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Front Page » Government » Miami-Dade County, transit union divisions deepen

Miami-Dade County, transit union divisions deepen

Written by on July 16, 2019
  • www.miamitodaynews.com
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Miami-Dade County, transit union divisions deepen

To say that Miami-Dade County’s relationship with union members who staff its transportation department is strained would be an understatement.

According to a fiery letter Transport Workers Union Local 291 President Jeffrey Mitchell sent to county lawmakers, transportation officials and Inspector General Mary Cagle, among others, disagreements between the two parities over recent allegations is “adding insult to injury.”

At the center of the dispute is a report delivered last month to the county’s transit tax oversight body, the Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust, which cited multiple troubling safety and maintenance issues affecting the county’s Metrorail system.

Among the findings: two-thirds of Metrorail technicians, many of whom are former bus drivers retrained to work on railcars, are unqualified to work or troubleshoot independently; and more than 90% of staff scheduled to work nightly railcar cleaning shifts haven’t shown up to work since August, resulting in dirty railcars and strains on other shifts.

Mr. Mitchell wrote in his July 8 letter that absenteeism by railcar cleaning personnel could be resolved by Transportation Director Alice Bravo, who “by law is [the only one] authorized to remove these employees.”

“[But] Ms. Bravo does nothing about it except complain to the press as if she’s somehow helpless, instead of remedying the problem herself,” he wrote. “Employees who are ‘absentee problems’ are terminated by Ms. Bravo all the time, but why she refused to deal with Rail Car Cleaners is a mystery only she can explain.”

Asked whether that was true, Ms. Bravo said the answer is technically yes, albeit only recently, after a prior policy held over from before she became director was eliminated by county commissioners last year due to an impasse in the county’s negotiations with the union.

Before the change, she said, transit employees could rack up 13 instances of absenteeism before they could be terminated. Each instance could be for an indeterminate amount of time, and after a year’s time, strikes against employees would go away.

“The prior strike system had a rolling 12 months, and basically an incident had no time limit – you could be out a day, five days or 10 days, and that was one incident,” she said. “If it got close to that 14th incident, where [you’d] get terminated, you’d just have to wait a little while until some of your older incidents drop out and you can continue an abuse of power.”

Ms. Bravo said her department has “had some discussion” with the union and is in the process of finalizing a new proposed policy.

Rules in place since 1990, outlined in Section 13(c) of the Federal Transit Act, stipulate that the county must hire unionized Miami-Dade Transit workers who are “qualified or able to become qualified through retraining.”

Those rules extend to railcar technician jobs, which are staffed based on seniority within the union. But training for those positions, Mr. Mitchell wrote, has been “minimal at best and often ‘frozen’ for county budgetary purposes.”

During the June 19 meeting at which Washington, DC, advisory firm IMG Rebel presented its findings to the transportation trust, Ms. Bravo and Deputy Transportation Director Albert Parjus both said that they’d tried for six months to negotiation the terms for minimum qualifications to which railcar technicians would be held to before being hired. But the union had “refused to meet,” Ms. Bravo said.
Mr. Mitchell called that assertion “a blatant lie,” and rebuked any characterization of former bus drivers-turned rail technicians as “‘incapable’ of doing Rail Technician jobs” as prejudiced.

As for IMG Rebel’s findings: “fake news,” he wrote.

“In other words, our members are all just a bunch of ‘stupid’ senior citizens ready to be put out to pasture!” he wrote. “When you combine the ‘age’ factor with the fact that most of our Technicians are African-American or Hispanic, there are elements of illegal discrimination at play here…”
Mr. Mitchell wrote that he and his senior officers meet with Ms. Bravo and her staff to discuss unresolved labor issues on the last Monday of every month, inviting the letter’s addressees to “[just] look at the ‘Sign-In Sheets’ and the County’s own ‘minutes’ for these Labor-Management sessions, and you can see for yourselves how Ms. Bravo distorts and plays fast and loose with the truth.”

Ms. Bravo said that the two groups do indeed meet monthly.But for talks of minimum qualifications – now required through newly codified federal and state rules – the union has yet to come to the table.

“[The Florida Department of Transportation] came back to us with absolute certainty that we had to hire personnel based on minimum qualifications,” she said. “[The union] advised that this type of meeting needs to be scheduled to have the appropriate people on their side.”

She said her department has repeatedly tried to schedule a meeting with the union to discuss the issue.

The union, she said, has either agreed to meet only to pull out later or said it couldn’t meet at the proposed time.

“We schedule a meeting, and then they cancel it,” she said. “So we schedule another meeting, and they cancel it. And we schedule another. Then they cancel it.”

10 Responses to Miami-Dade County, transit union divisions deepen

  1. V.A. Wiley

    July 17, 2019 at 11:28 am

    It sounds like Ms. Bravo should fire Mr. Mitchell. He’s always complaining in these articles, but what does he actually do for Miami-Dade? Is he a train operator? A technician? A car cleaner? In what world based on reality would a person think that a bus driver would know how to repair track circuits? Have you seen the bus drivers in Miami??

    • Ron

      July 18, 2019 at 8:28 pm

      VA Wiley, I’ve met many bus operators that hold professional licenses, degrees and even teaching certifications. I’ve also met a few electricians, plumbers and Class A CDL holders. Your assumption that bus operators are untrainable or lacking education falls short. This is just another attempt for people in positions to bring their family members through the back door. Just take a look at who’s currently working for Hitachi, you’ll be surprised.

      • Confused

        July 23, 2019 at 12:25 pm

        Yes we have many skilled personnel who are very trainable and would love a chance at a promotion

  2. Wallace Bray

    July 23, 2019 at 7:25 am

    The County needs to go back to what once worked. A Transit Director with a Department separate from Public Works. The Mayor’s experiment is a failure.

  3. DB

    July 23, 2019 at 12:16 pm

    Start by Firing Bravo first and hiring someone within transit to be director, then they go on getting some more people out if necassary

  4. Confused

    July 23, 2019 at 2:22 pm

    Outside hires from out of state with larger work force for management have proven to not be effective. With the 3 chiefs for Traincontrol and Traction power the work force has been stagnant on personal issues instead of actual working solutions. You can not whip production out of skeleton crew personal

  5. G. Bro

    July 23, 2019 at 7:16 pm

    Mitchel is correct when it comes to illegal discrimination in the train control department. Out of all the train control technicians ONLY 1 is not a minority!! Looks like discrimination to me!! As to the majority of technicians not qualified to work alone. That is absolutely true! But if they are not qualified to work alone what makes people think they would be qualified to work together. If someone doesn’t know what their doing alone putting two of them together just means you have two people not knowing what their doing!! The train control department is so unsafe it should be taken over by the FEDS!! Think about why the trains are always late or stopped. The majority of the time it’s directly related to the train control department. Train control is just that. It controls the trains. Train speed,train stopping in proper space at platforms, keeps trains from crashing into each other. Red light green light, switching train from one track to another and more. It is a very technical and safety related career. There really is no room for error. Hiring unqualified personnel is an accident waiting to happen!! Bring the FEDS in before people are hurt or killed!! Or an accident happens. Oh that’s right there has been more the one derailment already!Just not all of them happen during revenue service. Like the one at EHT. That’s why they can keep them quiet! “Delivering Excellence Everyday”.Yeah right!

  6. Reality99r

    July 24, 2019 at 12:20 am

    The Miami-Dade Transportation Department needs a top down “come to Jesus” revamp > the union contract needs to be rescinded > we are all suffering because of mis-management > it really needs to stop, and without budget increases, don’t you think?

  7. Django....G/T

    July 29, 2019 at 11:22 am

    Lol, this article is hilarious, Mrs. Bravo wants to talk about unqualified employees, I wonder why she doesn’t mention how she has circumvented the qualifying process for someone to become a bus driver. Before people who scored high on the bus driver entry exam would be offered a job with Miami Dade Transit. Now Mrs. Bravo has invented a system that allows individuals with low test scores to get a job driving the bus. So in hindsight, she is contributing to the problem by hiring people who can’t read or write English, which creates more problems when you’re talking about promoting union members. And besides, when study 13c it requires that all employees must be trained before they’re promoted, so if an employee isn’t properly trained that falls squarely on the shoulders of Mrs. Bravo and the training department. It would be insane to blame any employee for not being properly trained without blaming the manager’s who didn’t trained them properly in the first place. I just wonder if this department was mostly Hispanic would Mrs. Bravo and The Mayor be so gung-ho about taken away all the benefits these employees rightfully deserve.

  8. Confused

    August 18, 2019 at 6:36 am

    Disgruntled disgraced retired ex employees who singe out minorities sounds like just what it is sabotage and prejudices, they did nothing to solve the problems while they were here on only focusing on farming out Traincontrol because the could not get there way.Read between the lines,if they all work together instead of throwing other shifts and personnel under the train they can get the job done. People who no longer work for the county should do just that.

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