District Council 57

Sacramento RT Needs to Change the Culture at the Top

AFSCME Local 146 member Justine Roth working at a charity mini golf event for Sacramento Regional Transit. (Photo courtesy of Justine Roth)

By Justine Roth             

June 9 was one of the worst days of my life. My co-workers and I at Sacramento Regional Transit—all administrative employees, all working people—were told we would lose our jobs. It’s supposed to be part of an effort to “change the culture” of the Agency.           

But we all know that RT needs to change the culture where it is really needed: at the top with management.
I believe in the important service we provide to the public, and I love working with people to make our system better. But years of fiscal mismanagement is what got us in this situation, not the workers.                

I graduated high school early to help my mother, a single parent, who was unable to work shortly after my sophomore year. Being a long time transit customer, I decided to take a job with Regional Transit when I was 18. I have worked for RT ever since in various administrative roles. In each role that I have fulfilled with RT, I have been fully committed to serving the public, and I take my job very seriously.         

During my time at RT, however, I’ve seen the Agency fall short, time and again, on its commitments to its workers, its partners and the community. I’ve seen RT ask vendors to hold off on cashing checks to pay our bills. Meanwhile, RT would spend money on management positions with funds that weren’t there.            

What’s worse is that, over the years, the Agency has had to routinely borrow against reserves and lines of credit just to make payroll.                  

RT would like everyone to believe that these layoffs were necessary to eliminate redundant positions. But, that is simply not the case.             

Furthermore, what they are not telling you is that my co-workers and I have been left to fend for ourselves while RT’s outgoing General Manager, Mike Wiley, will receive an additional $75,000 a year for life from the operating budget.             

I hoped and prayed that I would not be laid off yet again (I was laid off as part of the cuts several years ago but brought back), as my husband and I had just closed escrow on our first home. Not to mention the fact that, on the day I found out I was losing my job, I had just learned that my husband was in the emergency room in fear of a heart attack.                        

Why is no one offering to find fair solutions to RT’s budget problems? Why is our operating budget scheduled to take a $75,000 hit annually for the rest of Mike Wiley’s life when funds to continue operating crucial services to our communities are needed the most?                 

It just goes to show that the more things change at RT, the more they stay the same.             

I believe that after investing 9 years of my life into this career, I am entitled, at the very least to know that RT has considered all options and taken all steps to avoid these drastic layoffs that not only harm employees, but the system as a whole. We should at least be entitled to information regarding the process that RT took in determining what positions to reduce.                

Photo courtesy of Justine Roth, a member of AFSCME Local 146.

I am now asking the Regional Transit Board to reconsider this rash decision and rescind the layoffs, conduct a public forensic audit into RT’s finances and take no further actions against workers until the November election It’s time to show our recommitment to Regional Transit and to the employees who are vital to obtaining our goals of maintaining a safe and reliable transit system in our region.  

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