It’s been a productive and busy week at the Tommy Douglas Conference with ATU local leaders from across the U.S. and Canada taking part in innovative labor-related trainings. An Advanced Arbitration training is teaching attendees new skills and strategies for negotiating strong contracts for their members. A training on Public Engagement is focusing on building alliances with riders and the public for local campaigns and polishing public speaking and communications skills. In addition, local presidents and the leaders of Local 113-Toronto, ON, learned new ways to motivate their members to get involved, make their Locals stronger, and empower their Locals for the battles ahead. All of the skills taught this week will prove vital in our local leaders’ efforts to engage their membership, riders, and like-minded organizations in local coalitions that will fight for Labor and public transit in their communities.

ECAT workers, commissioner at odds over ECAT’s future

With Escambia County Commission Chairman Doug Underhill threatening to end transit service, ECAT workers leafleted riders urging them to contact county commissioners to tell them support the transit system. The future of the system is in question after the commissioners began the process of taking over management of the system from private contractor First Transit. Local 1395-Pensacola, FL, which represents the workers, supported the move, but Underhill has proposed a voter referendum on whether the county should continue funding public transportation. The Local argues that ECAT serves the neediest in the community, and called for a public forum for riders to voice their opinions on this important issue. Read more.

Spokane transit workers sue authority over refusal of pro-union bus ad

Local 1015-Spokane, WA, has an ad with a simple message it wants to put on Spokane Transit Authority (STA) buses “Do you drive for Uber, Lyft, charter bus, school bus? You have a right to organize.” But STA has rejected the request. In response, the Local has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the agency seeking an order requiring STA to allow bus ads that “promote the availability of union services or that contain public service announcements.” The Local argues that STA’s policy constitutes an unlawful viewpoint-based restriction on speech in a public forum by allowing the promotion of charitable, religious and educational public services while prohibiting the promotion of labor-related public services. A trial is set for June 27, so stay tuned. Read more.

Portland transit workers push for better safety in wake of attacks

After a high-profile attack on a Portland, ON, light rail train that left two good Samaritans dead and another seriously injured for protecting a Muslim rider, TriMet beefed up the security on MAX trains by increasing the presence of transit police officers, supervisors and private security officers. However, the increased security was not enough to prevent a disruptive passenger from assaulting a MAX driver last Friday afternoon. And, in a letter to the public, Local 757-Portland, OR, is calling on TriMet to hire more fare inspectors instead of increasing the presence of armed police and private guards. Read more.

Bus driver blind spots: Isn’t a life worth $300?

Each week we hear another story about a preventable pedestrian accident involving a bus workstation blind spot. U.S buses have huge left hand mirrors, mounted in critical sight lines, that needlessly block the driver’s vision. In fact, from the point of view of the bus driver, up to 13 pedestrians may be hidden behind the massive “A” pillar and left side mirror at any given time. ATU has been at the forefront of exposing this problem, meeting with transit agencies and federal and state officials on the issue. In addition, ATU has produced a video highlighting the problem of bus driver blind spots and solutions to fix it for under $300 per bus. Watch video.

Report bus, rail and maintenance violations on ATU App

Broken mirrors, engine problems, defective steering, malfunctioning air conditioners, oil spills, fire and electrical hazards, emergency equipment issues, inadequate tools, lack of safety training, dirty workplaces, and foul air are among the many dangerous safety issues and working conditions that our members have reported on the ATU App. Now you can help us to fight for your safety by reporting violations. Just download the App to your smartphone and then go to the “Report Bus, Rail and Maintenance Safety Violations and Defects” page and fill out the form to report safety violations. Remember when filling out the form to please follow your transit agency’s cell phone policies if you are working.