Denver Local calls for better protection in wake of gunfire


Recently a gunfight broke out near the state capitol in Denver and Regional Transit District (RTD) bus drivers say this is an ongoing dangerous problem that sometimes happens inside the buses including a violent incident where a passenger was shot on a bus in August. In response, Local 1001-Denver, CO, is demanding better protection for bus drivers. “We need more security, it’s just out of control,” said one RTD driver. “We get cussed out all the time. Some people are always fighting, and some get on the bus drunk. We have no protection.” The Local recently passed the Workstation resolution calling on RTD, bus manufacturers, and elected officials to fix the bus driver workstation to improve the safety and health of drivers, riders, pedestrians.

A Local 113-Toronto, ON, bus driver goes above & beyond

Last month Local 113-Toronto, ON, bus driver Domenic Gouveia was driving his regular route when he noticed an older man sitting in a bus shelter. Gouveia realized something wasn’t quite right as the man had only a light coat on despite the cold day. He asked the man where he needed to go and the man replied, “I don’t know.” Domenic invited the man on his bus to get warm and noticed a bruise on his eye and cut on his finger. He drove the man on his route to see if he recognized anything, but the man didn’t. He was about to call transit control when he texted his wife to see if the news said anyone was missing. She told him yes, an older man with dementia was reported missing, and she sent him a photo of the man. Domenic immediately recognized it was that man and called transit control. He then waited with the man until the police arrived to help. ATU salutes for Dominick for his actions.

Cincinnati Local says agency unloading unused bus parts

Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) bus garage workers thought it was strange that the transit agency was asking them to throw away perfectly good bus parts. It turns out it was more than 4,000 parts worth over $800,000. Local 627-Cincinnati, OH, is asking why SORTA is doing this as Metro is facing a $150 million deficit over the next decade and fare increases and service cuts are likely. I was just amazed that this is going on,” said Local President Troy Miller, pointing out that those parts may one day be needed for a fleet with buses upwards of 12 years old. “If our guys don’t have parts, they can’t fix the buses, and if the buses aren’t going out on the road, bottom line, it affects the customer and the taxpayer.”

Milwaukee bus driver helps woman in labor

Local 998-Milwaukee, WI, bus driver Tayetta Currin got quite the Christmas surprise when she was working on Christmas Eve. On her route, Currin noticed a woman walking on a snowy sidewalk who looked like she needed help. She pulled over and the woman told her she was going into labor. As the mother of two young boys, Currin sprang into action helping the woman onto her bus with the help of two passengers “It was shocking. I had to think quick,” Currin said. “I know how it is with contractions. I just told her to stay in the seat because she was sliding off and told her the paramedics were coming right away.” Eventually they did and took the woman to the hospital. This is not the first time Currin has jumped into action. A year ago, a middle-aged woman was shot during a robbery and flagged down Currin’s bus for help.

Stay Warm on The Job in Freezing Cold!

 

ATU members rarely get “snow days.” And so, even though dangerous, freezing temperatures are gripping North America, our members are on the job, safely transporting riders in these hazardous weather conditions.

A preview of the US without pensions

Tom Coomer has retired twice. Each time he realized that his Social Security check wouldn’t cut it. So, at 79, Tom is working full-time at Walmart. The way major U.S. companies provide for retiring workers has been shifting for about three decades, with more dropping traditional pensions every year. The first full generation of workers to retire since this turn of events will soon show workers what they can expect as part of a labor force dependent on their own savings for retirement. Years ago, Coomer worked for airplane maker McDonnell Douglas with a company pension, but in 1994 the company closed the plant. While most of his co-workers found new jobs, they could never replace their lost pension benefits, and many are facing financial struggles: one in seven have filed for bankruptcy, faced liens for delinquent bills, or both, according to public records.

With assaults on bus drivers up, Ottawa Local pushes for protective driver shields

With more than 100 assaults on Ottawa bus drivers in 2017, compared to 87 in 2016, Local 279-Ottawa, ON, is renewing its call for bus driver protective shields. “I am at the point where I just feel it’s unacceptable,” says Local President Clint Crabtree. “People need to be going home to their families without being assaulted at work.” The Ottawa Local is one of the more than 130 Locals that have passed the resolution to call on transit agencies and elected officials to fix the bus driver workstation. The Local has joined other Canadian Locals in lobbying parliament to push for safer bus driver workstations.

Let’s propose this as the new US national anthem

In 1979, the Chrysler Corporation was in financial trouble. High gasoline prices, lagging auto sales, and international competition had led the automaker to the brink of bankruptcy. In response, Congress passed The Chrysler Corporation Loan Guarantee Act of 1979to allow the federal government to guarantee $1.5 billion in loans to Chrysler. It also provided an additional $2 billion in “commitments or concessions,” which could be used by Chrysler for the financing of its operations. Sound familiar? In a 1983 WNYC broadcast, Tom Paxton sang a live version of “I’m Changing My Name to Chrysler,’ a whimsical and biting commentary on the financial troubles of the auto industry and how the government bailed them out. Maybe that should be the new U.S. national anthem with the GOP tax plan rewarding corporate America while working people lose.

Nashville media Is getting played by transit-bashing hired guns

From Albuquerque to Atlanta to Charlotte, the right-wing Cato Institute has a knack for opposing nearly every local debate over transit expansion, arguing against investments in rail and bus service. Now they have their sights set on Nashville, TN, which will vote on a $5.2 billion transit expansion plan in May. And the Nashville media have bought their shtick – hook, line and sinker. However, transit advocates say Mayor Megan Barry’s plan with five light rail lines totaling 26 miles – 25 miles of bus rapid transit, a 1.8-mile transit tunnel to bypass downtown congestion, and system wide bus improvements is solid and plan to fight hard to get it passed.

Win an ATU jacket like Raymond Vandervort, 1145-Binghamton, NY

Want a chance to win a cool ATU jacket like Raymond? It’s easy and will help you stay warm this winter. All you have to do is go to http://www.atu.org/, go to the bottom bar of the homepage and sign up to receive ATU email action alerts on the latest news and developments on ATU, public transportation, politics and other important issues. To enter the drawing, simply provide your e-mail, local number and zip/postal code. If you have already submitted your email you’re still signed up for the contest, simply click “Skip and Continue to Website.”

Twin Cities Local rallies as negotiations continue to avert Super Bowl strike


Members of Local 1005-Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN flooded at Metropolitan Council transportation committee meeting to voice concerns over an ongoing contract dispute. Assaults on bus operators, arduous schedules and employee benefits were among many concerns. While the Local voted to authorize a strike leading up to the Super Bowl in the city in February, contract talks resumed with the agency issuing a final contract offer. “We care about getting a decent and fair contract, and we’re willing to fight to have a fair contract. It just seems a shame that we are not treated like the backbone to this company,” said a Metro Transit operator who attended the rally.

Local 1493 members ratify contract

Despite Roanoke, VA’s Valley Metro facing serious revenue issues due to the city’s budget woes, members of Local 1493-Raleigh, NC, ratified a strong new contract. The 79 bus drivers, nine mechanics and two bus cleaners, who work for Valley Metro-Greater Roanoke Transit Company, will receive a 2.5 percent wage increase retroactive to July, a 2.5 percent wage increase in 2018, and a 2.75 percent wage raise in 2019 under recently approved contract amendments.

ATU Labor leaders confront sexual harassment

As the Harvey Weinstein and other high profile sexual harassment scandals broke in early October, the AFL-CIO opened its national convention in a very different way reading a passage from the code-of-conduct and telling attendees that there are two people designated to field any complaints about sexual harassment. The AFL-CIO pledged to have “a zero-tolerance policy” recognizing the labor movement was founded on the premise to fight for dignity in the workplace and protect workers against exploitation. But even unions haven’t been immune to sexual harassment scandals. At the convention one union leader said, “The AFL-CIO should lead, not follow, when it comes to workplace safety, which means not just reacting but creating an anti-harassment culture.”

ATU condemns NYC Port Authority bombing, says public transit security critical


“The bombing at the NYC Port Authority is the latest example of a vicious, senseless attack on innocent people that is becoming much too common in our country,” said International President Larry Hanley. “This terrorist attack serves as a reminder of how vulnerable mass transit systems are and the critical importance of security on our transit systems.” Hanley pointed out that transit stations like the NYC Port Authority are big open spaces that are difficult to secure making them prime targets for terrorist attacks. “I urge our transit agencies, operators and passengers to continue to be vigilant and watchful for anything of a suspicious nature on our systems, as we work together to defeat terrorism in the United States, Canada and the world.”

DC Streetcar, Circulator, and Metro riders got a holiday surprise when the Grinch greeted them on their morning commute. The Grinch was calling on the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) to deliver a holiday gift for commuters and workers by municipalizing the DC Streetcar and Circulator and not swap out one Grinch-like private contractor for another. First Transit, the company that currently operates the DC Circulator, will see their contract expire next year. The Grinch action came days after Local 1764-Washington, DC, members and transit advocates testified before the DC Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment and encouraged incoming DDOT Director Marootian to consider bringing transit service in-house.

Chattanooga Transit Workers Rally Against Forced OT and Discrimination

Protesting bus drivers forced to work overtime beyond their physical limits, discrimination by management, and unsafe vehicles on the road, Local 1212-Chattanooga, TN, held a rally outside city hall. “Safety is job number one and overworking bus operators because of a shortage of qualified drivers for countless hours without a break defies common sense,” says Local President Kathryn Smith. “We just want what’s right to be done in the work place, for the safety of the passengers we are hauling. Those people depend on us.” The Local also charges CARTA management with discrimination alleging that it disciplines African-American and female workers differently than other workers.


Milwaukee Local strikes deal to ensures streetcar workers can join ATU

Ensuring Milwaukee streetcar workers can have a voice in the workplace, Local 998-Milwaukee, WI, reached a labor peace agreement with Transdev – the company contracted to run the city’s new streetcar system. The deal ensures that the streetcar workers can join the Local and negotiate a contract without threats, coercion, or intimidation. Local President James Macon says, “Whether on buses or streetcars, transit jobs should be good, union jobs. This agreement means that transit workers in Milwaukee can unite to protect and raise living standards.”

Uber has no place in International Association of Public Transport

Uber has announced that it will join the International Association of Public Transport in an effort to improve its image in the face of numerous scandals. ATU says the ride hailing giant has no place in the group pointing to poor treatment of drivers and the communities in which they operate. “Public transportation should serve the public good,” says International President Larry Hanley, calling on Uber to pay a living wage to its drivers who call cities where Uber operates home, saying. “Until Uber demonstrates that they meet that standard they have no business being a part of the International Association of Public Transport.”

Thunder Bay Local gives back with Santa Bus Food Drive

Local 966-Thunder Bay, ON, is in the holiday spirit, teaming with its transit agency to spread goodwill in their community with their 23nd Annual Santa Bus Food Drive in support of the Thunder Bay Food Bank. “Each year we are blown away by the generosity of all those who help us to stuff the bus,” said Local President Ken Koza. “The donations we receive make a real difference in our community. We hope residents will continue to embrace the Santa Bus Food Drive so that we can make sure nobody goes hungry this holiday season.” Last year the drive collected more than 11,000 pounds of non-perishable food items and almost $2,000 in cash donations.

DC Metro workers protest privatization of Metrobus at bus facility service

As representatives from Keolis, National Express, First Transit and other multinational contractors arrived in Jaguars and Mercedes Benzes to meet with WMATA representatives about “lowering costs” in Metrobus service, they were met by more than 100 rallying DC area Metro workers chanting “Keep Transit Public!” “Who Moves This City?” and “Your Job is Next!” The protestors halted traffic as dozens of Metro Transit and Fairfax County police officers intervened several times to allow contractor vehicles into the meeting. It’s all part of Local 689-Washington, DC’s strategy to “make the privatization process ungovernable.” This move by WMATA means that 5% of Metrobus service will be privatized within a year and represents the first fixed route operation ever privatized in Metro’s 40-year history. Watch video.

Twin Cities bus drivers were attacked more than 70 times this year


With contract negotiations stalled and a transit strike threat leading up to the Super Bowl in February, Local 1005-Minneapolis, MN, is demanding improved safety measures for operators as assaults on them continue. “Operators have to endure a large magnitude of abuse, and I’m throwing verbal abuse into that. It can be any day, any time, day or night,” says Local President Mark Lawson. “Metro Transit might point to statistics saying, ‘Well, there’s less assaults this year or last year.’ The numbers go up and down, but they never go away.” This year there have been 73 assaults, 41 threats, and 34 instances of disorderly conduct on buses reported and many more that go unreported the Local says.

Locals in North America are pushing for more safer conditions for Bus operators

Local 689-Washington, DC, joined with Maryland Congressmen Anthony Brown and Jamie Raskin to introduce progressive legislation to improve WMATA service, address bus and rail safety and promote innovative ways to increase ridership. Among the proposals is a year-long pilot program with a $2.50 flat fare on trips starting from three stations in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Local President Jackie Jeter said at the announcement that the group is “committed to working towards substantive improvement to Metro so that it is no longer a system that this region tolerates, but is one that is effective, safe, reliable and affordable.”


Assailants in Staten Island attack on bus driver get 42 months in prison

Two men, who dragged an MTA driver from his bus out onto the ground at the St. George Ferry Terminal in Staten Island, NY and then beat him five months ago, earned themselves a trip upstate after pleading guilty to a felony charge. The incident began when the bus and a Jeep SUV sideswiped each other. The bus drove off and the SUV followed it. When the bus stopped the suspects pulled the driver from the bus and dragged him to the ground repeatedly kicking and punching him. These attacks are becoming all too common for transit workers (see story below) and ATU is calling on transit agencies across North America to better protect transit workers.


Punched, spit on, hit with objects: Bus drivers regularly face violence on the job

In 2009 a vicious attack on Local 569-Edmonton, AB, bus operator Tom Bregg touched off a debate on how to protect transit workers. It took until 2015 for The House of Commons to finally pass Bregg’s Law that allows for steeper penalties in assaults where the victim is a transit worker. But the bill obviously hasn’t deterred attacks. Since 2014 there was an average of one attack on a transit operator per week in Edmonton, AB, and across Canada, there are 2,000 assaults on bus operators every year and more that go unreported. “It’s alarming,” said Local 569 President Mark Tetterington. “There’s got to be more that we can do to protect those operators.”

ATU to City of Winnipeg: Use smaller buses or Uber-like apps instead of cutting service

Local 1505-Winnipeg, MB, is urging the city of Winnipeg to consider using smaller buses, devising flexible routes and moving to service on demand in some areas instead of just cutting back on service along routes with lower ridership. Facing a budget crisis, the city is considering less frequent bus service on up to 23 Winnipeg Transit routes, but many students and people in outlying areas who rely on public transit will be left stranded. “Cutting service on those routes, in the evenings and weekends, you’re going to frustrate people. People are already waiting for service as it is, and if you cut the service, instead of waiting 20 minutes, you’re waiting an hour,” says Local President Aleem Chaudhary. “You’re pissed off, here comes the next bus and who are you going to take it out on? The first person you see. Who is that? The bus driver.”

ATU and allies call on D.C. to end private contracts for public transit

A coalition of ATU Locals and social justice groups are calling on D.C. lawmakers to stop contracting out public transit services, saying the private firms that operate the Circulator bus system and D.C. Streetcar fail to provide reliable service to riders and treat their employees poorly. The group held face-to-face meetings with council members and at least one legislator, Council member Mary Cheh, is taking their argument seriously. The coalition is making its case now to lose the private firms because the current Circulator contract with First Transit expires next June. In addition, RMDT, the French firm that operates the D.C. Streetcar and the subcontractors that hire the streetcar personnel and workers, are still negotiating an initial labor contract nearly two years after the streetcar launched.

Nashville Local calls for better protection after rider dies from shooting

It’s seems like a day doesn’t go by that we don’t hear about an attack on a transit worker or rider. The latest happened in Nashville, TN, where a passenger was tragically shot and killed on a Nashville, TN, bus. This prompted Local 1235-Nashville, TN, to call for transit police and other protections for bus operators and riders. In this deadly incident, the shooter fled the bus and was thankfully captured and charged by police. The bus operator was not hurt and is credited with acting quickly to alert officials.

Happy Thanksgiving from ATU International

ATU International wishes a Happy Thanksgiving to all our U.S. members filled with peace, joy and a great meal. And as you do your last-minute shopping please make sure you have a union-made Thanksgiving. You can this do by checking the list of union-made in America food and other items essential to a traditional Thanksgiving feast that also support our sisters and brothers in the labor movement.


Can talking buses save pedestrians’ lives? No says ATU

Transit agencies in some cities are outfitting their buses with warning systems that use speakers to alert pedestrians when a bus is turning – but it’s just a technological Band-Aid for unsafe bus design. “When we read the story we thought it was an article from the Onion,” says International President Larry Hanley. “It’s basically a speaker broadcasting a loud message to pedestrians saying ‘Run like hell, the bus driver can’t see you!’” More than a dozen pedestrians crossing a street can be obscured by the left-side mirror and the pillar — the vertical frame on either side of the windshield. There are buses manufactured and used in Europe that have no driver blind spots, and ATU is calling on transit agencies to purchase these buses.
 

Locals gear up to fight right-to-work at Everett, WA training

The whole public sector will likely become “right to work” next year, barring another miracle at the U.S. Supreme Court. Once the conservative court rules in Janus v. AFSCME (likely before June), life will change for ATU and all unions in the 23 states that till now have rejected right-to-work laws. Recognizing the threat for several years now, ATU has been conducting training to mobilize and engage leaders and members in this critical battle. Recently more than 90 officers and members from Local 757-Portland, OR; and Washington Locals 587-Seattle, 758-Tacoma, 843-Bellingham, 883-Everett; 1015-Spokane, 1576-Lynnwood, and 1765-Olympia, participated in a right-to-work training in Everett, WA.
 

An ATU hero in Cincinnati, OH

Twenty-six-year veteran Cincinnati Metro Operator Orlando King is being hailed as a hero for saving a lost young child. The Local 627-Cincinnati, OH, member spotted the youngster wandering alone shortly before noon on November 2, brought her on his bus and called for assistance. “I’m just glad I was there,” King said, adding that there were no adults in the vicinity. “As a parent, I couldn’t leave her out there.” King, who was named Cincinnati Metro’s 2015 Operator of the Year, was honored with a CEO S.T.A.R. Award at a Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority board meeting. ATU salutes King for his quick-thinking and action.
 

Guelph transit workers & city ratify new collective agreement

In 2014, the City of Guelph locked out Local 1189-Guelph, ON, members, halting bus service for two weeks, leaving riders stranded, and workers mad. The latest contract negotiations went much more smoothly with the Local and city finalizing a strong contract for workers. “During the negotiation process, we challenged ourselves to think outside the box to get a deal that was fair, and that would show great commitment from both parties,” said Local President Andy Cleary. Under the new four-year contract all full-time and part-time transit workers will receive annual pay increases and other improvements.

Jake Schwab won’t be home with his family for Thanksgiving (PA)

Local 568-Erie, PA, member Jake Schwab died in 2014, when a suspension air bag in a bus he was working on exploded in his face. Schwab, a mechanic, was working with the wrong tools on an unfamiliar bus from another agency. There was no investigation of his death because he was a public employee. There had been no safety training in Jake’s garage for over nine years. A Harrisburg, PA, billboard has been put up as part of an aggressive campaign to push for passage of the Jake Schwab Worker’s Safety bill (H.B.1082) to ensure OSHA-equivalent on-the-job safety rules for public employers. There will be a hearing on the bill in the Pennsylvania legislature on December 5.


Joe, the bus driver, & Jane, the bus rider, ‘take it on the chin’ with Trump tax scheme

“On behalf of Joe, the bus driver, and Jane, the bus rider, we condemn the House of Representatives’ passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R.1) – the most outrageous money grab in the history of our country that will destroy what is left of the American middle class,” says International President Larry Hanley. The bill, Hanley continues, would end the state and local tax deduction, making it impossible for Joe to make ends meet and save for his kids’ college. And Jane, who takes public transit because current law provides her with a tax benefit for taking public transit to work, loses too. H.R. 1 removes the option for employers to deduct the cost of public transit benefits. So Jane’s boss is pulling out of the program and she may have to walk the five miles to her job. “We call on the Senate to be the voice of reason and reject this ill-advised, heartless bill for Joe and Jane – the real people of America,” says Hanley.


Peoria, IL, paratransit workers authorize strike

Frustrated by an unfair contract offer by management, CityLift workers, the paratransit service of Peoria, IL’s CityLink transit system, have authorized a strike by a near unanimous vote. “We hope this gets management to realize that the employees are serious. They are not playing around and they want a good contract for the service that they do,” says Local President Ronald Cox, 416-Peoria, IL, which represents over 60 CityLift drivers, dispatchers, maintenance and utility workers. CityLift drivers are the lowest paid workers in their area with starting pay of $10.50 an hour, while CityLink bus drivers start at about $18 an hour. It is only the third time in 27 years the Local has held such a strike authorization vote.


Make your Thanksgiving union-made

As you and your family get ready to do your final Thanksgiving shopping, make sure you’ll have a union-made Thanksgiving. You can this do by checking the list of Thanksgiving food and holiday items produced by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM); Machinists (IAM); United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW); and United Steelworkers (USW).


Metro Transit Workers reject contract, authorize Super Bowl strike

Rejecting the latest contract offer from Metro Transit, the members of Local 1005-Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN, authorized a strike for the days leading up to Super Bowl LII, in the Twin Cities next year. Expanding hours for part-time work, and driver safety and security are among the major sticking points in the contract dispute, which has been going on since May. “We are very serious,” says Local President Mark Lawson. “Driving a city bus is one of the hardest jobs in America. We have members who are routinely punched, spit on, or assaulted in other ways.” The Local is also pushing for an improved workstation including bus shields to protect the drivers. Lawson says there is still time to reach a deal before the Super Bowl.


TriMet workers reach tentative agreement

Nearly a year after their contract expired, Local 757-Portland, OR, and TriMet have reached a tentative deal. The new contract includes a 3% raise for all employees, retroactive to December 2016, and 3.25% annual raises over the next two years. It also includes bigger pay increases for service workers who clean and fuel buses. A key sticking point had been the agency’s proposal to use outside contractors to overhaul aging MAX trains. “We finally cleared the dust, and here we are,” says Local President Shirley Block, pointing out they had reached an agreement on the issue and that the agency made several concessions for the Local. The negotiations which had dragged on for over five months were followed by several mediation sessions.

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