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Transportation Workers' Pay

October 08, 1994

On behalf of the approximately 4,500 bus and train operators on the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, I wish to take strong exception to the commentary by Wendell Cox ("The People's Problem Isn't Rail vs. Buses," Sept. 23), which not only distorts the facts concerning the salary paid to our members, but also indicated that there is a public benefit from privatization.

The author denigrated and belittled the service our members provide to the people of Los Angeles County. Public transit is a vital public service and nowhere in this country is it as physically and emotionally demanding as it is here on the MTA.

An attempt was made to belittle our members vis-a-vis teachers, by saying that teachers, "who must earn a college degree," are paid less than our members. The demands and work time of the two professions are totally different. Ironically, however, the actual starting wage rates are amazingly similar. Both teachers and bus drivers start out in the high $20,000s.

However, the similarity stops there. Top-rated bus drivers can only be assured of a guaranteed $38,000 per year without overtime, no matter how many years of service they have, while teachers can get into the $50,000 range. Also, most people don't realize that because of the two peak-hour service periods, there is something unique in the transit industry called "spread time," whereby an employee has a break of several hours in his or her work day, without pay. While there is no requirement for the employee to stay at his or her home division, reality provides limitations as to what can or can't be done, so most simply choose or find it easier to do so.

Thus, an employee might leave his home and not return for 12 or more hours and still be paid for eight hours of work.

As far as privatization is concerned, the so-called savings resulting from lower wages and benefits are almost always overstated.

EARL CLARK, General Chairman

United Transportation Union

Irwindale

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