I work for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority as a mechanic, specializing in heating, ventilating and air conditioning maintenance of buses. As a member of the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1342, which represents operators, mechanics and clerks, I participated in a leafletting action at a Bisons game this summer.
During this event, some members of management, who were trying to recruit new drivers and mechanics due to a shortage of each, spoke with some employees represented by the ATU. One employee asked an upper-level manager a few questions regarding the recruiting process. In his response, he went as far as to say, “Well, you chose this. That’s why I went to college.”
To me, this implies that maintenance and transportation department employees are uneducated and unable to handle difficult positions and not worth paying a decent wage.
This shows the view that upper management has toward the men and women who come to work every day, despite not having had a raise in the past eight years. Many of us, myself included, do in fact have a college education.
I don’t think people realize that the skills and licenses one has to acquire to be able to properly and safely drive, diagnose, repair and maintain these increasingly complicated vehicles are very difficult and take years to acquire.
Janitorial employees willingly take health risks every time they step on a bus or railcar to thoroughly clean it so that passengers have a safe, clean and healthy ride to their destination. These workers should not be looked down upon.
As a mechanic, I would love to ask a manager how he would go about diagnosing a fuel injection issue on a diesel engine. Or how to read the schematics on a multiplexing computer system that controls the interlock and door operating system of a bus. Or how to make sure the AC system is cool enough for rider comfort, but follow the regulations for environmental safety, and diagnose an issue with said system when the defect write-up simply says, “No AC.”
“Well, you chose this.” Yes, we did choose this. I chose to go to vocational school in high school and to college in Nashville, Tenn., to get a degree in diesel and automotive technology.
I chose to be a mechanic because that’s what I’m good at and have advanced skills in. It’s how I can best make a living and contribute to the mission the NFTA has in providing transportation for our many thousands upon thousands of riders.
I didn’t, however, choose to be knocking on the door of being poor simply because I recognized that I’m not cut out for managerial office work.
We have families and homes that we are struggling to provide for and pay for.
So please take into consideration the many men and women whose lives are affected by this disregard for and disdain of employees and the system’s riders. We aren’t asking to be paid on the same level as those in upper management, but we are asking to be paid fairly for the hard work we put in every day and for the knowledge we’ve acquired to do our jobs properly and ensure that this region’s residents have safe and reliable public transportation.