Transportation is an essential service
By Rebecca Wu, Contributor
I know dozens of people who won’t be able to work from Wednesday to Friday next week. I have a friend who will now need to call an expensive taxi to get to her hospital treatment. I personally won’t be able to visit my grandmother for her birthday.
Whether or not you believe TransLink workers should be making more money is irrelevant in this one; the bus strike is completely unacceptable. People need to be able to get places. Transportation—especially if it’s been paid for by our tax dollars—is an essential service. There are plenty of ways to strike without causing collateral damage to the innocent public. Why not run the buses but avoid collecting fare? Why not further reduce service as overtime is refused? Even run one bus an hour for most routes; just don’t shut things down entirely.
I hate that you’re labelled as a bad person if you don’t side with the workers. Why should I be sympathetic to their cause when their actions are directly affecting me in a negative way? TransLink isn’t deciding to stop all buses—the workers are.
Up until this point I’d been relatively neutral about the strike. I’m sure every single person thinks they deserve to earn more money—so if you get an opportunity to make more, who am I to judge? But now it’s hurting the lives and livelihood of people who are doing no wrong to the workers… and we’re still expected to support them? I’m all for hating the big, bad employer when money-grabbing is going on, but if you’re asking me to cheer someone on as they cut off my hands, you’ve got another thing coming.
If your job is to provide transportation to the public, whether or not you’ve officially been deemed it, you’re an essential service. If the firefighters stopped working, we’d be screwed. If doctors and nurses walked out on the job what would we do? If there were no police for a week how would that go? We wouldn’t be saying, “Oh, well, they deserve to make more money, so I support them not showing up for work.” We’d be up in arms and the government would be getting involved.
It’s not as if TransLink is just offering a pack of peanuts to its workers right now either. A 9.6 percent raise over four years for the drivers and a 12.2 percent raise for the technicians? Before you leap to, “but the horrible working conditions! And the terrible break rooms,” remember that there are far worse jobs out there with far worse working conditions—and most of those employees aren’t being compensated in the $70k range. Most are making closer to the true barely-scraping-by wages from minimum to $15 an hour—not this $25+ per hour fantasyland they’re trying to sell to us as Poorville. We’re supposed to scoff at a 10 percent raise for a no-student-debt-saddling position that is already well beyond the $50k yardstick? Additionally, word out of negotiations is that the breaks and related issues have been settled already. It’s all about the money.
I got away from my main point though. Whether or not they deserve a raise for as much as they want doesn’t matter. The fact that they’re selfishly forcing good, hard-working citizens to suffer and possibly lose jobs all because talks aren’t going as quickly as TransLink workers would like is deplorable. All of this hasn’t even brought those of lower income into it. While most of us don’t want to pay for taxis, we can when necessary. Those with little to no disposable income are locked into the areas they live because they literally can’t afford to go anywhere else when there’s no buses. Are we okay with that?
TransLink workers are doing what’s best for them. But they’re only doing what’s best for them.