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Thread: (Philadelphia) Another SEPTA strike?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Dharmster's avatar
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    (Philadelphia) Another SEPTA strike?

    Looks like the union is finally forcing the issue.. as this editorial suggest they are living in lala land:

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Posted on Mon, Oct. 10, 2005

    Averting a SEPTA Strike

    Editorial | Bargain in good faith on co-payments




    In a perfect world, the 5,000 members of the Transport Workers Union (TWU) at SEPTA could continue having transit riders and taxpayers pay 100 percent of their health benefits for most of their careers.

    But the world is far from perfect.

    Fact is, SEPTA - which reported a $92 million deficit this year that was papered over by temporary federal highway funds - can hardly afford to pay its workers' entire health premiums. (Workers make co-pays only during their first two years on the job.) But TWU officials have threatened to strike at 12:01 a.m., Oct. 31, primarily over the health-care co-payment. Cheers and applause came from 1,000 workers when the strike deadline was announced Oct. 2.

    There should be no cheering about the possibility of interrupting service for bus, subway and trolleys in the city, plus 19 bus routes in Montgomery and Bucks Counties.

    Such a calamity will hurt workers who have no other transportation options. It could undercut SEPTA's fiscal health at a time when it has finally increased ridership, by 25,000 passengers a day. A prolonged strike such as the 40-day shutdown in 1998 could hurt retail outlets at the beginning of the holiday season.

    It's hard to see TWU workers winning much support and sympathy for a benefit shared by few other workers in the nation.

    Union officials rightly complain that SEPTA management is demanding workers go from paying nothing, to a 20 percent co-payment toward health costs. But SEPTA officials say that is just an opening position.

    Both sides must compromise.

    Union members have been working without a contract since March 15.

    There is room for a wage hike, since SEPTA bus drivers are near the bottom - 10th - on the pay scale among the 13 largest U.S. transit agencies. But if a 20 percent co-pay demand is unreasonable, the same could be said of the unions' push to maintain fully paid health care.

    A September survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 91 percent of employers require workers to contribute toward health-care premiums for family coverage, and 79 percent of employers require co-pays for single jobholders.

    Another consideration in these talks is that SEPTA must join other transit systems next year to make the case to the state legislature for more dedicated transit funding. And Harrisburg lawmakers aren't going to be any more sympathetic than strike-stranded riders if SEPTA and its employees cannot reach an equitable agreement.






    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    © 2005 Philadelphia Inquirer and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.
    http://www.centredaily.com

  2. #2
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    What is it going to take for Pennsylvania to hammer out a proper transit funding mechanism? This seems to never end.

    Disband SEPTA, fire all of the union workers, and create a new, more nimble and better funded agency in its place. Or, better yet, contract out the bus routes and rail system maintenance.

    I am sure any gaps in service would be well worth a healthy and functioning transit system far into the future.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jmello
    What is it going to take for Pennsylvania to hammer out a proper transit funding mechanism? This seems to never end.

    Disband SEPTA, fire all of the union workers, and create a new, more nimble and better funded agency in its place. Or, better yet, contract out the bus routes and rail system maintenance.

    I am sure any gaps in service would be well worth a healthy and functioning transit system far into the future.

    It always amazes me how irrationally anti-union so many people can be.

    SEPTA doesn't have recurring financial problems because they pay people an extra $6/hour. They have financial problems because the board is comprised of a bunch of hacks who know jack about running a transit system.

    The people who show up to work everyday and put in 8-12 hour days behind the wheel of a bus for $35k a year aren't the people who need to be fired.
    If you want change at SEPTA you can start with firing the board then you can fire upper-management and then maybe work your way down.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Dharmster's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jresta
    It always amazes me how irrationally anti-union so many people can be.

    SEPTA doesn't have recurring financial problems because they pay people an extra $6/hour. They have financial problems because the board is comprised of a bunch of hacks who know jack about running a transit system.
    The issue here isn't pay. It's fringe benefits and in particular. The costs of those benefits are more than SEPTA can afford. In the private sector people typically pay between 20 to 50 percent of health care premiums. Why should SEPTA employees be insulated from the real world (where employers have responded to spiraling health cost not by rationing as we tried that and it failed but by shifting health care costs to employees).

  5. #5
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dharmster
    The issue here isn't pay. It's fringe benefits and in particular. The costs of those benefits are more than SEPTA can afford. In the private sector people typically pay between 20 to 50 percent of health care premiums. Why should SEPTA employees be insulated from the real world (where employers have responded to spiraling health cost not by rationing as we tried that and it failed but by shifting health care costs to employees).
    SEPTA isn't broke because of "fringe benefits" for employees. Having employees contribute to their plan isn't going to make a dent in SEPTA's problems.

    Besides, they're not asking for raises AND benefits. It's understood in the public
    sector that you make significantly less than you would in the private sector but in exchange you get quality health care and some decent vacation/holidays. This goes the same if you're a planner, a lawyer, an engineer, a bus driver, whatever.

    It's not much more than a ploy by the SEPTA board to shift attention from their appalling mismanagement and blame the bus drivers, mechanics, and conductors for their financial woes. It's garbage. It's going to save SEPTA what each year out of a billion dollar budget? $10 million?

    They could get rid of one of their myriad duplicate bus routes and cover the health care gap.

    Updating their fare media (and eliminating transfers) would bring a big enough boost at the farebox to make up for it.

    Taking back bonuses for the execs and upper management might help.

    How about they quit making excuses for not having high-level platforms (that chew up 2 hours a day of labor every day on the R3 alone.)

    Maybe if they didn't throw tens of millions after pie-in-the-sky BS like the SVM, even after they were told by every other professional that it isn't feasible, they'd be in a better position.

    Maybe they should've listened to reason and buried the el in West Philly instead of trying to take the cheap way out (that turned out to cost more.) It might make sense to pay heed to the saying "depressed tracks elevate neighborhoods" and equate an elevated neighborhood with more ridership.

    But why would they do that? They don't know anything about transit and they don't understand anything about their ridership or potential ridership. They still think ad campaigns are the best way to attract and retain riders (honestly, i heard this last year from one of the VP's at a CAC meeting last year).

    I could go on, and i have, but as usual you're OTF.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jresta
    It always amazes me how irrationally anti-union so many people can be.

    SEPTA doesn't have recurring financial problems because they pay people an extra $6/hour.
    I am not anti-union. I am anti-public-sector-union. The MBTA in Boston pays bus/train drivers upwards of $20-30 per hour plus overtime for most deviations of work schedule. Everything is based on seniority and no-shows are common. Sorry if I am little bit biased. Perhaps SEPTA is not in the same awful place.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Bus drivers in Philly start at $14/hour. Sure, the guys who have been around for a while might get $30/hr. but they don't make up the majority of drivers.

    When SEPTA goes to negotiate a contract with the union a major part of the negotiations are the work rules. As it is the breaks that drivers get are the 10-15 between the end of one run and the beginning of another. Any driver of a bus route that passes through center city (between 7am and 7pm) loses most or all of that break because of traffic, illegal parking, construction, road work, etc, etc.

    If SEPTA can continue to negotiate breaks out of a union contract they can negotiate stiffer punishment for drivers who show up late or not at all.

    If SEPTA was upset about too much overtime for guys that are already making $20+ an hour then i'm sure they could make it a point of contention . . . it would probably fly a lot better with the public than saying "you don't have free health care therefore the trolley operators shouldn't either". It's pathetic.

    I've had bus drivers and station agents that have gone above and beyond. I always see station agents come out of the booth (even though they're not supposed to per SEPTA rules) to give tourists good directions. I've seen the same from public employees elsewhere in this city.
    I've also seen the opposite at SEPTA and in City Hall and it's by no means exclusive to blue collar employees.
    I'd also remind people that, while we may be transit riders everyday for 10 minutes to two hours, the people that work there have to put up with it for 8-10 hours a day. The guy talking to himself, the guy who wet himself, the drunks, the screaming high school kids, the people who argue about how much money they put in the machine, etc.
    It's not like I can say, "ohh yeah, i work with the public, i wait tables at a restaurant with $20 entrees." or "i work with the public, i work in city hall processing zoning apps or construction documents." Transit workers are only a step above police in dealing with EVERYONE and a disproportionate amount of the bottom of the barrel.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian safege's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dharmster
    The issue here isn't pay. It's fringe benefits and in particular. The costs of those benefits are more than SEPTA can afford. In the private sector people typically pay between 20 to 50 percent of health care premiums. Why should SEPTA employees be insulated from the real world (where employers have responded to spiraling health cost not by rationing as we tried that and it failed but by shifting health care costs to employees).
    I believe you are right, in union, as well as non-union labor, the transportation industry is going though a sea-change. The airlines are totally reinventing themselves with fewer employees and a right-sized pay structure. The NYC subway is automating their entire fleet over the next couple of decades.

    Why SEPTA is not automating the subway system is a complete mystery to me.

    I could go on about pensions going out of favor, or budgets being cut, but the real crux of the matter is that labor costs for transportation will have to come down or we should all get used to undersized transit systems.
    Psychotics are consistently inconsistent. The essence of sanity is to be inconsistently inconsistent.
    -Larry Wall

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Dharmster's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jresta

    Besides, they're not asking for raises AND benefits. It's understood in the public
    sector that you make significantly less than you would in the private sector but in exchange you get quality health care and some decent vacation/holidays. This goes the same if you're a planner, a lawyer, an engineer, a bus driver, whatever.
    Ummm. the United States federal government introduced the concept of widespread employer provided health insurance. Today the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan is the largest insurance plan in the country. Currently, the federal government covers about 70% of premiums with employees picking up the rest. If the federal government, which I learned in public administration is a model employer makes its employees pay 30% of their premiums then why are SEPTA employees so different that they need special treatment?

    Oh, and in case you have some arguments that the feds are shortchanging their employees they are by FAR not the worst in terms of providing insurance. I applied for a research job with a state university in Florida about four years that offered the standard state employee health insurance. Let me tell you it was really bad then (high premiums and low benefits), and with low tax Jeb in charge I doubt it's gotten any better. My dad as a university professor at a state university in Colorado also gets state health insurance coverage. The coverage for state employees in Colorado is so bad and and requires more like a 40% employee contribution. The state is so broke that it's essentially taxing every employee to go back into offering self insurance (the state legislature wouldn't pay for the administrative start up costs).
    Last edited by Dharmster; 13 Oct 2005 at 3:31 PM.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dharmster
    Oh, and in case you have some arguments that the feds are shortchanging their employees they are by FAR not the worst in terms of providing insurance. I applied for a research job with a state university in Florida about four years that offered the standard state employee health insurance. Let me tell you it was really bad then (high premiums and low benefits), and with low tax Jeb in charge I doubt it's gotten any better. My dad as a university professor at a state university in Colorado also gets state health insurance coverage. The coverage for state employees in Colorado is so bad and and requires more like a 40% employee contribution. The state is so broke that it's essentially taxing every employee to go back into offering self insurance (the state legislature wouldn't pay for the administrative start up costs).
    "you don't have free health care therefore the trolley operators shouldn't either". It's pathetic. and might i add - third world.

    I don't know what your hangup with health care is but it doesn't matter.

    The point is that SEPTA could afford healthcare but instead they're wasting money hand over fist - in operations and capital (and then wasting capital money that in turn leads to more inefficiencies in operations)- and they're trying to get their employees to pay for it.

    When SEPTA gets its house in order then they can turn to their employees in good faith and say "ante up."
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Dharmster's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jresta
    "you don't have free health care therefore the trolley operators shouldn't either". It's pathetic. and might i add - third world.
    You still haven't answered my question WHY they should be entitled to free healthcare. Your argument that SEPTA employees gave up pay for benefits would only be true if they made less than private operators in the Philadelphia region pay. In Washington, WMATA does have a two tier pay structure and ALL drivers start out part time to save costs. WMATA does have problems in recruiting and keeping new drivers (because of the lower pay and split shifts they often work). On the other hand seniority among those who are full time is low. Does SEPTA have a problem with filling bus operator jobs?

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Dharmster's avatar
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    Union Can't Defend Health-care Demand

    An editorial from the "conservative" Philadelphia paper:

    Posted on Thu, Oct. 06, 2005



    UNION CAN'T DEFEND HEALTH-CARE DEMAND
    TRANSPORT WORKERS SHOULD GET BACK TO CONTRACT TALKS



    THE LINE in the sand between the Transport Workers Union Local 234 and SEPTA management is now a wide ravine.

    This week, Jeff Brooks, Local 234 president, announced that his 4,600 members will hit the picket lines Oct. 31 if a new contract isn't in place. The old contract expired in March, and his members have worked without one ever since.

    In June, we noted our surprise that the union hadn't pounded the strike-threat drums. And that SEPTA management had pledged not to lock out the union. Publicly, it all seem civil, if not cordial.

    Things have changed.

    What hasn't are the issues, especially over health care. Just how - or if - negotiators wrestle with it is anyone's guess. Management wants union members to co-pay for health-care costs all during their employ with SEPTA. Currently, union members co-pay only during their first two years.

    Management wants union members, who have gone two years without a raise, to pay 20 percent of their health-care premiums.

    But given the financial realities facing SEPTA - which had to turn to the state for a bail-out - we don't see how the union can continue defending the current health-care deal.

    While a strike would be a short-term calamity for the city, the long-term prospects of continuing the current budget-busting, health-care provisions would be a disaster.

    The union stance comes just as SEPTA ridership is up an average of 25,000 a day (775,000 riders a day in September). High gasoline prices have sent people scurrying to the public transportation haven. A strike's impact would be more far-reaching than before.

    Health care is a conundrum in contract negotiations, not as simple as handing out predictable yearly raises, because several outside factors, including HMO costs and government involvement, muddy the mix.

    In an era where health-care costs have skyrocketed, 100 percent health care paid by an employer has become rare.

    According to data from the Hay Group, only 15 percent of companies surveyed in the Philadelphia region paid 100 percent of employee-only premiums. When it came to employee families, the percentage dropped to 8 percent.

    Among 760 organizations around the country, employee-only was 15 percent, and the family plan was 6 percent.

    Were SEPTA, with its $952 million budget, a private enterprise, perhaps things would be different.

    For one, we're sure no private entity would tolerate a projected $92 million deficient. Nor would it need a governor to ride to the rescue and bail it out by shifting over $215 million in federal money. Taxpayers fund SEPTA's health-care benefits, including tax-payers who don't use SEPTA and, more meaningfully, don't live in the city and would likely view the union's health- care demands as overly greedy. How can SEPTA turn to those tax-payers for support next time?

    It's time to return to the talks. Surely there are other issues where negotiations can start.

    But health care is a non-starter.






    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    © 2005 Philadelphia Daily News and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.
    http://www.philly.com

  13. #13
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    You still haven't answered my question WHY they should be entitled to free healthcare.
    Let's just get this straight - "no one else does it" isn't an argument. It's a logical fallacy.

    So it isn't about healthcare any more than it's about dental or vacation or pay rates. It's a total compensation package that can be negotiated anyway the two parties see fit.

    So when your employer is offering you less total compensation over the next 3 years what's the difference between contributing to healthcare or taking a 3% (or 5% or 10%) pay cut? The bottom line is that there is no difference.

    It's just easier for SEPTA to take the money from its employees one way rather than the other. Asking for a pay cut wouldn't resonate with the public and would rile the workers even more. However, they've apparently found an audience in people like you who, in some twisted, child-like, marxian logic think "if i can't have it no one should"

    If you read the article from the DN you'd see that their current contract is just a continuation of their old contract. So in inflation adjusted terms they've already taken a 4-6% paycut.

    Everyone knows that SEPTA is sorely mismanaged. If local taxpayers are really that worried about 2% of SEPTA's budget they'll see to it that we have a new SEPTA board next year.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Dharmster's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jresta

    If you read the article from the DN you'd see that their current contract is just a continuation of their old contract. So in inflation adjusted terms they've already taken a 4-6% paycut.
    That's not really an argument. With inflation running low until this year, inflationary pressure hasn't been enough to make the union want to concede on heatlhcare. The only reason they are striking now is inflation is running up and members will start to question why they are getting no raise.

    Let's also be honest, the health benefits don't benefit EVERYONE proportionately. They dont' benefit the SEPTA bus drivers in their first three months of employment where they don't get any health insurance. They don't benefit the new drivers as much who pay part of their premium for the first couple of years. They benefit people who have families more than single members. They benefit retirees who've had families the most. Medical costs are increasing and you have to know that SEPTA would prefer to increase compensation by giving COLAs which it can project, instead of healthcare costs which continue to increase at well above the inflation rate. Also by giving people COLAs the employees then have the freedom to spend it how they want. Maybe you couple the move to having a coinsurance charge by offering a consumer driven health plan.. I don't know but there are a lot of solutions and no one easy answer like you'd like there to be.

    I work for an employer that isn't signing ANY new contracts unless employees kick in for health insurance. It's a good position to take, and one that I back.
    Last edited by Dharmster; 17 Oct 2005 at 3:59 PM.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dharmster
    That's not really an argument. With inflation running low until this year, inflationary pressure hasn't been enough to make the union want to concede on heatlhcare. The only reason they are striking now is inflation is running up and members will start to question why they are getting no raise.

    Let's also be honest, the health benefits don't benefit EVERYONE proportionately. They dont' benefit the SEPTA bus drivers in their first three months of employment where they don't get any health insurance. They don't benefit the new drivers as much who pay part of their premium for the first couple of years. They benefit people who have families more than single members. They benefit retirees who've had families the most. Medical costs are increasing and you have to know that SEPTA would prefer to increase compensation by giving COLAs which it can project, instead of healthcare costs which continue to increase at well above the inflation rate. Also by giving people COLAs the employees then have the freedom to spend it how they want. Maybe you couple the move to having a coinsurance charge by offering a consumer driven health plan.. I don't know but there are a lot of solutions and no one easy answer like you'd like there to be.

    I work for an employer that isn't signing ANY new contracts unless employees kick in for health insurance. It's a good position to take, and one that I back.
    Nice trying to hoist me on my own petard there but it's not working. Their contract is 5 years old. I know inflation has been low but it hasn't been that low. The union knows the value of their healthcare and they know that it's worth getting paid less to keep those benefits. That's why they are where they are today.

    The rank and file spoke at the voting both. What they want is healthcare.

    If SEPTA is that concerned about the inflationary pressures of healthcare on their bottom line they'll do what they did at the bargaining table last time, which is say, "OK, fine, we'll give you healthcare but only in a two year contract." When the two years is up they negotiate again and both sides figure out what their best interests are.

    Again, the union isn't asking for much more than what they've been getting under their 5-year old contract. The bottom line is that SEPTA wants the union to make concessions to make up for their waste, mismanagement, and cronyism.

    And again, your argument is "everyone else does it (even me) so why shouldn't they?"
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Dharmster's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jresta
    What they want is healthcare.
    Let's seperate the issues... firstly if SEPTA does have waste then it needs to be rooted out but that will take time. However, that doesn't change the fact that what SEPTA is asking for in terms of healthcare givebacks is being asked by most employers and for them not do would reflect bad management.

    I agree with you on a short term contract but it should be with employees chipping for health insurance and IF the financial situation of SEPTA improves then maybe that can be reversed.

    My problem is with union people flat out misrepresenting the truth.

    Take the letter published in a recent Philadelphia Daily News (http://www.philly.com/mld/dailynews/.../12929841.htm).

    The union employee repeats your claim that that, "Most public employers pay 100 percent of the health-care costs because their wages are not in step with the private sector. "


    Point number one, is that I'm sure the non unionized drivers who drive buses in Philadelphia probably make less with benefits than their unionized counterparts who work at SEPTA. Maybe starting salaries are lower, but what one must look as is total compensation. That includes things like the cost of employee and retiree health insurance, employer paid disability, retirement, etc..

    Secondly, he's just plain wrong about healthcare costs! The federal government doesn't pay for 100% of health insurance. Where I live in Arlington, Virginia both the county and state governmetns make their employees contribute towards their insurance. Even the state of Pennsylvania now requires a very modest copay for new hires (1% of pay for individuals and more for dependent coverage).

    Why do you believe the rhetoric put out by the union when it simply isn't true!

  17. #17
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dharmster
    Let's seperate the issues... firstly if SEPTA does have waste then it needs to be rooted out but that will take time.
    This issue is almost as old as SEPTA itself, i don't know how much more time you think we need. Corruption is an issue with governments in general but is by no means unique to the public sector.

    In any case they're not really issues you can separate. SEPTA is broke for very specific and identifiable reasons. Part of it (and this goes for all levels of government) is that they award contracts to known middle-men who skim millions without doing any work (think Haliburton or Bechtel). They can keep getting away with it in part because they're politically connected and in part because people like you would rather point the finger at some guy making $40k a year and trying to keep his family out of the poor house with a decent health insurance. Even though it's more than obvious (and well documented in cases like the Big Dig and the LA subway) that public works projects costs so much damn money because
    middle men skim and pass the project on to other middlemen who do the same thing.

    However, that doesn't change the fact that what SEPTA is asking for in terms of healthcare givebacks is being asked by most employers and for them not do would reflect bad management.
    and in terms of a short-term contract, which is likely to happen either way, it's completely arbitrary.

    I agree with you on a short term contract but it should be with employees chipping for health insurance and IF the financial situation of SEPTA improves then maybe that can be reversed.

    Once again - healthcare is arbitrary. In the end the union is asking for x amount of dollars. SEPTA can say yes or no. When the two sides agree on a number they can work out how that breaks down. The union can increase productivity or take a pay, vacation cut, prolong retirement, etc to make up for the difference in costs. Either way it's a concession for the union.

    My problem is with union people flat out misrepresenting the truth.

    Take the letter published in a recent Philadelphia Daily News (http://www.philly.com/mld/dailynews/.../12929841.htm).

    The union employee repeats your claim that that, "Most public employers pay 100 percent of the health-care costs because their wages are not in step with the private sector. "
    If you're going to keep making appeals to popularity or citing anecdotal evidence as anything more than that how about this one - I'm not in a union, never have been, and probably never will be. I have worked in government - for two cities in two different states and for the regional government here. No one contributed to their health plan in any of those places. I have friends who work for local governments in NJ and CA and have had friends who worked for different local and county governments in NY, NJ, CA, MA and CO and none of them contributed to their health care.

    Point number one, is that I'm sure the non unionized drivers who drive buses in Philadelphia probably make less with benefits than their unionized counterparts who work at SEPTA. Maybe starting salaries are lower, but what one must look as is total compensation. That includes things like the cost of employee and retiree health insurance, employer paid disability, retirement, etc..
    What non-unionized bus drivers? Are you talking about the guys who just started and have to wait their 90 days? Greyhound drivers passing through? The guys who drive the Chinatown busses?

    Secondly, he's just plain wrong about healthcare costs! The federal government doesn't pay for 100% of health insurance. Where I live in Arlington, Virginia both the county and state governmetns make their employees contribute towards their insurance. Even the state of Pennsylvania now requires a very modest copay for new hires (1% of pay for individuals and more for dependent coverage).

    Why do you believe the rhetoric put out by the union when it simply isn't true!
    Citing practices in Arlington and VA doesn't back up your claim that the federal government doesn't pay 100%. Copays and employee contributions are two entirely different things. When i worked for the regional government (technically as a PA state employee) I contributed nothing to my health insurance. If i went to a dentist i paid zip. If i had a vision problem and needed glasses or contacts i would have also paid nothing. If i went to the pharmacy (although i never did) it would've been a $5 copay for prescriptions. A doctors visit would've cost me $10. A visit to a specialist would cost me $20. My sister-in-law is a federal contractor (not a federal employee) and has more-or-less the same deal i did as a state employee. Even the military has copays. It's as much to prevent unnecessary visits as it is to cover the costs of processing the paperwork.

    It's not the same as an employee contribution - which is what my fiancee gets taken out of her paycheck twice a month. Whole Foods (a notoriously non-union place) has OK insurance but the employees, mostly young who know they won't be there longer than 5 years, voted it that way. They didn't want more health or prescription coverage and instead opted for a 20% discount at the store and a higher rate of profit sharing.

    A similar thing happened recently at AOL. Rather than take more stock options the staff, mostly long-term employees with families, voted to keep their healthcare as it was.
    Last edited by jresta; 19 Oct 2005 at 2:31 AM.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Dharmster's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jresta

    Citing practices in Arlington and VA doesn't back up your claim that the federal government doesn't pay 100%. Copays and employee contributions are two entirely different things.
    You seem to be committing the same mistake that GW Bush does, that is letting the facts get in the way of reality.

    Just so you know, I may be joining the federal government soon so I've looked into this.The most popular plan available Blue Cross Blue Shield Standard, I'd pay for part of my premium AND substantial copays. I'm single now but getting married soon, so I pulled up a profile for both single and family using the Consumer's Checkbook Guide to Health Plans for Federal employees and Annuitants.

    So as a single person with average healthcare expenses, would pay $880 a year in premiums and an estimated $810 in additional out of pocket expenses(some of that is dental since the federal government doesn't offer comprehensive dental insurance) for a total estimated cost of $1,690. A family of two would pay $2,050 in premiums with an estimated $1,570 in additional out of pocket costs for a total $3,620. There are many other plans with lower out of pocket costs, but they are not as popular because they restrict your ability to get care (either through restricting doctors, access to specialist, or access to certain medical procedures). The thing is all plans require payment of premium and the yearly premiums for a single person in Metro DC range from $590 to $3,050. The total estimated out of pocket costs for someone with average healthcare needs ranging from $1,170 to $3,890 (including premiums). Remember, that all premiums are paid pre-tax and all employees can sign up for flexible spending accounts and have their portion of estimated expenses (copayments) taken out tax free so the actual cost is to most employees after tax benefits is probably 20 to 30 percent less than the "sticker" price.

    This is just a hypothetical example and depending on the plan and number of family members these numbers change. Also as costs escalate, the amount that federal employees pay goes up. Next year the average premium will increase by 6.6%. As far as the premiums are concerned the federal government picks up on average 70% of the premium costs (more on cheaper plans less on expensive plans) and 30% is paid by employees. As costs increase employees pay more and they pay more for plans which cover the most offer the most generous benefits and/or least restrictions.

    The Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan is considered a model. While employees pay a signficant amount it offers coverage from day one and no pre-existing condition waivers. It uses market power to foster competition among insurers and encourages members to stay well by making them pay a portiono f their healthcare costs (the lower your healthcare costs the less you pay).

    So in short, I can't fathom how "most" government employees pay NOTHING when all federal employees pay something. I also can't understand how one can claim most employees don't pay, when the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania now requires employees to contribute 1% (for all those hired after 2003, for the rest it's phased in by 2007) of their salaries for insurance. The Commonwealth also requires additional payments for anything but the cheapest health plan available to employees. So you tell me, why should the Commonwealth provide more funding to SEPTA so they can provide more generous health benefits than they provide to their own employees?
    Last edited by Dharmster; 20 Oct 2005 at 1:05 AM.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    We can throw anecdotes back and forth until we have universal health care.

    In the end there's no difference between Commonwealth employees taking a 1% pay cut and getting employer paid healthcare or not getting a raise for 3 years (like me) to keep employer paid healthcare.

    ZERO difference on the bottom line.

    What the federal government is doing in terms of healthcare, in terms of environmental regulation, in terms of worker safety, in terms of minimum wage - is completely out-of-step with the northeast.

    If you want to talk about healthcare in general start a thread in the FAC

    Let's get to the facts about SEPTA

    1.SEPTA isn't broke because of what the union is asking for.

    2.SEPTA is broke because of what the board and management do.

    3.The union isn't asking for more of anything.

    4.SEPTA wants concessions from the union to cover for their mismanagement.

    The Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers (DVARP) believes that the Philadelphia region's public transportation system needs significant structural reform as well as increased and predictable funding. DVARP has prepared the report, The System is Broken -- A Case for Reforming SEPTA, making a case for such reform at SEPTA. We address issues that have been of great concern to us and to bring light to what we see as fundamental problems at SEPTA. We hope this document will be used as fuel for bringing change to the authority. While DVARP is hopeful that the Commonwealth will come up with a predictable and adequate source of funding for public transit, we believe that now also would be a good time to take a hard look hard at SEPTA to see what changes would make the authority more efficient in providing its service and a more responsible fiduciary of the public funds it receives.

    The report is broken out into sections. The first is a synopsis of the state of SEPTA, and our interpretation of why SEPTA is in its current state. The strengths and weaknesses of SEPTA are also enumerated. After that is a series of illustrative cases, each raising one or more disturbing points about SEPTA and how it has been managed. We review possible courses of action for restructuring SEPTA; we also provide an Appendix that includes news articles with relevant quotes and other supporting documents


    Full text
    http://www.dvarp.org/reform/case_for_reform.pdf
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian Dharmster's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jresta


    What the federal government is doing in terms of healthcare, in terms of environmental regulation, in terms of worker safety, in terms of minimum wage - is completely out-of-step with the northeast.
    Nice try in changing the subject. The Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan has always operated like it has for several decades now. They've made some minor changes along the way in the share paid by the plan vs. employees. The major difference in the last five years is that healthcare costs have outpaced inflation so premiums have gone up at well above inflation.. For certain lower grade employees, in some years their entire cost of living adjustment has been eaten up premium increases (especially if they have a family).
    Last edited by Dharmster; 20 Oct 2005 at 5:11 PM.

  21. #21
    maudit anglais
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    Can we just agree to disagree here?

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Dharmster's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Tranplanner
    Can we just agree to disagree here?
    Fine, but I'll close with saying that JRESTA is parodying the union claims that public employees don't pay anything towards health insurance premiums. Employees at both the federal and Pennsylvania governments pay something towards their health insurance. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government happen to be SEPTA's primary sources of subsidy so to make that claim seems dubious at best.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    The issue here isn't pay. It's fringe benefits and in particular. The costs of those benefits are more than SEPTA can afford.
    I'm not changing the subject. This is the subject that you can't seem to stick to.


    If you want to talk about healthcare - talk about healthcare - in a different forum.
    Don't drag SEPTA into it ( a system that you'd like to think you know a lot about) because you have an axe to grind and it seems politically convenient.

    (MOD - if you can't see that this doesn't belong in the transportation section you're not doing your job)
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian Dharmster's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jresta


    If you want to talk about healthcare - talk about healthcare - in a different forum.
    Don't drag SEPTA into it ( a system that you'd like to think you know a lot about) because you have an axe to grind and it seems politically convenient.
    Yeah right. I simply posted the article and someone responded saying get rid of SEPTA. You posted that's not the solution, and I actually agreed with you that getting rid of SEPTA isn't the solution but SEPTA's compensation costs were part of the problem. It was you who insisted on dragging out the argument.

    As for knowing a lot about SEPTA I actually do know a lot about SEPTA. The place has being going down hill ever since the DLG left as GM twenty years ago.

  25. #25
    maudit anglais
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    Quote Originally posted by jresta
    (MOD - if you can't see that this doesn't belong in the transportation section you're not doing your job)
    Moderator note:
    So sue me.

Closed thread

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