Fact Check: Governor Baker Misleads on MBTA’s Money Room
During Thursday’s BPR radio show, Governor Baker insulted employees and misstated facts to feed privatization agenda
BOSTON, MA (October 21, 2016) – Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker on Thursday showed how far he is willing to go to pursue his goal of privatization at any cost at the MBTA. Appearing on 89.7/WGBH-FM’s “Boston Public Radio” show, Governor Baker displayed either his ignorance or his willingness to repeat falsehoods.
Governor Baker: “And they’ve never been able to reconcile [the money]. And the argument that has been made by the supporters of continuing to have the T run the Money Room is that it’s really hard to reconcile. But if you talk to any other transit system in the country, they not only reconcile it every day they, they reconcile it to the penny. And we’ve just never been able to do it here in Massachusetts.”
Co-host Margery Eagan: “One million a year [lost]?”
Governor Baker: “No one knows. No one knows. Because you can’t reconcile it…”
Either Governor Baker simply doesn’t know his facts, or worse.
- The MBTA’s Money Room reconciles cash from four sources:
- City of Boston
- City of Cambridge
- As of June 2016, employees at the Money Room collected and counted cash from Boston and Cambridge parking meters, and from Turnpike toll baskets, is reconciled to near perfection.
- “Officials say there has been no discrepancies uncovered in amounts collected from those other entities, just the T.” – “MBTA says it can’t reconcile fare data, cash deposits,” CommonWealth Magazine, June 7, 2016
- But the MBTA has had problems with its fare boxes and fare vending machines for many years. Management has known of the faulty equipment. On June 6, 2016, the MBTA pointed out that fare boxes are the cause of variance in the cash counting operation – not employees.
- 48% of tested fare boxes inaccurately reported cash
- 23% of wireless information transfers at fare boxes are unsuccessful
- 5% of cash boxes don’t transfer information to mobile vaulting units
- 60% of information transfers from mobile vaulting units are unsuccessful
- More than 5,000 transmission errors were recorded by fare vending machines over a one year period
- Simply put, the machinery that should identify cash and coins deposited and accurately display the amount collected miscounts the money. As a result, the amount of money in the box doesn’t match the amount that shows on the outside of equipment.
“Governor Baker’s quotes from Thursday’s radio show contain an ugly insinuation—unless when the Governor says ‘lost’ money he really means he thinks we’re dropping quarters everywhere without noticing while we travel on our collection routes,” said James O’Brien, President of the Boston Carmen’s Union Local 589. “It’s beneath the office, and beneath Governor Baker personally, to ignore facts and denigrate public employees’ reputation by repeating the untruth that millions of dollars are being lost.”
“The Boston Carmen’s Union Local 589 has asked for months to engage in genuine conversation about the future of the MBTA,” O’Brien said. “Our members deserve that, but the customers of the MBTA who suffer through routine service delays because of equipment that is falling apart also deserve a management team committee to fact-based reviews in a process that is conducted with real transparency. We can only assume, when MBTA leadership has fought so hard to keep private the details of the audits it has had performed by outside consultants hired without competitive procurement processes and paid millions of dollars, that there must be details—real facts—that just don’t align with all that they have been saying publicly.”
The fact that Governor Baker and MBTA leadership are willing to spread false information, and employ incomplete and unexplained data in an ongoing effort to disparage their employees shows they will say and do anything to justify privatization. Privatization is wrong for the MBTA, and it is wrong for the Governor to mislead the public. MBTA employees and the riders who rely on the system deserve an open and honest discussion about the Governor’s attempt to hand government services over to profit-driven corporate interests.
The Baker Administration has claimed a future savings of $9 million if it privatizes the jobs in the Money Room with Brink’s. The Boston Carmen’s Union’s analysis — based on the best publicly available documents since the MBTA has refused to make public more detail – shows the actual savings is less than $400,000. The MBTA has already spent more than $400,000 on two consulting firms – Alvarez & Marsal; 4Demand – who have aggressively lobbied for privatization of the Money Room. Acting General Manager Shortsleeve balked at investing money in repairing the system, but did not hesitate to spend $936,000 on management consultants who are advising further privatization.
About the Boston Carmen’s Union Local 589
Founded in 1912, the Boston Carmen’s Union Local 589 is the largest of 28 unions with members employed by the MBTA. Over 4,100 MBTA employees are members of the Carmen’s Union, including: Bus Divers, Train (Subway) and Trolley Operators, Maintenance of Way and Repairmen, Money Room Employees, and Automated Fare Collection (AFC) Technicians, Customer Service Agents (CSA), Dispatchers, and Clerks. Local 589 is part of the Amalgamated Transit Union, comprised of over 180,000 transit workers across the United States and Canada.