A New View on Union Leadership

During the past six months, I have begun to appreciate what a challenging and rewarding job being President of Local 1700 is. When I was “looking in from the outside,” even as a Chief Steward, I often imagined that the Executive Board’s work boiled down to pressing Greyhound on the union’s concerns and resolving our members’ grievances.

That is a large part of the job, of course, but now I see that being vigilant about the company and its antics and doing the right thing for union members is much more complicated.

Since taking office in March, I have traveled across the country to train stewards on the new contract, welcome drivers into Local 1700 from the now disbanded Crucero and Americanos lines, and begin negotiating a new contract for terminal employees.

But there’s more. Before, I was never much of a fan of politics. Now I clearly see the importance of lobbying Congress to change the Fair Labor Standards Act to remove the bus companies’ exemption on paying over-the-road drivers overtime. Before, I thought about my personal health. Now I think about how members can get the most out of our medical benefits. Before, I balanced my checkbook. Now I’m trying to tame the union budget.

Being president has also given me a new appreciation of you. I can see how our membership is changing. Our senior members are still the best bus drivers in America, but now more women than ever are behind the wheel, and our white and black members have been joined by hundreds of Latino and Asian drivers. Changes always cause some friction, but I believe diversity makes us stronger.

It’s time to stop living in the past. America, the intercity bus industry and ATU Local 1700 have changed, and no matter what you think of the new rules of the road, the “Good Old Days” aren’t coming back. That’s OK. They weren’t as good as you remember them.

It’s time to look forward and fight for a better future. It’s time for members to work together and use the new contract as a foundation for more progress. No, we didn’t get everything we wanted – or deserve – in the last negotiations. The company didn’t either. That’s why it’s called give and take. But we moved forward, and we will do better in the next contract.

Open the door, Sisters and Brothers, and the road is ours.