by Michael Brox
Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge the fact most county residents utilizing the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) are respectful, hard working, God fearing citizens.
They use the bus system to get to work, shop, or visit friends.
I myself am an avid bus rider and have enjoyed many delightful and lively conversations with people on the bus.
This week, I’d like to give proper recognition to the outstanding men and women of the Amalgamated Transit Union (local 998) who work for, drive and maintain the MCTS.
I became a regular MCTS consumer about a year ago when my “hoopty” (old beat up car) broke down for the last time. I swore I would not stick another $500 into fixing it. From that point on, I decided to ride the bus. This proved to be a very good decision.
The county bus drivers are always kind and courteous. I, personally, have never heard a bus driver raise his or her voice, with the exception of asking a passenger to turn down the volume of their music down.
Furthermore, I have never heard a driver swear or cuss at anyone and they almost always have a kind or encouraging word to say despite the fact they may be having a terrible day. In my estimation, these people are truly heroes.
As I’ve campaigned for Milwaukee County Fifth District Supervisor, the bus has been my main source of transportation. I’ve talked with many bus drivers during my commutes and I have found them to be extremely intelligent, well versed in what’s going on around the community, people oriented, as well as very passionate and professional about their work.
I think we are very fortunate to have these people behind the wheel, as well as servicing and cleaning the buses given the limited resources they have.
It’s unfortunate when some individuals riding the buses choose to be disrespectful, loud, unruly and, on occasion, violent. I’m sure you have heard of the recent situations where drivers have been attacked and severely beaten by groups of cowardly thugs.
One such incident occurred this past June when county bus driver Donald R. Woodson was attacked by a group of hoodlums attempting to steal his bus transfers. Now you might think the individuals who attacked Mr. Woodson were young folks. Not necessarily. One of the assailants was 40 years old.
What was a terrible situation for Mr. Woodson got worse when he was suspended without pay (which amounted to $6,000) by the transit system because during the attack, he got out of his driver’s seat (a violation of transit rules) to defend himself. I know what your thinking and, yeah, you’re right!
Angela Walker, a bus driver, and Legislative Director for the local 998 recently stated ” these punitive measures toward the driver sent the wrong message to the public and it’s simply not fair. Public transit is a legitimate form of transportation and it should be respected as such.”
During a recent conversation with Transit Union President Alan Simonis, he informed me the union’s main concerns for its members are: Health and safety, schedules (enough time to safely cover the routes), and bathroom breaks.
Simonis added it was important for upper and mid-level managers to work with employees to improve working conditions. “It’s better for management to seek advice from those who actually perform the work on a daily basis.”
Let’s all think twice before we say or do something that may be seen as an act of disrespect towards anyone, not just our county bus drivers. You might think that being loud and trying to be seen is cool. But its not.
If you would like to show your support for the local 998 transit join us for a Fundraiser for my candidacy for the 5th County Supervisory district.
The event will be Monday, December 19, at O’Brien’s, 4928 W. Vliet Street, from 7pm-9pm. All are welcome. See you on the bus.