To the Editor:
Thank you for taking the time to sit with me yesterday morning in the MV Times newspaper office. I mentioned a few things about my reaction to the VTA bus driver strike that my wife and I walked into last Friday morning after getting off the ferry in Vineyard Haven. As I mentioned to you, we are frequent summer visitors, and have been since 1986, when we were married and stayed there for our first time together. We fell in love with the Island, and have been coming back ever since. We have been using VTA buses more and more often as we visit, since we don’t bring a car and actually like riding on them. I also mentioned that we have gotten to know some of the regular bus drivers over the years, and they have always treated us with professionalism, helpfulness, and kindness. We look forward to seeing them as part of our trip, and are very disappointed to see what the situation has become.
I read the June 27 MV Times printed paper after I got over there, and am obviously aware of the issues concerning pay, healthcare, and treatment of these hardworking and dedicated people. I can’t fathom the treatment of these drivers by management, and why they are going to such measures to prevent them from getting the simple requests they have earned and deserve. Bringing in off-Island drivers unfamiliar with the Island roads and traffic in such a busy environment is a concern to us. We don’t like that, and it is an insult to us as longtime customers of the VTA.
As I sit here writing this from home (we came back yesterday) I don’t wholeheartedly look forward to our next trip, which will hopefully be soon, because of the dilemma we face if this dispute is not resolved. By that I mean giving the striking drivers the respect they have earned. A decent contract would be nice. I don’t think they are asking the world from their company. I know the union issue is a hot topic, and it is also unfortunate that one had to be brought in in the first place. If the VTA or Transit Connection had treated these employees with some consideration, we would not be hearing about the ATU (Amalgamated Transit Union) or any of this mess. Martha’s Vineyard is a truly special place in this world for the reason that we don’t see the problems that the rest of the world faces. It would be a shame to see it change to the point of VTA temp drivers du jour, or to the additional use of Uber drivers and passenger cars. In other words, a free-for-all. What will happen to Island life?
When striking drivers or their supportive family members offered to transport us in their own vehicles at no charge, I was humbled by their humanity. Roland Goulart was one kind man that helped whenever we chose not to get on the bus. I asked him his thoughts as we drove, and he told me something I will never forget about the predicament: “I enjoy the people. I will truly miss the passengers.”
Wayne and Melanie Kellum