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.