Don’t Give Away the MBTA, Governor Baker

10/03/2017 03:05 pm ET Updated Oct 03, 2017

“I do not want to privatize. I do not want to slash services. I do not want to lay off hundreds of T employees.”

That was the pledge Gov. Baker made in 2015. Now, the governor is breaking his promise.

MBTA is currently soliciting proposals to hand over one of the country’s oldest and most diverse bus fleets to the lowest bidder. Taxpayer dollars would be funneled to unreliable, often fly-by-night companies, and Massachusetts would lose more accountability as it struggles to find solutions to its public transit woes.

Residents and visitors of Metropolitan Boston deserve and need a world-class public transit system.

Baker’s privatization plan spells trouble for MBTA riders and working families.

The answer is investment, not pink slips. Baker’s ideologically-driven outsourcing scheme would only exacerbate MBTA’s woes. Firing your own best-in-the-nation bus mechanics is akin to releasing David Ortiz in his prime.

Our members haven’t been shy about offering solutions. When the MBTA said it wanted to find $21 million dollars in annual savings for bus maintenance, we gave them a viable, common-sense plan to save $29 million. Brian Shortsleeve, a privatization advocate and current MBTA Fiscal and Management Control board member who was on the board of the right-wing think tank Pioneer Institute before taking charge of MBTA, rejected our offer.

Shortsleeve’s rebuke exposes the true motives of the administration’s privatization push. Their proposed savings from privatizing bus maintenance work wouldn’t even make a dent in MBTA’s $6 billion debt. This is about short-term corporate profit, not the long-term viability of MBTA and certainly not improving service to riders. We must unite and fight back against these wealthy individuals and corporate funders who promote privatization schemes and insider dealing.

Boston-area transit riders want solutions to degrading service on MBTA bus and rail lines. MBTA mechanics couldn’t agree more—they’re doing more with less just to keep the service running.

Now they’re sacrificing their own pay to find a way forward. Bus mechanics voluntarily deferred a 2.5 percent raise they would’ve received on July 1. We offered the same future general wage schedule MBTA agreed to with Carmen’s Union workers, the previous target of the governor’s outsourcing crusade.

Baker and his corporate allies paint privatization as a saving grace to years of MBTA underfunding. Their remedy is to cut corners, endanger the safety of bus riders and put some of the nation’s most renowned, experienced and skilled mechanics out of a job.

Busses would break down more, causing longer commutes and added frustration for riders. One only needs to look at the failed privatization experiment with for-profit Keolis, which has turned Boston’s commuter rail into a massively expensive boondoggle.

One of the bright spots for MBTA is the low rate of bus breakdowns, especially given the age of its fleet. MBTA buses average nearly 13,000 miles between breakdowns, compared to 5,700 miles in New York and 3,000 miles in Chicago. These bus mechanics, members of Machinists Union Local 264 in Boston, should be personally thanked by Baker, not fighting for their jobs.

Working people are the backbone of our country and by taking away good jobs, Governor Baker is taking away the freedom of our communities to prosper.

Baker’s actions are hurting families, veterans, and communities.

So far, our olive branches to the Baker administration have fallen on deaf ears. We hope, for the sake of MBTA riders and workers, the governor gives our $29 million savings solution a chance. We’re ready to work as a team to do what’s right for Massachusetts.

Robert Martinez, Jr., is the International President of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Approximately 400 MBTA bus mechanics are represented by Machinists Union Local 264.

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