ATU587 President Throws Off His Mask

Trade unionism in America is a psy-op.”  Rich Gibson

Our president, Paul Bachtel, wrote a report, as he always does, for our paper in which he lauds the Executive Board for voting fourteen to two for a concessionary contract which the rank-and-file rejected angrily. In the essay he denounced those members who ran for office in opposition to the contract as “cowards.” (Yes, that’s right, our president called some of our members cowards. He seems to think that we have a duty to support him, and not the other way around.)

In order to understand this properly, a little background is needed.

King County’s (Seattle, Washington and environs) transit service, called Metro, experienced a budget shortfall due to a downturn in revenue following the economic collapse of ’08. Management reached agreement with our union leadership on an insulting contract proposal–all giveaways, no quid pro quo–which the membership voted down at a rate of four to one. Back to the negotiating table they went with our leadership warning us of dire consequences should we end up going to arbitration. The resulting proposal was barely distinguishable from its predecessor, and it was voted down at a rate of two to one.

Here is the report presented in all its merciless prolixity as it appeared on the front page of our local’s newspaper.  It’s entitled “Kudos to the Executive Board.”

Tough times often bring out the best in people. Our Union Executive Board is a perfect example. Knowing that they would be maligned, harassed, and threatened, a huge majority demonstrated the courage and integrity to recommend a concessionary contract proposal by a vote of 14 to 2. The two Executive Officers who voted against ratification also demonstrated courage in standing up for their beliefs against the majority. Several who weren’t in attendance at the August Executive Board meeting later joined the overwhelming majority in signing a letter to the membership recommending ratification of the proposed agreement. In fact, other than one retired Executive Board Officer with health problems, there is only one member of the Executive Board who didn’t attend the August meeting and didn’t take a position on the contract proposal. Perhaps that Executive Board Officer can explain his lack of attendance at the August Executive Board meeting and subsequent failure to take a public position for or against the contract proposal and meet the responsibilities of the office to which he was elected?

Serving on the Executive Board isn’t easy. Your Representatives and Officers are subject to an onslaught of personal insults and attacks, often from a small group of cowards who, in the last election, ran for office but lost. Hopefully, our membership will be wise enough to see these cowards for who they are: politically motivated incompetents who, if in the future were elected to serve as Union officers, would at best do nothing and at worst cause irreparable harm.

Don’t like the previous offer, neither do we. We simply believe the offer is better than what we will get from an interest arbitrator. Don’t like the customer complaint policy, neither do we. That’s why we’ve joined with management in Partnership to Achieve Comprehensive Equality (PACE) and have worked collaboratively toward a much improved policy. Expecting an interest arbitrator to fix the customer complaint policy is fantasy at best. You need Officers who can both fight for your rights when needed, and have the common sense to realize the only solution to some problems can be reached by working with management, not fighting against them. your elected Union Officers and members of PACE committees have demonstrated that common sense. Please thank them for their efforts when new policies are implemented next year.

You have, for the most part, hardworking, competent, Union Officers representing your interests. Unfortunately, due to the current vocal hostilities, many have expressed a lack of desire to run for reelection. Perhaps Local 587 will join the many ATU locals across the United States that elect new and inexperienced Officers every three years and as a consequence, fall further and further behind their fellow transit workers at like-sized transit properties. It’s up to you.

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