Wednesday, September 18, 2013

An Open Letter To Chris Abele Regarding The County Transit System

The following letter was presented to the Milwaukee County Board regarding Chris Abele's decision to go with a for-profit transit company to run the Milwaukee County Transit System.  It is published here with the permission of Local 998:
Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele
Milwaukee County Courthouse
901 N. 9th Street
Milwaukee, WI 53233

September 9th, 2013

Dear County Executive Abele:

The people on the front lines of the Milwaukee County Transit System, the workers represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998, have concerns about the process by which a new transit manager was chosen by your administration. There has been a lack of transparency to this process, with no public or worker input involved at all. We are wondering why this is so. You have been invited numerous times to discuss the matter with our membership, and we have yet to hear from you. We would like to remind you that when you sought our endorsement for public office, you gained that endorsement by addressing our concerns in person. We are not any less accessible now than we were then.

We would like to set the record straight on a few points. Our members have said time and again that we want to keep transit locally managed, and that we want to keep it non-profit. It is our feeling that public transportation is as much a part of the infrastructure of this county as any other public service. It is not intended to generate profit. This was one of the best transit systems in the country until shortfalls in state and federal funding forced cuts that harmed the community and our workers. Even with those challenges, the people at Local 998 have taken concession after concession to avoid service interruptions and further inconveniences for our passengers. We have shown up for work consistently through route cuts, fare increases, assaults on personnel, and the like. We have been here for this community. We do not deserve to have decisions affecting our livelihoods made without our input. The riding public does not deserve to have decisions affecting their ability to move around this county made without their input. Yet, this is exactly what has happened.

The members of Local 998 and of the transit riding community are keenly interested in keeping Milwaukee County revenue in Milwaukee County. There is no sense in sending jobs and money out of state at a time when this county is dealing with crippling legislation from Madison. There needs to be more than lip-service given to job creation and job access, and a robust transit system is integral to both issues. Transit riders, concerned advocates, and transit workers are taxpaying citizens who live here, shop here, and support the local economy.

Sit down with us and find more viable solutions than sending our tax dollars to shareholders in Texas.

We want transparency and inclusion to be central to the vendor selection process. This has not been the case thus far. The public and transit workers who serve this community have a right to be involved. We would appreciate it if your administration would talk TO us instead of AROUND us.

Our Union hall is always open, and we are ready for public hearings specific to transit, so the community and workers can help decide what is best for the transit riders of Milwaukee County.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Community Partners and the Members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998
I would just point out that this is a pattern for Abele. He has consistently refused to meet with the workers whether it's regarding the transit system, the mental health complex or any other part of the county.

So much for his grandiose talk about wanting to be partners with the workers while he was first running for office.

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