THE DISTRICT 190 SPARKPLUG
the mechanics. I meet vendors every day who work with other transit agencies and they are amazed that we’ve been able to keep the buses on the road at all.”
Good news is that a new fleet of buses were ordered and are due to start arriving in a year and a half. Benedetti warned, however,
Tom Curran, Acting Supervising Manager and Local 1414 President
that it may take several months to check out fleet defects and get them safely on the road.
Both Benedetti and Curran lamented the large number of vacancies among the mechanics’ crew. Ten years ago, Muni had 117 mechanics; now they’re down to 94, and yet, this division alone has 24 additional buses. While Curran admitted that Muni tries to do the outreach needed to find skilled mechanics, “this is one place that manage- ment has let us down.” Until recently, the positions were all “provisional” and some positions could receive an additional $2 more per hour outside of Muni.
“The longer they keep the buses, the more we have to do. When you go it to fix one part, you realize that everything that part was connected to is also falling apart,” said mechanic Usbaldo Gonzalez.
“I went to the Grand National Transportation Rodeo. There we get to work on new equipment with new technology.
What a differ- ence,” said Ver- non Ting. “Muni gets a lot of negative publicity,” says Steven Lind, a
David Hom, a newcomer at Muni.
seven-year Muni veteran. “I keep seeing arti- cles about what bums we are. Some of us work really hard under difficult circumstances.”
“The negative press is tough; it sure does- n’t make you want to come to work,” agrees Randy Holliday. “Everyone here is conscien- tious and wants to do a good job,but it’s a challenge when you’re working on a 15-16 year old piece of equipment that should have been retired three years ago.”
When Pete Hambrick came to Muni 15 years ago, “things were in much worse shape. I worked on nothing but brakes for the first six months.”
“Now,” he says, the fleet is in much bet- ter shape. Sure, Muni has its problems, but San Franciscans are just spoiled rotten.”
“We’ve got good, hard-working people here,” says Shop Supervisor Tom Wurm.
“ Some real gems. It’s hard to find mech- anics who know what they’re doing, and there’s always a learn- ing curve to move from cars to buses. But our guys
go through the apprenticeship program and are well trained. When you get a good mechanic, you definitely want to keep him.”
“Bottom line,” says steward Benedetti, if they want to make Muni work, we need new equipment. Our mechanics can only work so many miracles.”
drive strong economy
Franchised new car and truck dealerships are a sig- nificant force in the nation’s retail economy, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association.
Accounting for nearly 20% of total retail U.S. sales, dealerships sold a record $508 billion in goods and services in 1997.
Employment at dealer- ships also reached an all- time high, rising to 1,056,400 or 5% of the nation’s retail workforce. At $37.4 billion, dealership payrolls represented 12% of the nation’s total retail pay- roll. The average individual dealership had 47 employees and an annual payroll of $1.65 million.
California dealerships had
the highest retail sales, at $53.6 billion. As a percent- age of total state retail sales, Texas dealerships topped the list, at 23.9%
Nevada dealership employ-
ees were the best paid. Their weekly earnings averaged $840. The national average was $680.
North Dakota’s dealership
payroll was the highest per- centage of total state retail payroll at 14.6%
Oklahoma and Maryland
dealerships employed the greatest percentage of total state retail employees, at 5.6% each.
“Keep techs with golf
club memberships” The following appeared in Ward’s Auto Dealer, a maga - zine for dealership owners.
For body shop managers, no more difficult challenge exists than replacing a trained technician.
Managers in many ways can prepare for a vacancy problem and then find a replacement, says Mark Claypool, executive director of the I-CAR Education Foundation which was organized in 1991 to address the shortage crisis.
“And it is a crisis,” Claypool declares. “About 48,000 body repair special- ists left their jobs in 1997, about 25% of the industry’s total. Some 8,800 retired or moved to other jobs, like esti- mator, and more than 10,000 left for other industries.
“Considering that the rest moved to other body shops,
replacements with entry-lev- el graduates of vocational training schools, 15,000 or so openings were left.”
Industry analysts advo- cate various measures to retain personnel including: maximizing pay and benefits packages, free memberships in health and golf clubs; pro- viding lifts that can be raised to comfortable working heights; maintaining a clean and safe work environment; partnering with local train- ing schools, and donating funds for student training scholarships.
What do we want? Golf club memberships! When do we want them? A f t e r w e ’ v e g o t a c o n t r a c for good wages and bene - fits, a pension plan, and union representation! t
SHOP TALK: What’s the best thing about being a shop steward?
“My days off!”
“Keeping the members up-to-date. As a member of the E-Board, I hear first if the members aren’t happy.”
“You get to meet and work with a lot of good people. I’m proud of our union.”
“It gives you the oppor- tunity to keep your fel- low members informed about insurance, pension and union issues.”
“I just become a steward in the last few months, but it’s great to come to functions like thisthe annual dinner.”