendant too. All my training and education has been centered around the airlines as well. I graduated with a B.S. in Aviation Management from Southern Illinois. I attended specialized training and became a licensed F.A.A. Flight Dispatcher. I also started flying in 1990, with my goal to be a pilot and follow in the footsteps of my father.

When I turned 30 I gave up on achieving my dream to be a pilot. Times were very competitive with airlines going out of business, highly experienced pilots coming out of the military and honestly, I was out of money to continue to fly on my own dime. I ventured down a few different runways looking for a change in what I was doing with the airlines. I moved over to the operations side of the industry at the end of 1995, where I have been since, with a minor stop in Chicago.

2001 was a bad year for the airlines with 9-11 shutting down the skies over the United States, something that had never happened before. It was about that time, my airline took a turn for the worse (as did many), with costs continuing to rise and profits..well lack of profits continuing to sink deeper and deeper into the red.

By the start of 2002, we had already seen a few pay cuts, these cuts would continue for another year. When it was all said and done nearly 30% of my wages had been cut! But I was reminded, I should consider myself  “lucky” for still having a job after much downsizing and reorganizing, as well as my airline filing for bankruptcy protection *sigh*.

I figured I could get a fresh start in San Francisco, but I see I see HR and upper management play the same type of games as Los Angeles did. If you are not on the “fast track” you won’t see management above the supervisor level. Quite unfortunate for me, as I know my job damn well, but was not given the chance. I don’t want to get involved with the discrimination that takes place, but it’s there. You need to be a blind moron to miss it! And I was told by one department manager and a shift manager that I was not selected because they (HR) wanted a female. Talk about getting the shaft! I’m over that now.

It is long past that time to GTFO. I am just buying my time as I work on my resume and get a real opportunity ti interview with a new company and hopefully secure a new line of work that will pay me what I am worth. Not 30%. Speaking of, my rational is this, they took 30% of my pay so I work 30% less. Fair, right? Logical? Right? But in reality upper management wants you doing more with less. Typical, huh?

The way the company is managed (or is that mismanaged) at the local level is amazing. We do things the same way over and over, yet toss some weather or a mechanical or something out of the ordinary and it’s SNAFU! A great example, just last night I had a flight delayed for nearly 5 hours, after which time I was told maintenance could not fix. But instead of being upfront and honest about it, they kept stringing me along for 30 minutes a pop before I knew it, the flight attendants were going illegal, walking off the aircraft and I was out of options.

The airlines are no longer glamorous, regardless of the “cheap” tickets or free travel that comes with it. These days nearly ALL airline tickets are cheap. I would not be surprised if you, the non airline employee could find some tickets to rival what I pay with my benefits. Not to mention, if there are no seats, I don’t fly.

Even IF our company comes out of bankruptcy things won’t change. We have “performance reviews” every year, but realistically what does it matter how we score? We are not going to see a raise. The company, while improving will still not turn a profit. *sigh* It’s the same old thing, year after year. Nothing gets better, it only gets worse. And that 30% I will never see it again as long as I stay as an employee with this company.