Since 2004 Dallas-based Greyhound Lines Inc. has eliminated service to hundreds of small towns across the country; in Texas, for instance, you can no longer hop the bus from Dallas, home of Greyhound's seventh-busiest terminal, to, oh, White Deer or Alpine or Pampa or 23 other rural outposts once on the company's regular route. And, say representatives from the Amalgamated Transit Union, the company has also reduced its workforce--from 5,000 drivers to about 2,800--and slashed their benefits as part of its efforts to streamline and cut costs.
Karen Miller, president of the ATU Local 1700, says about one-third of Greyhound's drivers don't even have health insurance: "They're taking a chance," she says, "but a lot of drivers feel like they can't afford it. The top salary a Greyhound driver makes is $20.25 an hour--but the cut in service has meant a reduction in wages for even veteran drivers.
Since September 27, Greyhound workers have been protesting the company's cuts at rallies in such cities as Los Angeles and Cleveland. Tomorrow, Miller expects "about 200" drivers and baggage handlers at the Dallas rally, which takes place at 11:30 a.m. at the Greyhound terminal at 205 S. Lamar Street downtown. A flier announcing the rally tomorrow shouts, "Don't treat us like dogs!"
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"We have drivers coming in from different parts of the country," Miller tells Unfair Park. (She was on her cell phone, as a matter of fact, driving to Dallas from Memphis.) "They're coming from this region and Chicago and Cleveland and Memphis and Houston. If we have a couple hundred, that'll be great."
Miller says the company is trying to cater to a newer, more upscale clientele, which is stranding the folks who actually need to ride the bus. And, indeed, tomorrow the company will launch nationwide its "Elevate Everything" program, highlighted by newly refurbished buses and the promise of plasma screens in its terminals. Greyhound is attempting to rebrand itself as something more than the long-haul transportation mode of last resort. "They're saying, 'Go more, stop less,'" Miller says. "Which means now we're running interstates and to larger cities. They're trying to cater to a new market, and we're leaving people who need to take the bus." (Anna Folmnsbee, the company's local media rep, is out of town till Friday; excellent timing.)
After tomorrow's rally, there will be other across the country till the end of the year; next is Denver, then Atlanta, with the tour making its final stop at the Port Authority in New York City, the country's largest bus terminal. --Robert Wilonsky