I certainly agree that unions were pivotal in establishing the rights and safety of workers during the industrial revolution. These days however, I wonder if they’re more hinderance than benefit.

Take the story called “Video of bus driver violated privacy, union says” from CBC News:

The head of the union representing Gatineau bus drivers wants the city’s transit service to ban passengers from recording video on city buses, after one employee was caught on video doing paperwork while driving.

Felix Gendron, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union in Gatineau, said the driver’s privacy rights were violated after a passenger shot video of him and posted it on YouTube.

The video shows the driver scribbling away on papers he had rested on a satchel on his lap while driving down Tache Boulevard in Gatineau. His hands rarely grip the steering wheel during the video’s 57 seconds, and on several occasions his hands aren’t on the wheel at all.

Since it was posted online July 18, the video has received more than 130,000 hits on YouTube.

I do understand that the union is supposed to fight for its members, but when the infraction is as egregious as this, isn’t it time to say, “Yep, that was an inexcusable cock-up…” and instead fight for the member to keep his job? It only damages the union’s credibility to argue that the problem is the passenger who shot the video.

I’ve read of a number of issues with local public transit drivers and they often veer into the illegal. More common than drivers writing is drivers sending text messages. This is illegal. Despite this, no one’s been fired. I don’t think it’s unthinkable that a public transit driver who risks the safety of his passengers and other drivers around him should be fired for such an obvious and willful violation of the law. But no, the unions won’t have it.

And what of this particular case? The person in question drives a public transit vehicle, full of members of the public, on public roads, and the union claims that taking video of him is a violation of his privacy? Really? If this is the case, why has the issue never come up before someone was caught doing his paperwork while driving? For the head of the union to engage in such obvious distraction is insulting.

So was the driver punished? And if so, what the punishment? We’ll never know.

The Société de transport de l’Outaouais (STO) representative said the transit service had a meeting with the driver this week to discuss punishment. But STO said he had a good driving history and would not be fired. Details of the punishment were not released.

In this case, a good driving record simply means the driver hasn’t been caught. They have proof of at least one serious infraction. It’s just not on his record.

Gendron said the union asked STO to ban passengers from being able to record drivers.

Céline Gauthier, the head of STO’s public affairs office, said the transit operator is looking into the union’s request.

If the STO does ban passengers from recording drivers, they’ll be just as bad as the union if not worse.