I started driving for AC Transit in 1986. I came to AC because I had been driving for Greyhound Lines and liked the work but wanted to work more locally.
I always liked the core lines -- the 82 run, the 1R, the 40s. I liked being out there with the public. There was a real connection with the community, with people who really appreciate and need our service.
Twenty-five years later, passengers are still the best part of AC Transit, but there's much to do to deliver on the district's PR about "A Better Ride." We need less sloganeering and more commitment to improving this important service.
AC Transit carries more than 200,000 passengers daily. Cuts in recent years mean the bus operators, maintenance workers, dispatchers, clerical and approximately 1,700 members of ATU Local 192 have suffered from speedup, stress and a 50 percent increase in transportation injuries in the last year.
Riders suffer, too. Service cuts mean that passengers wait longer between buses, placing themselves at risk. The district's considering replacing deputy sheriffs with untrained, unaccountable private security guards shows a lack of concern for everyone's safety. The district's refusal to provide hygienic restroom facilities and adequate breaks impacts our health and well-being.
Operators, dispatchers, clerical and maintenance workers are hard at work and doing our part to maintain service. We do the job every day with fewer co-workers. At the height of the recession, we lost more than $35 million in concessions -- money that our families as well as our communities had counted on. We live in the neighborhoods we serve, and we spend our money locally, including paying local taxes.
We live with the same high Bay Area inflation rates as others, yet our wages today are less than they were six years ago.
We know that the riding public and the elected board value our work. We commend the board's June 12 vote against subcontracting TransBay service, which would have thrown reliability and accountability figuratively under the bus.
We urge the elected board to listen to voters, riders and working families who depend on AC Transit.
A lot has been said about transit strikes this year, because our contract expires on the same day as BART. Our members want to bargain a fair contract and keep the buses rolling. We need a willing partner to negotiate.
While our union goes back 112 years, we know that transit is the key to our future. My 27 years with AC Transit are just the beginning. Planners now setting the course for the Bay Area's future are counting on reliable, quality bus service. We can make that vision come true if AC Transit works with employees and demonstrates respect for riders and workers.
Yvonne Williams is president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192 and a graduate of the National Labor College.