On my way home at the beginning of February, I fell and hurt my arm, dislocated the top of my shoulder at the NJ Path train station in Manhattan. I thought, well, I don’t need any medical supervision. I exercise and I am in pretty good shape. The train was just arriving into the station. The maintenance worker was mopping the platform. A Transit Police Officer approached me. Next thing I knew, my body was buckling under a pain from my arm I had never experienced. The Police Officer continually asked me if I wanted to seek medical treatment. He explained he had experienced a similar injury. As I wanted to protest and simply go home, the pain increased and I felt dizzy. The Police Officer was quite patient amid my protests that I was fine. I elected to acquiesce and follow his lead. Imagine if we had robots rather than Police Officers at the scene. Whilst, technology may lower costs of manpower, it has no thought process as what happened in my scenario. The human touch of another is known to heal the body. The quick response of all parties to support me getting to the hospital actually saved the use of my arm according to my Orthopedic Doctor. Service to human beings in the transportation system or any industry cannot be replaced by technology nor taken for granted.
So when on March 12th, there was supposed to be a NJ Transit strike, I reflected upon service in America. Since I commute daily from New York and New Jersey using NJ Path, I would not have been affected by the NJ Transit strike. I noticed that transit workers received only a partial raise in their agreement. I was left wondering about their families. Not in a plight to save mankind, but that we all have families. There are many people starting a new family; buying a home; sending their children to school; any number of scenarios of where life happens. All of this had me think about the state of our Unions, upon what America was founded on. Have we in America or the world really loss sight of the importance of our service workers across all industries?
Here is something I pondered: Do we appreciate every aspect of our transit workers’ service to us or service provided to us in all forms? In transportation, the Signal Engineer must make sure the signals are working properly; Signal Maintainers take care of the signals when repair is needed and equipment has to be installed or upgraded; Train Dispatchers must be fully present and awake to ensure the trains are running according to schedule and all signals are working properly; Electricians assure the electricity is in 100% working order for trains to move; Track Workers lay the foundational track and repair old outdated track; Garbage Workers pick up “all of our dirty trash” along the tracks; Train Washers wash all areas of the train and clean the inside of trains of commuters’ trash; Maintenance Workers ensure all stations are clean of trash on platforms; Train Conductors operate the doors of the train to ensure passengers enter and leave the train safely as well as ensure passengers’ safety at all times while the train is moving; Motormen/Motorwomen drive the trains to take us to our destinations; Station Agents are on hand to respond to all questions from commuters; Police Officers are usually stationed at each train stop or in close proximity to ensure station security for everyone and escort the Money Collection workers to collect monies from passengers’ fares stored in fare machines and more. And still there are more positions not even mentioned to have this well oiled-machine function daily for commuter use.
As a person who is immersed in the technology field, I find we will tell ourselves and society that we need to replace people with technology. We say, “oh we can’t stop the direction of technology, we have to accept that is the way of the future”. I am saying that technology be used and integrated to expand the growth of life. Not take away the faces and the people whose lives and their families’ lives depend on them working and whom consumers depend on to connect face to face for their daily needs.
When there is an issue, rather than “we as the public” seeing all that is being provided in service to us, we complain of a late train, rather than be gracious these workers are ensuring our safety due to a track issue, signal issue or the like. Some of us will be understanding and others will offer, “well this is their job”. Consider, you are at your job and you work in the corporate area. You are never given the flexibility to be yourself, make a mistake or have any project delays. You would not be happy in this position. And what if your raise is being held up for negotiation. Would this affect you personally or if you have a family? if you are wealthy and lose all of your wealth to the stock exchange, would you be more patient with anyone else because you would know then what it is like to live from day-to-day on a specified salary? Would it take you losing what you have to appreciate our service workers, how hard they work and provide for their families?
Without service workers, our lives would be stalled. The Barista at the coffee shop; your local cleaners closes down it will take you time to find someone you trust with your clothing; the car breaks down your mechanic just closed his shop down, you may not have your car to reach your workplace and subjugated to taking public transit, hence NJ Transit, NJ Path or your local transit system.
So next time, appreciate that the people who serve us, have families and lives too. Blue Collar often works harder than white-collar fields. Hard work is hard work no matter what. I am sure you can agree our blue-collar workers are much more hands on and therefore, more physically inclined in their jobs. They also have to deal with our daily complaints, questions that do or do not make sense; drunkards, people throwing trash all over and so much more. It is also important that we maintain our Unions. We don’t privatize any organization who has a Union and deprive them of their fair pay and benefits. Say thank you next time to your service worker whether for the train system, police department, electrical company, or doorman. They have families and lives as we do.
Finally, in the end, our service workers’ retirement is less in their elderly years; and they encounter a higher rate of health issues with rising healthcare costs, higher rents or mortgages, whilst we are in our offices complaining about meetings, emails and our travels. It is not a point of pitying anyone or asking you to feel sorry for anyone., Simply appreciate what everyone brings to the table to make society a better place. It is important Unions continue their existence as the fabric in which America was weaved and worldwide. To our Service Workers around the globe, I personally thank you for the work you do to make our lives and this planet a better place.
All images courtesy of NJ.Com; NorthJersey.Com; Wall Street Journal; Gannett and others.