OKC Streetcar workers unionize in fight for bathroom breaks

The OKC Streetcar – our high-dollar public transport system that ferries air and loneliness from one empty corner of downtown to the other – is in the news again, and this time it has nothing to do with pissing off Steve Lackmeyer!

Earlier this week, News 9 reported that OKC Streetcar drivers voted to form a worker’s union. Here are the basic details:

Operators of Oklahoma City’s streetcars have spoken, and majority say they want to start a union. Health and security concerns, even a lack of bathroom breaks are among the top concerns.

Mail-in ballots for voting were sent out in August and counted on September 22. The results, two out of three people voting say a union is necessary.

I’m a liberal dude, but I’m not a big fan of labor unions, or better yet, what labor unions in America have become. I think they served a great purpose in the 20th century, but just like corporations, government agencies, universities, religions and other large institutions, they’ve long been corrupted by money, power and politics, and seem more designed to enrich the people in charge as opposed to the people they’re actually supposed to benefit.

That worldview being said, I still think this is a good idea! Here are two reasons why:

1. It’s kind of funny to see a Chamber-backed MAPS III project become a union shop

2. It sets the stage for Street Car Union busting

Seriously, wouldn’t that be fun to watch? I can already see David Holt, along with an elite team of Thunder Girl commandos and Jones Assembly bartenders, crashing into a union rally on Lime Scooters while armed with selfie sticks.

According to one former OKC streetcar driver, a Union is necessary so the drivers can have bathroom breaks:

Darryl Williams learned Monday morning his job operating streetcars came to end.

Herzog Transit Services, EMBARK’s contractor for streetcars, fired him he said for driving violations. Williams believes there’s an underlying issue.

“Since they know that we are unionizing, their statement is we don’t like it and now we’re nitpicking,” said Williams.

Bathroom breaks are among concerns of Williams. Getting one while working, he said, was increasingly challenging.

“You try to get (a break and we’re told) we really don’t have anybody to give you a break right now, we need to keep the streetcar moving,” said Williams.

Williams said security has become an issue with homeless getting hostile like urinating, spitting and other actions on the streetcar. He also alleges lax cleaning procedures.

Do we really need to form a Union just so the drivers can get bathroom breaks? Just pull the thing over and run in somewhere! Sure, you may piss off Steve Lackmeyer, but it’s not like there are any passengers to pick up or dropoff.

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31 Responses

  1. I keep wondering how long it’ll be before
    they get all ugly with advertising plastered
    on them.

    1. You mean they can get uglier?

  2. Gee, how many street car operators are there? Three? Six?
    In any case, I’m sure it’s more than the average number of riders on any one day.
    At this point someone – probably the venerable Mr. G. – is composing a long, very valid list of all the aspects of our modern life here in the U.S. have been brought to us by labor unions. Nevertheless they are screwed. The legal fiction of corporate personhood and the globalization of world trade has taken care of all that. Welcome to the new feudalism.
    The damn things would be better suited as giant planters in some area of the city that got its feelings hurt when downtown OKC hogged most of the MAPS money.

    1. Screwed? Surrender is not an option.

  3. As a current union member and one since 1973 all I can say Patrick is you truly are an imbecile. The ONLY organizations that stand up for working men and women in America are labor unions. Think about it. Something as simple as as going to the bathroom, a necessary bodily function, can and is being denied to human beings and NO government agency can make them provide decent working conditions. I’ve spent decades as a steward and various local officer positions. The vast majority of time I spent on union business wasn’t wages, working conditions, benefits or retirement issues. I spent them standing up for the dignity of the worker as some minor dictatorial functionary tried to humiliate or denigrate or even dismiss an employee not because the worker violated rules but because the petty piece of shit could. Period. Full Stop.

  4. I looked up Herzog Transit, they are a Missouri based company that got the contract from the city to run the streetcar. I guess in order to be the low bid contract you have to eliminate frivolous things such as bathroom breaks for the employees. That might have been the reason they got the contract, as opposed to a locally based company. I mean we all know how our city government loves local businesses, so why one from out of state?

    Recently Norman Middle school had a COVID scare, officials at the school of course played the situation down. When teachers asked for Covid tests they were told that if they did go get a Covid test they would not be paid for the time taken off for the test and waiting for results, unless they got a positive result.

    So bathroom breaks and Covid tests are on your own time in Oklahoma. I work for a company, not based in Oklahoma, where management believes that a Unionized workplace is a failure of management. No bathroom breaks, and not being able to use your sick leave for a Covid test are pretty much great examples of failed management.

    Long live the Oklahoma Standard! Imagine That!

    1. If you’ll bother to check, you’d probably find that teachers (including Norman) are members of the OEA/NEA (or AFT if you’re in OKCPS) member, and their current contract is union negotiated (yeah, imagine that!). Pretty sure they didn’t negotiate a “covid clause” in their last one.

      If workers want to unionize and vote to do so, go ahead and form your union. If you want to collectively bargain hey, great, you do you. You just can’t make it a condition of employment or knee-cap the drivers that don’t want to join.

      1. Thanks to right to work…what a fucking sham that shit is! Come out on a UNION job throwing that right to work shit around and you will get your knees busted or worse!! Join a Union or don’t join one but don’t expect a union to fight for your stupid ass when you get run off w/o cause.All those morons want is the money and benefits w/o paying dues…just like a repubtard and a rat, Always wanting something for nothing!

        1. …and thanks for making my point. What’s more American than forcing someone to join your organization using a threat of violence? If your union is so great, why do you have to force people to join? Again, I think your handle here provides all we need to know about your intellect.

          1. “… using a threat of violence”? Bullcrap, suggested by you alone.

            “Right to Work”? Also bullcrap? Whatever weakens unions, and then cover your true intentions with libertarian bullcrap, as if you cared a rip about workers’ rights to join or not join.

          2. “If your union is so great, why do you have to force people to join?”

            Simple, even non-union employees most of get the benefits that the unions negotiate, and if they can do it without paying for it, they will. It’s the same reason people want their taxes lowered, but don’t want to lose anything tangible that taxes actually pay for. Non-union employees would still have similar pay, the same breaks, the same perks, etc. because those belong to the work place, not the union. And all they lose out is a union vote? It’s pretty easy to see why people would want to not pay the dues.

            It’s called the free-rider problem in economics. Republicans do a pretty good job at invoking it to whip people into accepting policies that are overwhelmingly friendly for businesses and hostile for workers.

      2. I also see the school had to close because 20 teachers chose to take the Covid test, so as to not infect others should they test positive. I had assumed they decided it was worth losing a days pay.

        However since they have a negotiated contract, I would assume a medical test would also be a medical appointment and covered under their sick leave. Perhaps the blow-hard administrator who threatened the teachers will think twice before trying that stunt again. That is definitely not an individual you want managing people, unless of course you have no respect for your employees.

        Oh that’s right there are a lot of people who don’t seem to respect teachers in Oklahoma, so maybe that is why that person is in a management role at Norman Public Schools. Imagine that!

        1. So is this not why a NPS teacher pays union dues? Where’s their union in this? Why didn’t they file a grievance? I’m not really familiar with the story, but I am familiar with the OEA/NEA. If there’s an issue and I’m paying union dues, then the union had better step in or what am I paying them for? One thing I do know, you seem very adept at the “ol’ straw man”, or is it more clumsily trying to represent your own argument?

          1. Speaking of straw men…

            All that the union can do is force the employer to follow the letter of the contract. And negotiate a better contract next time. They can’t enforce new provisions on the fly, as you suggest.

  5. Your full of shit as a xmas goose patrick!! Learn something about how labor unions work before throwing your faux news critique out there! How many hard working NON UNION employees out there enjoy GOOD wages, HEALTH benefits, Pensions for retirement, and an employer funded 401 k? Answer: NONE!! Being a retired card carrying UNION dude who can enjoy my retirement w/o worrying about what the repubtards are gonna do to social security and medicare is a VERY SATISFYING payback for being a LIFELONG UNION MEMBER and not having to die with my tools in my hand because I worked all my life for some GREEDY POS contractor and will never be able to retire…NO THANKS!! When you lay up in front of a computer typing up your diddies making shit for wages and no benefits, think about the RETIRED UNION HANDS who sent their kids to college w/o any gubnent handouts sitting in their PAID FOR TOYS watching you poor dumb bastards work the rest of your lives away with the only way out is death…ENJOY!! OH..Plus a working apprenticeship with paid for schooling and a guaranteed job with good pay and benefits for the 4 years your learning your trade!! UNION YES!!

  6. Hope the AFL-CIO shows up with dozens of their intrepid Longshoremen troops, wielding billy clubs they’ll use to whack that sloping skull street car management bunch! It’s inhuman not letting a body take a pee. Only bullying Grumpers get a hard-on over the suffering of someone having to hold their pee all day long.

  7. Patrick, your opinion of labor unions seems to have been spoon-fed to you by the State Chamber, OCPA, OPUBCO, former Governor Keating, and others interested in keeping wages as low as possible and working conditions as exploitive as is profitable, by any means necessary. The first step is to fire the pro-union employees like Mr. Williams.

    Yes, some big unions have been and still are corrupt at the top. Jimmy Hoffa corrupt. But the decline in union membership in America has a lot to do with our decades of wage stagnation and growing wealth inequality. If we let employers continue to snuff out unions, there will be no counterweight to the other institutions that you mentioned, all of which stand to gain from keeping their employees powerless.

    For me, it’s good to see union organizing in Oklahoma showing flickering signs of life. No pee breaks? I’m with the streetcar drivers 100%.

  8. How about issuing drivers unlimited urinary catheters, and colonoscopy bags? Imagine that!

    1. Those yellow coke bottles you see up and down the road are much cheaper.

  9. Just pee in the back corner like the homeless guys on a subway in NYC.

  10. I ride the streetcar often enough to know that, 1) there are lots of people riding the street cars, but it is a limited downtown loop, so it’s not going to get a high volume of riders to support itself on its own, 2) they do make stops for bathroom breaks. 3} I haven’t seen many issues with homeless folks on board myself, and they do often have enforcement officers come on board to check for tickets and vagrants, be it transit officers, police officers, etc. The thing is, if one train stops on a certain loop, all the other trains have to stop as well, to keep the timing as close to schedule as possible. So, either they all take a bathroom break together, or sit idly while another driver takes a pee break. When a street car breaks down, has an accident or a public vehicle impedes movement without hitting the vehicle, they have to shut down and often have old city busses take up their routes to keep up the schedule. They also have drivers to replace others while lunch breaks are taken. Maybe a few more drivers need to hired to keep up the schedule. I suppose budget comes in play at some point. Either way, it still is a nice way to move around and am hoping they still go through with expanding them to other parts of the city. Would like to see it used for express transit to Norman as it was with the original street cars and bus routes later on. It needs to expand to MWC/Tinker, Yukon, Edmond, Will Rogers airport, and be utilized as they are in larger cities.

  11. http://www.joesherlock.com/Mass-Transit3.html

    The link above is for a very good article about trolleys and mass transit. There are some pictures of some cool ole cars.
    However, it states the statistics for how much of a staggering loss they are to the taxpayer and implies that’s the reason they’ve became practically extinct since the 20’s.

    But they definitely can be a tourist attraction. And that’s how I tend to view our setup here, in that it’s similar to having a train at the zoo or a monorail at the fair or maybe even power chairs at the stores.

    Sometimes I’ll see the cars bumper to bumper on I-35 and elsewhere and can’t hardly believe people go through that everyday. It makes me appreciate that I’m not in their situation.

  12. Whenever there’s a news of a new union embezzling scandal, it’s a good reminder to check your oil, because it’s been 6 months.

    1. Know the difference between a union officer embezzling funds and a corporate officer embezzling? Union officers are monitored, caught when violating the law and punished. Corporate officers get Golden Parachutes, nice million dollar vacation homes and an offer to work for the Trump Administration.

      1. It’s so fitting when you hire homeless people to protest outside OU hospital because you’re too lazy to do it.


        1. Hey, Trump hired actors to cheer for him at his 2015 presidential announcement, and that got enough attention that it turned into a real movement, so it works sometimes.

          Look how that turned out, the world’s a much better place now.

      2. When I think of how our railroad union screwed us over in 81 or when the UAW president recently got sentenced for stealing $700,000 in dues (Damn good safeguards ya got there) I’m reminded of Herbalife distributors. There’s a reason half of the unions are government or utility workers.

    2. I am still waiting to see union malfeasance tank the economy though, the same way corporate malfeasance has done on… multiple occasions.

  13. Cornett’s folly.

    1. No kidding, it was a half measure, instead of getting the monorail around the city we were promised, we got this silly trolley that stops at a handful of places downtown. Gee thanks Mick.

      1. Every thing will turn out just fine when all the hordes of convention goers and tourists show up to see the surf park. Then they’ll ride those streetcars round and round until they’re dizzy, because none of them have any of the sights or businesses in their hometowns that the streetcars carry them past here. I mean, look!, there’s a coffee shop! A restaurant! Another restaurant! A kinda tall building! Is that where Will Rogers was born? Is that one of them there Sooners?
        The only trouble is that the things are so crowded now with people using them to go to work or do their errands, etc, that there may be no room for the crowds of fun seekers. They may have to hang off the sides or ride on top like people have to do in India on their trains.
        It’s a transportation success story, for sure.

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