The WWE, MLB, and Why Bus Drivers Should Part Ways With The Unions

Weird headline, I know. But hang with me until the end and I promise this will all make sense.

I was really excited about this article because I am a big fan of all of the sports I mentioned in the headline. I grew up in the late ’90s when every Monday I’d sit in front of the TV  and watch Stone Cold beat up his boss.

As a casual observer of the WWE nowadays you could imagine how frustrating it’s been going from Stone Cold Steve Austin to cookie-cutter John Cena. I know I’m not alone in my feelings as Twitter and Reddit threads worldwide have also been pleading to Vince McMahon, please bring back the wrestling we love.

More blood, more profanity, more violence. Heck yeah!

It’s a tune that sounds really familiar, and I think I know exactly whom my Twitter buddies and I sound like!

We sound like the disgruntled sports fans of the previous generation. Basketball enthusiasts who say today’s game is too watered down or football fanatics who think the NFL’s gone soft. Even though the NBA in its present form is more skilled and sophisticated than its ever been. Not to mention that the NFL is a whole hell of a lot safer than it was 25 years ago.

On the bright side at least the baseball fans are happy I guess. For the record, I’ll give you $5 if you can tell me MLB’s last 5 MVPs or World Champions, however, there is a catch you can’t use google.

Chances are you’ll struggle to answer that question, not because it was difficult, but because nobody watches baseball anymore.

If you are a numbers guy, here is some “quantitative data”

 This year’s World Series (Baseball’s Superbowl) averaged about 4 million viewers. The Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears netted nearly 28 million viewers a month later and those teams suck.

Blame it on streaming? Perhaps, but then we’d have to explain the NBA’s 34% increase in viewership.

I can agree, we do indeed live in a digital world with many options to consume content, it could be perfectly reasonable for some viewership to drop.

However, streaming isn’t the reason that baseball is on the decline, their refusal to adapt is.

Fun fact: do you know they don’t even cover MLB on ESPN’s morning debate shows?  Did you know there’s a player’s strike going on as we speak? Even if you do know, do you really care?

How did America’s once-favorite sport, find itself in this position?

Simply put, baseball caters to yesterday, not tomorrow.

Baseball had been so focused on remaining America’s pastime, that it let the future blow right by it.

Transit operator culture is baseball

Being a bus operator is one of the most unique jobs in America. Your co-worker could be 20, or 70. In fact, transit operations is one of the only industries that has all 4 generations of Americans working under the same roof, doing the same exact thing. Why is this important?

Boomers, Gen-X, Gen Y, and Gen Z were all born in completely different eras. They all have a completely different set of lifestyles, morals, and ideals

Yet, they are all forced to operate under the same collective bargaining agreement.

Seniority,  CBA’s and outdated practices are the root causes of the driver shortage.

Transit can’t get younger people interested in the job because the infrastructure, culture, rules, and most importantly value system are all dictated by older people.

Consider that the average age for a tech worker in America is 27, the average gig worker is 25. These industries are dominated by young people who value innovation, taking risks, and challenging the status quo.

However, the average bus driver is 53 years old and see’s the world completely differently.

This is a huge issue in our industry because like everything else, transit operations need young people to survive, but it won’t build the company infrastructure to accommodate them. Have you noticed that almost all parts of transit except operations have been modernized?

 Look at the advancement of buses, they’re a supercomputer on wheels. Consider the tech companies behind digital resources like the Transit App, or Swiftly. Even planning firms such as FourSquare all have one thing in common. They are all driven forward by young professionals. Side note, the Jet and Flix bus are dominated by millennials too.

Everything about the way we get a person from point A to point B has changed. Except within transit operations, where we still reference a contract that was drafted over 45 years ago.

 This shortage in the most straightforward way is a result of transit not having a working model that is attractive to Gen Y or Z. It’s literally that simple. Transit’s lack of a youth movement is a direct result of outdated union practices that have been so focused on maintaining a pastime at the expense of turning off its future.

The union model in general, even down to elections, caters to older operators. The union president and elected board members are typically older operators. The issues that get the most attention at union halls are all issues promoted by older operators. Where would someone my age actually have a say in how we do things moving forward?

In the comments tell me how your average 23-year-old benefits from this sort of system? Because they can get a pension 42 years from now? Job security?  Who said 23-year-olds care about any of that? Actually, if we’re being honest neither is a priority to them.

Gen-Z leaves jobs faster than slow-loading webpages, and most won’t work at one job long enough to qualify for a  pension. Google and Apple don’t even offer pensions bro, and those places are massive lol.

Unions and CBA’s thrived in a time in which the value system of the American worker was completely different. That America is gone.

I’ll give you an example of this in the real world.  In 2019 I was placed on the scheduling committee to approve runs before the pick started. Now, this isn’t an attempt to toot my own horn, but being 1 of only 2 bus operators in the last 20 years to work in planning you would think I’d get some sort of respect at this committee meeting. I mean, to date I am still the only bus operator in MDOT history to drive and make schedules for the old and new transit systems. Surely I must know something about this sorta stuff, right?

Not in the eyes of the seniority. My skills, talent, and knowledge will always come second to a person who just happened to be hired before me. As great as I‘d like to think I was as an operator, in the eyes of the union, CBA, and culture, I will never be able to outwork, outperform or advance past bus operator #1197 badge. (I was #1198)

I spent that entire meeting arguing with operators trying to hold on to old ways. I remember doing an entire presentation on why 10 and a half hour runs were bad for operators. Like you lose money, you spend less time at home, so forth and so forth. All the data was on my side.

Long story short the senior operators ridiculed me at every pass saying, we need more splits and 10.5 runs so they can get a break and go in the assembly room and play pool.

What?

My generation doesn’t wanna play pool bro, we wanna go TF home, ain’t nobody trying to be at MTA all-day.

While I can agree Unions may have good intentions, I wholeheartedly believe they have reached the end of their rope. This generation doesn’t feel like CBA’s protect them, they feel like they hold them back.  Blame it on social media, this era of workers values individuality and self-performance. They’ve been raised in a system that instantly rewards them for performance, not time served.  Reviews likes shares, and followers are all gratification for individual value and performance.

Social media and the internet have given the current generation blank canvases. -Thus allowing them to utilize the platforms around them to create an experience of their own personal liking.

This is thee model moving forward at least for the next 5-6 years.

Look at how realtors used YouTube, observe how Truckers use Tik Tok. In 2022, your job is not a job. It’s a platform.

Look around you. Industries have been innovating for the better part of 10 years to meet the demographic where it is at, not where it’s been. Just this year alone, Uber, PayPal, Tesla, Apple, and Google got rid of the college requirement for certain positions.

The NCAA now allows students to get paid for their image and likeness.  The NBA created sub leagues for talented high schoolers who don’t want to go to college before entering the draft. The world around us is changing fast!

In 2022, how did the bus transportation industry finally respond to all of the disruption and innovation going on around it?

It made a CDL harder to get lol.

Listen….. there need to be some hard conversations between unions, and their operators about how they want to move forward because this model isn’t growing. And if something isn’t growing, it’s dying.

 We can only blame the agency for so long, because the hard truth is the agency isn’t struggling, bus ops is. I mean I’ve never seen anyone say screw the finance department ya know?

As operators, if we really want to save the sinking ship

It might be time to start contemplating tossing a few people off of the boat.

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