August 15-21, 1997
The Weekly does not archive any content prior to 1998 on their website; the original article is only available because the BRU scanned it into a PDF and archived it themselves. We received the text of Tom Louie's letter to the editor as a text file, and we have verified with him that he is the author and the letter is complete as published.
As a bus-dependent person and former member of the Bus Riders Union, I
can attest to the useful work Eric Mann and the BRU have done ["Hell on
Wheels, July 18-24]. It it weren't for their court case, I and thousands of other
riders would be without our monthly passes, plus we'd be a lot more broke.
However, people should realize that the BRU is not the democratic grassroots
organization it may appear to be. It doesn't resemble a traditional labor union
so much as it resembles advocacy organizations like the ACLU – with a founder,
a board of directors, and policies that are more or less set. Although the BRU
does have mass membership meetings that feature voting and debates, this is
just a display. If a member ever raised an issue that actually challenged Eric
Mann's policies, there would be an all-out effort to defeat that proposal, including
having paid staff members (Mann's employees) vote against it. This is what
happened to me at my last meeting, when I tried to get the BRU to do something
– anything – about rude and racist drivers.
If the BRU were the true representative of the bus riding population of L.A., it
would surely realize that the biggest concern of bus riders is the way the drivers
treat them. Mann's excuse is that the BRU cannot jeopardize its relationship with
the drivers union. I'm very pro-union, but if the union doesn't take a stand against
the racism and discourtesy of its own members, then that union is a reactionary
union – and so is anyone who defends such members.
Mr. Louie has requested that we include these additional thoughts:
I am glad that the BRU exists in the first place, even though I no longer care
to participate. It is not a perfectly democratic organization, just as the USA
itself is not. Eric Mann may be a conceited know-it-all, but he has done a lot
of good work on behalf of auto workers and bus riders. His writings and radio
commentaries can be argued with and rebutted, but they cannot be discounted
I stand by what I said in my original letter, including this: the BRU saved my