The Director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Paul Alivisatos, wrote a letter to you on January 28, regarding the change in bus service, which contained a number of errors. Here are the facts:
The 13 career bus drivers at LBNL have lost their jobs as bus drivers. While these drivers have taken other jobs at the Lab in order to maintain their benefits and current pay rate, their new jobs are not in their chosen careers as bus drivers. Mr. Alivisatos is wrong to regard all service jobs as the same, and to think that all service workers don’t care what they do.
Some of the drivers are working as custodians, a classification with a lower pay scale than that of a bus driver. These drivers, in their new custodial jobs, have lost the ability they once had to advance through a driver’s higher pay scale. At their current rate, the new drivers-turned-custodians are making more money than the more experienced custodians who they now work side by side with. Is that fair?
Just a few years from retirement, after decades of driving a bus, and physically unable to handle the job of custodian, one of the drivers has essentially been forced to retire early.
The five new custodial positions created at the Lab to absorb the displaced bus drivers should have been used to hire some of the 25 custodians who are laid off from the UC Berkeley campus. The Lab should have kept its union bus drivers, because the problem was not with their drivers, and instead considered outsourcing its bus management. Better still, the Lab should have simply bought new fuel-efficient buses with some of the federal stimulus dollars it is swimming in and worked on improving its management.
In contracting with MV Transportation, the Lab has not accomplished its goal of providing safe transportation. MV transportation, a non-union employer, has a robust record of fatalities, discrimination lawsuits, and OSHA violations. MV’s astronomical turnover rate is partly responsible for this.
In the 42 years that the Lab has had bus services, there has been not one fatality. And while 13 drivers have lost their jobs as drivers, the Lab’s employees, students, and guests have lost the invaluable service that came with more than 50 years of collective experience that these drivers brought to their work everyday.
Kat Bedford is a displaced LBNL bus driver.