Bus Busters

DOWN THE BLOCK from St. Paul's MCTO garage on Sunday, the tower clock--floating like a spectre in the mist--announced midnight. Empty city buses, their "not in service" signs lit bright, had been pouring in since 10:30 p.m., after the dispatcher issued word that last-ditch negotiations to swerve and miss the first transit workers union strike in 26 years had busted up. She'd told her drivers, If you can't finish your circuits by midnight, you'll just have to tell your riders 'sorry,' drop them off somewhere, and come on in. And come on in they did, killing the last motor on the last bus just before the 12:01 a.m. deadline, which the small knot of workers greeted with a collective sigh.

"I'll be damned," the last driver in the garage said with a shrug. With that, he joined the half dozen others in red, white, and blue rain ponchos sipping coffee from styrofoam cups and arranging picket signs by the curb. The dispatcher set down her clipboard, muttering about getting some milk for her ulcer, and blew into her hands. "Rock and a hard spot," another driver said without much zeal, "that's where we're at. Health insurance is too much to ask? A full-time job too much to want? This is an American situation, friends--we give on this and we might as well sell the farm."

This was also months after a solid vote to strike, meaning the last paycheck MCTO workers might see in a while. No one felt much like talking politics or celebrating their small uprising out in the other-side-of-midnight drizzle. The last man out of the building, scheduled any moment for lock-up, let fly a half-felt whoop, and shrugged. "Tell you what, nobody down here wanted the deal to come to this. It does no one good," he remarked, shutting the door behind him. "Welcome to America 1995, land of the free and home of fuck the workers 'til the camel's back breaks. Tonight, it's the last of a lot of things. Last bus in, last man out, last straw for the union." (Josie Rawson)


Correction

FOLLOWING OUR SEPTEMBER 27 cover story, "The Business of Schools," officials of the Bloomington-based Education Alternatives Inc. called to claim there were factual errors in the story. They pointed out that the company's contract with the Miami school system was not cancelled but ran its course, after which the district did not renew it; that Baltimore superintendent Walter Amprey did not travel to company meetings to speak to investors on the company's behalf; that EAI was spun off from a division of Control Data, not Honeywell, as the story reported; that they manage 10 schools in Baltimore, not nine; and that one of the two private schools they own is in Arizona. The story had said both their schools were in Minnesota. City Pages regrets the errors.

In addition, EAI founder John Golle also claimed the story unfairly characterized the terms under which the company raised start-up capital through a federal Small Business Administration program to aid minority-controlled businesses. Questions about the financing had been raised in a copyrighted 1994 Star Tribune story, but Golle maintained the stock deal in question was not improper. He also objected to the inference that EAI replaced Baltimore teacher's aides with instructional interns for the sake of economic efficiency, claiming the company was only complying with state law and actually incurred more expense in the process. Golle further disputed the story's observation that the company does not spend money on original education research.

 
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