Winnipeg Transit suppresses assault reports, Big Time!

Despite the stabbing death of Winnipeg bus operator Jubal Fraser and countless other attacks on bus operators, Winnipeg Transit is downplaying the frequency of assaults. Local 1505-Winnipeg, MB, says the agency is even disciplining operators who report attacks. “The first question they get asked is, ‘What did you say, what did you do wrong,'” Local President Aleem Chaudhary said at a demonstration at city hall. “They’re trying to decrease the numbers as to how serious the assaults are and how many assaults take place. They’re trying to minimize.” The Local urged the council’s finance committee to use a projected $8 million transit surplus for driver-safety measures, including the promised installation of shields. “The fact I even had to critically think about whether or not I can report my own assault, based on the treatment I’m going to receive after reporting, is absurd,” said driver Chantale Garand, who has been spit on and groped. She decided to quit over safety and harassment issues.

Baltimore transit needs local oversight,
more funding

Baltimore’s troubled public transportation system – buses, light rail, subway and commuter trains – should be under local control and not the state’s Maryland Transit Administration, says a new report by the Greater Washington Partnership. “Under this structure, Baltimore’s public transportation system has not kept pace with repair and service needs or developed a strategy to enhance existing service,” the report says. “This governance and funding structure must be reformed … to create a truly regional rapid and reliable transit system in the Baltimore metro area.” Currently, three-quarters of people who live in the Baltimore region can get to its roughly 1.4 million jobs within 45 minutes by car, while public transit only offers access to six percent of those jobs. Read more.

Local 113, TTCriders, allies stage Day of Transit Action to “Fund the TTC, not Break It!”

Holding signs reading “Keep Transit Public” and “No 2 Tier Transit”, Local 113-Toronto, ON, TTCriders, and allies gathered at TTC subway stations to protest and collect signatures for a petition opposing the upload of the TTC’s subway to the province. Last week, Transport Minister Jeff Yurek announced a report on the TTC upload will go to the cabinet soon and in early 2019 the province will introduce legislation to take over components of the TTC. “At Doug Ford’s hand, Toronto is set to lose its integrated system and local democratic controls that will result in reduced service and higher fares while paving the way for privatized transit,” said Local 113 and ATU Canada in a joint statement. “It’s not just wrong, it’s a rush job that will leave Torontonians waiting at the curb. The so-called subway upload is nothing more than another attack by Doug Ford on Toronto.” Read more.

Another week and more attacks on bus operators

The hits keep coming, literally. Attacks on bus operators by angry passengers across the US and Canada have unfortunately become part of the job. In Milwaukee, WI, a bus operator was attacked by three young men who are regular riders. The police are still searching for the assailants. Meanwhile, in Brampton, ON, a man boarded a bus and refused to pay. The driver stopped the bus and told the man to either pay or get off the bus. The suspect then punched and kicked the driver. And in Fargo, ND, a woman was caught on a bus camera attacking a bus operator and a passenger. Thanks to ATU’s union-wide campaign to push for better protection for transit workers and riders, some transit agencies, like Edmonton Transit System and the Bay Area’s AC Transit (see story below), are installing bus shields and other measures.

Tensions grow on Martha’s Vineyard

As contract talks between Local 1548-Plymouth, MA, and Martha’s Vineyard Transit (VTA) contractor Transit Connection Inc. (TCI) drag on, workers’ frustrations are growing. ATU members have been fighting for a fair first contract against stiff anti-union opposition from TCI management. For three years, the company refused to meet with the Local to negotiate a contract until a federal court ordered them to do so. Now, TCI is trying to shrink the bargaining unit and crying poverty despite years of stagnant wages for transit workers on an increasingly-expensive island.

Bay Area AC Transit to test bus driver shields

Local 192-Oakland, CA, members have been pushing for better safety for bus operators for some time. Their efforts, combined with a Bay Area NBC investigative story exposing the rise in attacks on bus operators, are finally yielding results. AC Transit is testing bus driver shields and surveillance monitors and working with law enforcement staffing to increase patrols on high-crime routes. The Local welcomes the safety upgrades but wonders why it took so long. “[I’ve seen] people getting slapped, hit, nose broken, all different types of things, and I believe that up until now, management should have been more in touch with us as humans first instead of professional drivers,” said one driver. “You had wives, mothers, grandmothers, whose children didn’t want them to come back to work because they were fearing for their lives.”


Millions of Canadians have lost a lifeline thanks to the Government’s failure to address the shutdown of Western Greyhound Canada. “Seniors won’t be able to get to the doctor for critical treatment. Working people can’t get to their jobs. Students won’t be able to get to school across Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan,” said ATU Canada President John Di Nino. “The Government reneged on their promise to find funding and solutions to deal with this crisis. This is a travesty for rural and First Nation communities, who depend on this service, and we hold the Government responsible.” In August, ATU Canada met with the Transport Minister, the Hon. Marc Garneau, to suggest real solutions. Unfortunately, there has been nothing but silence for millions of commuters left in dark with only the Minister’s 11th hour announcement on a “proposed” path forward.

International Representative Natalie Cruz
appointed to ATU General Executive Board

ATU International President Larry Hanley has appointed and the General Executive Board has approved International Representative Natalie Cruz as International Vice President. Cruz has been a member of Local 1700 since 2003 when she began as a motor coach operator. At the Local, she served as a shop steward and an organizer until January 2012 when she joined the International staff as an organizer. In that capacity, she worked on a wide variety of contract campaigns, trusteeships, and new organizing drives as well as community and political activities. Cruz was appointed an International Representative on July 1, 2018. She lives in Lorain, OH.

NYC school bus Local says bus driver
shortage lead to service issues

The NYC Department of Education claims recent school bus delays were not caused by a shortage of drivers, but Local 1181-New York, NY, strongly disagrees. Local President Michael Cordiello says the driver shortage is especially bad in the city thanks to the Bloomberg administration’s elimination of the Employee Protection Provision in late 2012. The EPP ensures students are transported by well-trained bus drivers and experienced matrons and mechanics. “It used to be a career, and now it has become transient. There’s little benefits and wage progression.”

The Bus is still best, not rideshares

Microtransit is the new buzz word in the transportation world. In reality, it’s not a new idea. Demand-response transit, “dial-a-ride,” or “Uber for public transit,” as many call it today, has been around for many years, writes veteran transit planner Jarrett Walker for The Atlantic. The only new element is smartphones. Walker argues that fixed-route buses are still the most efficient and cost-effective way to get people around. He points out “a city’s bus service is as good as its leaders and voters want it to be. Where voters have funded better bus services and cities have worked to give them priority, as in Seattle, ridership has soared.”

London Mayor to spend £6m on
toilets for bus operators

Cities and transit agencies could learn a lesson from London Mayor Sadiq Khan when it comes to providing adequate bathroom facilities and breaks for transit workers. Restroom access is a serious and dangerous problem in the U.S., Canada, and other countries worldwide. Mayor Khan has committed to spend £6 million to improve access to toilets for bus operators on dozens of routes across London. “It can’t be right that a bus driver can be stuck behind the wheel and not know where they can access a toilet,” Mayor Khan said. “These men and women work hard keeping London moving at all hours, so it’s vital that they are given the dignity of having access to a rest stop when they need it.” ATU couldn’t agree more and hopes other cities will follow his lead.

Pensacola Local provides free rides to the polls

Next Tuesday’s midterm election in the U.S. is one of the most important in history. Millions have already cast ballots in states offering early voting. In Florida, more than 3 million voters have already cast their ballots, and some have voted because Local 1395-Pensacola, FL, has been offering free rides to the polls. “We’re not there to tell people how to vote, but we know having that ability to cast your ballot is a part of the process,” said Local President Michael Lowery. One voter, thankful for the free service, said, “It’s good, they should have it like that more often. It saves car fare; then, I get dropped off at my destination afterwards. Everybody should get out and vote and maybe things would change.”

Metro says fatal bus-pedestrian
crash was preventable

King County Metro Transit has apologized and made a multimillion-dollar payment to the family of man killed last year by a turning bus, admitting the accident was preventable. The driver, who had a three-decade safe driving record, was fired despite a police report finding the victim was “mostly obscured by the black seals between the two leaves of the front passenger door.” Local 587-Seattle, WA, has filed a grievance to get the driver’s job back. “This certainly sheds a light on a big issue in transit today — bad bus designs and no pedestrian warning systems,” said Local President Ken Price. “But will King County do what it takes to save lives?” The ATU has been engaged in a union-wide campaign urging transit agencies to push for buses with better sight lines for drivers and other safety measures.

ATU Training coming soon to your Mailbox

Keep an eye out for the next In Transit coming to your home soon. This edition features stories on ATU’s innovative and comprehensive training programs for Local officers and members alike to prepare, anticipate and fight for the interests of our members, riders and our communities. Also be sure to read International President Larry Hanley’s column and one from new ATU Canada President John Di Nino. We also cover the winners of the 2018-2019 ATU Tommy Douglas scholarships. You’ll also find stories about ATU Locals engaging and mobilizing in their communities. Check out this video for a preview.

Edmonton Local wins in ruling for drivers’ privacy

In the wake of two bus-related pedestrian fatalities in 2016, the City of Edmonton hired a contractor to develop a program to evaluate new hires’ driving skills and cognitive abilities. Citing privacy concerns Local 569-Edmonton challenged the cognitive testing in a grievance, arguing the city had “no legal or factual basis for imposing cognitive testing on all ETS drivers and no legal or factual basis for imposing subsequent medical assessments” on operators flagged by the test. An arbitrator agreed ruling that the cognitive testing is “unreasonable” and “intrusive” and an invasion of privacy. Now the Local and the city are working to reach a monetary settlement for those affected by the breach of privacy. Read more.

An ATU hero in Topeka, KS

Topeka Metro bus driver Niles Brandstoettner is being hailed as a hero for saving a lost child on his route. The Local 1360-Topeka, KS, member said his instincts took over when he saw the little girl walking in the street barefoot with no one else around. “I knew something was wrong, I pulled the bus over, I got out and went and picked her up,” Brandstoettner said. “I did the same thing anyone would have done, I hope.” The dispatcher who took the call from Brandstoettner, praised him, “Niles is a very compassionate, high energy and he thinks quick on his feet.” We couldn’t agree more. Read more.

Toledo Local: TARTA faces morale issues

Forced overtime and frequent bus breakdowns are devastating TARTA drivers’ and mechanics’ morale, Local 697-Toledo, OH wrote in a letter asking the agency head to attend a meeting of workers to discuss their concerns and possible solutions. “We are worn down and tired. Our families suffer because we are slaves to TARTA,” wrote Local President Carly Allen pointing out drivers put in more than 80 hours a week, have day-off requests denied and are disciplined for showing up a minute late. The Local’s mechanics say bus breakdowns are happening far too often, leaving them “frustrated and worried about what’s out on the road.” TARTA’s General Manager couldn’t attend, but sent his human resources manager instead. Read more.

Another possible blind spot accident

The tragic death of a pedestrian killed by a Harrisburg bus in a crosswalk could be another example of a preventable blind spot accident caused by poor bus design. Roughly one pedestrian per week is killed by a transit bus in the U.S. from accidents like these. Many buses in the U.S. have huge left hand mirrors mounted on critical sightlines and a massive “A” pillar that needlessly block the driver’s vision. More than a dozen pedestrians may be hidden from the driver’s view at any given time. Meanwhile European buses provide drivers with a clear view. ATU has been engaged in a union-wide campaign to call on transit agencies to fix these dangerous blind spots and other bus safety issues. ATU sends condolences to the Harrisburg victim’s family and thoughts to the bus driver involved in this accident. Read more.

Majority Wants Provincial Funding
Restored to Winnipeg Transit

Four out of five Winnipeg voters want the province of Manitoba to resume paying for half of the city’s transit costs that aren’t covered by fares according to a poll commissioned by Local 1505-Winnipeg, MB. The province froze its transit funding for Winnipeg at 2016 levels claiming a budgetary deficit. That left the city responsible for inflationary cost increases. In response the Winnipeg City Council raised transit fares this year. “The province has to step up and be able to restore the funding,” said Local President Aleem Chaudhary. “We also have the carbon tax coming in, and we should be able to put the funding back and … increase it.” Read more.


‘He was stabbed 13 times’: Union boss calls for more security after bus driver attacked, Edmonton Alberta

The president of the union representing bus drivers is calling for 24-hour security at transit centres after a bus driver was stabbed 13 times early Wednesday morning, the second attack in about one week.

And Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said “there’s more work to do” on security measures at transit and LRT stations.

The bus driver who was stabbed multiple times early Wednesday at the Mill Woods Transit Centre was released from hospital, the city said Wednesday night.

The 65-year-old driver was at the transit hub on Hewes Way in southeast Edmonton when the attack happened at around 3:40 a.m., police said.

Paramedics treated him at the scene before taking him to hospital suffering serious, but non-life threatening injuries. A 15-year-old boy is in police custody.

In a statement, a city spokesman said they had reached out to the driver to offer ongoing support.

‘Stabbed 13 times’

Mark Tetterington, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 569 which represents bus drivers, feels transit peace officers need to be present at transit centres overnight.

“I think the only solution is to have that presence at all those transit centres 24 hours … you have to have that presence, we have to make the buses a safe place not only for our operators but also for the public.”

“They want to increase ridership, that’s where you start.”

Tetterington said he had been told by the transit branch manager that the driver was stabbed around a dozen times by a youth who asked him for a ride downtown.

Tetterington said the youth approached the driver and asked if he could get a ride in that direction because the bus was out of service and returning to the garage.

The driver phoned control to let them know the youth was stranded and needed a ride. He was told a peace officer would be sent out to drive the youth downtown.

“He was stabbed 13 times,” he said. “By the grace of God, he’s still alive. I got an update on his condition from the branch manager, and he said that he’s going to be released amazingly in a couple hours. They’re all just stitches. They never hit any vital organs or veins or arteries, which was a miracle.”

Tetterington said the bus driver was able to escape to the terminal long enough to call police.

Tetterington said retractable driver shields are being installed on some buses as a pilot project. However, a shield doesn’t protect drivers while they’re in transit stations, he said.

‘Hits close to home’

Iveson reacted to the stabbing Wednesday saying it “hits close to home” for all Edmontonians, and that the city is taking concerns from the public about safety on the transit system “very, very seriously.”

“I continue to use transit because it’s an important part of my commute and I feel safe generally on the system,” said Iveson. “So that’s been my experience, but I do recognize and understand that some people do not feel safe and that for women, in particular, their transit safety concerns particularly in the evening and quieter times on the system.

“I’ve chatted with a couple of the councillors already, heard from the transit union and there’s clearly more work for us to do.”

Last week, a 19-year-old man was stabbed multiple times in the chest in an unprovoked attack on Sept. 18 at the South Campus LRT station platform.

Iveson said there are a lot of deterrents to crime on the city’s transit system, including security cameras, the presence of other people, operators and transit peace officers.

“With two high-profile incidents close together, questions have been raised about safety on the system,” said Iveson. “And that’s why we’ve added police and additional transit peace officers in recent years in order to try to have more patrols on the system, added more cameras as well. And those cameras at the end of the day will help hold accountable people who behave inappropriately on transit. So I’m hopeful that the cameras will be able to help with the investigation, whatever happened here.”

Bus drivers regularly face violence on the job

According to freedom of information data requested by Postmedia last year, which covered Jan. 1, 2014 to July 6, 2017, there was an average of one attack on a transit operator per week in Edmonton. Across Canada, there are 2,000 bus driver assaults every year according to the Canadian Urban Transit Association, and more that go unreported.

Around one-third of the Edmonton incidents involved a driver who was punched or kicked. Cases where an operator was bitten or spit on made up another 30 per cent. Pushing or shoving incidents were the next largest category, followed by thrown objects — including coffee, liquor, garbage and, in one case, a “small block of cheese” chucked at an operator’s face by a man who was refused a free ride. Four instances were classified as sexual harassment.

Of the 193 attacks since 2014, 33 resulted in an arrest and six led to criminal charges. The No. 8 bus, which runs from Abbotsfield Mall to Mill Woods, was the most dangerous route, with 27 incidents.

ETS driver stabbed by 15-year-old suspected bus thief at Mill Woods Transit Centre

More U.S. Public Sector ATU locals in NON-RIGHT-TO-WORK STATES AT 100% MEMBERSHIP


It’s been a few months since the U.S. Supreme Court’s treacherous Janus decision and ATU public sector Locals in non-right-to-work states have been mobilizing to get 100% of their members signed up and recommitted as ATU members. We are happy to report more and more Locals have been successful. To date, Locals 192-Oakland, CA, 265-San Jose, CA, 285-Steubenville, OH, 726-Staten Island, NY, 752-Bloomington, IL, 824-New Brunswick, NJ, 842-Wilmington, DE, 880-Camden, NJ, 883-Everett, WA, 1027-Fresno, CA, 1070-Indianapolis, IN, 1241-Lancaster, PA, 1249-Springfield, IL, 1336-Bridgeport, CT, 1499-Muncie, IN, 1574-San Mateo, CA, and 1704-San Bernardino, CA have 100% of their members committed to ATU! Get involved, and get your Local 100% committed, too.

Despite national trend, public transit
is winning in Connecticut

ATU has been saying for years, invest in public transit and riders will come. Look no further than Connecticut, which has seen a 5.4% increase in bus ridership while many other states have seen ridership plummet over the last few years. Why? The state put more money towards transit – expanding bus service including more routes for college students. Also a new commuter rail line was opened in June and ridership doubled on the line, which was formerly Amtrak-only service. The rail line operates like a bus line and a subway with more stops – and the trains are newer and nicer. Hopefully other states will follow Connecticut’s example and invest in more and better public transit. Read more.

Saint John Local: Facing our transit future

With a provincial election next week, Local 1182-St. John, NB, President Tom McGraw authored an op-ed on the critical role of investing in public transit in Saint John and the importance of the voting for transit-friendly candidates. “New Brunswick needs to help smaller cities like Saint John cope with the inevitable added pressure on its transit budget,” he writes. “Access to affordable transit is proven to reduce poverty…As well, public transit can foster inclusion and promote population growth across the province.” McGraw urges citizens to “ask your regional candidates if they have solid plans to support public transit and get out and vote in the Sept. 24th provincial election. Hop a bus to polling station!” Read column.

Minneapolis Local crashes event
celebrating Janus decision

A Koch brothers backed celebration of Janus vs. AFSCME, featuring the infamous Mark Janus and Rebecca Friedrichs, got a surprise as ATU Local 1005-Minneapolis joined other unions in protesting outside the event. Chanting “Who are we? Union!” and “What’s disgusting? Union busting!” More than 100 union members converged on the Minneapolis Hilton where the event was being held. Local President Ryan Timlin addressed a raucous crowd with spirited remarks about the importance of collective action and how every right that workers enjoy today was fought for by union workers of the past. Read more.

Another day, another attack on a bus driver

Rarely does a week go by that we don’t hear about another attack on a transit worker. The latest comes from Prince William County, VA outside of Washington, DC. The driver noticed a man running alongside his bus. Once the vehicle was stopped, the man started to bang on the door. When the driver refused to open the door, the assailant stood in front of the bus yelling. He then went to the back of the bus, kicked out one of the lower windows on the door and got inside. The man then sprayed the driver with an unknown substance, leaving the driver with minor injuries. ATU Locals have been engaged in a union-wide campaign to demand a redesign of bus driver workstations to protect drivers from assaults, eliminate dangerous blindspots, and other improvements. Read more.

Happy Labor Day

This weekend we celebrate Labor/Labour Day in the United States and Canada with family and friends. ATU can be proud as our members are mobilizing from Birmingham, AL, to Saskatoon, SK, to Milwaukee, WI, to Halifax, NS and countless other communities. We have created a video to show our members working to demand more transit funding, to fight privatization efforts, to push for safer bus driver workstations and more. This Labor/Labour Day remember “We are a Proud Union Family”! Watch video.

Harrisburg transit workers rally for more,
better, and safer service

Capital Area Transit (CAT) workers are angry and rallied to demand more, better, and safer bus service for the people of Harrisburg before testifying at a CAT board meeting. Local 1436-Harrisburg, PA, have been working without a contract since their contract expired on June 30. There is a shortage of workers, forcing many to work overtime. The agency even outsourced one lucrative route to Hershey Park. Meanwhile CAT management has been using delay tactics in an attempt to extract concessions from the workers. “Our members love our jobs and want to provide the best possible service for the people of Harrisburg who rely on us,” said Local President Lionel Randolph. “And we want to be treated with the respect and dignity we deserve by our employer.” Read more.

The economy is booming, your salary is not:
Blame the decline of unions

A new study shows just how much organized labor can raise individual worker’s wages–even for nonunionized workers. Over the last 40 years as union membership declined working Americans have barely seen their salaries grow, while the cost of housing and basic needs have risen and CEO salaries skyrocketed. When unions were at their strongest prior to the 1960s, the gap was smaller between worker and executive pay and they secure higher minimum wages and better access to health care. Researchers only speculated that unions created positive spillover effects at nonunionized workplaces. A University of Illinois study of the transportation manufacturing industry shows the impact of a drastic decline in union membership on all workers. “My studies suggest that the wage growth in their career would have been more reliable, and their wages less volatile, had the broader decline of unionization in transportation manufacturing not been so severe,” the report’s author says. “I found that to be true both for folks who are members of labor unions, folks who transition out of union jobs, and folks who were never in unions to begin with.” Read more.

Trouble in paradise: Martha’s Vineyard
drivers fighting for contract, safer service

ATU is making some noise not often heard on the tony island of Martha’s Vineyard this summer. Vineyard Transit Authority workers held a picket demanding a fair contract and safer bus service. Short staffing by VTA subcontractor, Transit Connection (TCI), has resulted in coerced overtime for workers jeopardizing safety of bus service. The workers joined ATU in 2015, but contract talks have stalled as TCI has used the public’s money to engage in dilatory and unnecessary litigation. One driver at the picket said all they want is a better standard of life. “I work three jobs and I’m struggling. People that drive potato trucks make more money than us, driving 50 people with all that responsibility,” he said. Both sides are due to come to the bargaining table in September. Read more.

In victory for unions, judge overturns
key parts of Trump executive orders

In a setback for the White House’s efforts to weaken federal employee unions, a federal judge struck down key provisions of a set of executive orders aimed at making it easier to fire federal employees and weaken their representation. The new rules had restricted the use of “official time” — on-duty time that union officials can spend representing their members in grievances and on other issues as well as limited the issues that could be bargained over in union negotiations. In her decision, the judge wrote: “While . . . the President has the authority to issue executive orders that carry the force of law with respect to federal labor relations, no such orders can operate to eviscerate the right to bargain collectively as envisioned.” Read more.

Another attack on a transit worker,
a Winnipeg transit supervisor

It’s déjà vu in Winnipeg, as yet another transit worker was attacked. This time it was a Winnipeg Transit supervisor assaulted on a bus when a dispute over an insufficient fare escalated into an attack. A man and two male youths boarded the bus, but one didn’t have enough money to pay the fare. They became verbally aggressive and the supervisor asked them to leave the bus. Instead of leaving they punched the supervisor, violently dragged him off the bus and kicked and punched him. Police just happen to be nearby and intervened. The assailants were charged with assault. While the supervisor isn’t an ATU member, Local 1505 -Winnipeg, MB, President Aleem Chaudhary says more protection is needed for workers. Read more.

Local calls for resignation of HR Executive over racist FB comments

After uncovering “explicitly and vilely racist” Facebook comments by Spokane Transit Authority’s HR director, as well as her defense of others’ making similar comments, Local 1015-Spokane, WA, is calling for her resignation. The Local found that STA’s HR Director Nancy Williams had shared video on her Facebook account of a disturbing incident in which several young black men kicked and punched a young white man. She posted “these ‘kids’ are despicable animals.” Then William’s aunt Beverly Nan Murphy replied to the video, calling Barack Obama a “creature,” further commenting “If you don’t teach primates at an early age, (no matter what skin they are in) they continue to be non-civilized.” Williams “liked” the comment, and defended it as others questioned it. Local President Thomas Leighty called for her resignation at a press conference, “You can’t allow someone who says and defends this type of racist garbage to be collecting a public salary and be making decisions about the fates of public workers.” Read more.

How ridesharing widens disparities
of race and class in urban public transit

From NYC to Los Angeles to Austin to San Francisco, public transit ridership is down in nearly every U.S. city. One of the reasons behind that trend is the rise in ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft as cities skimp on traditional transit service and maintenance. And who loses? People from low income communities and people of color, who rely on public transit the most. Uber’s unsustainable business model is the prime culprit. The company subsidizes fares and flood streets with taxi-like cars in order to grab market share and pricing power. Because people in higher income brackets will use Uber rather public transit, the class and racial divide widens. Read more.

ATU mourns death of Long time
Sergeant-At-Arms and Local 113 member Harvey Ward

ATU is sad to report the death of Harvey C. Ward, retired Secretary-Treasurer of Local 113-Toronto, ON, on May 26, 2018 at the age of 98. Brother Ward was a longtime fixture at ATU Conventions serving as a sergeant-at-arms from 1986 until 2010. For many of those conventions he served as chair of the sergeant-at-arms. Ward joined Local 113 in 1947 when he was hired by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) as a streetcar operator. He was elected to the Local’s Executive Board as Secretary-Treasurer in 1971, and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1986. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Ward family and our brothers and sisters at Local 113.

Seattle bus drivers win $8.3 million in back
pay for safety checks, paperwork

In a big victory, Seattle bus drivers will receive an additional $8.3 million in back pay to cover three years of routine safety checks and paperwork performed beyond their usual shift time. This agreement, reached between Local 587-Seattle, WA, and King County Metro Transit, is in addition to a $6.4 million fund created last fall for more than 2,400 operators to resolve a federal investigation on the same issues. Local President Michael Shea called the figure an equitable settlement. “ATU appreciates that our employees are being properly compensated for the work that they are doing.” Read more.

Help ATU reach 20,000 ‘likes’

The ATU Facebook community is growing every day thanks to members, riders, and transit advocates spreading the word about our Facebook page. It’s a great source of information. Through our Facebook Live sessions, regular news posts, and more, members stay up to date on what’s impacting our union and industry. We have 20,000 “likes” in our sights! Help us reach that goal and “like” our page, share our stories and invite your friends to like the page, too. Also be sure to follow our Twitter handle @ATUComm to stay up to date on what’s trending in public transit, politics, and other issues. Like us today!

Guatemala Volcano Toll Reaches 99, As Officials Point Fingers Over Evacuation

Municipal firefighters search for victims in the ash-covered village of San Miguel Los Lotes, in Escuintla, about 20 miles southwest of Guatemala City, on Wednesday.

Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images

Guatemala’s opposition is accusing the head of the country’s emergency response agency of failing to heed warnings ahead of the eruption of a volcano that has left nearly 100 dead and almost 200 others missing.

The finger-pointing came as rain showers and the fear of mudslides hindered the search for possible survivors and the recovery of the dead from Sunday’s eruption of Fuego (Spanish for fire). It is one of Central America’s most active volcanoes.

The volcano blanketed nearby villages in ash and sent fast-moving toxic pyroclastic flows down into valleys as people living nearby rushed to escape the onslaught.

“You have a great responsibility over what happened,” Congressman Mario Taracena, speaking in the Guatemalan Congress, said of Sergio Cabañas, the executive secretary of the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction, also known as CONRED.

“Anyone with a little common sense would have done something,” Taracena said, according to El Periódico. “They did not care and they did not take precautions.”

The director of the National Institute of Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology, Eddy Sánchez, also came in for criticism.

Sánchez explained that his agency issued several bulletins during the day ahead of the eruption. However, CONRED officials said they did not receive enough information to properly evaluate the risk posed by the mountain.

A CONRED representative, Arturo Alvarado, said communities near Fuego are used to living with risk and do not respond to evacuation orders.

“What arises there is a self-evacuation because they are the ones closest to the place,” Alvarado said, according to El Periódico. “Although we have the seismic data and the bulletin, the self-evacuation is what will save your life.”

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, rescue crews were repeatedly forced to retreat as Fuego sent boiling water and toxic gas down its slopes.

Even so, The Associated Press reports that search teams were able to make some progress — using shovels and heavy equipment to uncover more bodies.

The official death toll on Wednesday stood at 99, with 197 listed as missing and presumed dead.

“Nobody is going to be able to get them out or say how many are buried here,” Efrain Suarez, a 59-year-old truck driver helping with the rescue efforts at the devastated village of San Miguel Los Lotes, told the AP.

“The bodies are already charred,” he said. “And if heavy machinery comes in they will be torn apart.”

Suspect in Toronto van attack charged with 10 counts of murder, 13 counts of attempted murder

BREAKING UPDATE: The man arrested in connection with a deadly van attack in North York on Monday afternoon has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.

He has been remanded into custody and is set to return to court on May 10.

The suspect, identified by police as 25-year-old Richmond Hill resident Alek Minassian, was arrested after a van plowed into pedestrians along a busy stretch of Yonge Street, killing 10 and injuring 15 others.

Sources told CTV News Monday that Minassian was not known to police prior to the incident and a Linkedin profile under his name states he graduated from Seneca College earlier this year.

On Monday afternoon, several witnesses reported seeing a white Ryder rental van driving along the sidewalk in the area of Yonge Street and Finch Avenue, striking pedestrians in its path.

Early images of the scene showed pools of blood on the sidewalk and multiple people wounded on the ground.

A driver who said he was behind the van as the incident was unfolding said he eventually started honking to warn pedestrians.

“At the beginning I thought I want to make him stop because I’m literally about 20, 30 metres behind him but he is not stopping and he is driving faster on the sidewalks and I am on the road,” he told CP24.

He said he then decided to continue to follow the vehicle and honk to warn people on the street about the danger.

Witness videos sent to CP24 show a dramatic takedown of the suspect on the sidewalk on Poyntz Avenue.

The videos show a man exiting a badly damaged white rental van as an officer points a firearm at the suspect.

A source confirmed to CP24’s crime specialist Steve Ryan that prior to the arrest, the man asked police officers to shoot him.

He was eventually brought to the ground and taken into custody.

Police have said that they believe the incident appears to be “deliberate.”

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders told reporters Monday night that police are exploring “all lanes” in their investigation and are trying to determine exactly what the van driver’s motivation was in the deadly attack.

One victim identified

One of the ten victims of the fatal attack has been identified as Invesco employee Anne Marie D’Amico, a source confirmed to CP24.

Police have not released the ages or genders of the other nine victims.

Flowers and messages of condolence could be seen at a growing memorial that has been set up in Olive Square, near Yonge Street and Finch Avenue, in honour of those impacted by the tragedy.

A GoFundMe page has also been set up for the victims.

The section of Yonge Street where the pedestrians were hit remains closed today as police continue their investigation.

Transit has also been impacted due to closures in the area.

Due to the police investigation, the Toronto District School Board said the TDSB Education Centre, located near Yonge Street and Sheppard Aveneue, will be closed Tuesday.

‘We will not be broken,’ Tory says

Tuesday’s Toronto city council meeting was postponed until Wednesday, but Mayor John Tory asked councillors to meet at city hall today to express their condolences.

Speaking in council chambers Tuesday, Tory called the situation an “unfathomable loss of life has left our city in mourning.”

“Our hearts are with all of those affected,” he said.

The mayor went on to thank hospital staff as well as first responders and citizens at the scene who exhibited “great bravery” during the ordeal.

“We know that we are strong and resilient and will not be thrown off course by one person or one act,” Tory said.

“The people who call this city home are shaken… but we will not be broken.”

Coun. John Filion, whose ward encompasses the area where the attack took place, recognized the “tremendous emotional toll” the incident has taken on those in the area who rushed in to help in any way they could.

“Hopefully this will have all of us be a little kinder to each other on regular days,” he told his fellow councillors at city hall Tuesday.

Speaking at Parliament Hill on Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the incident “horrific” and “senseless.”

“On behalf of all Canadians, I offer my deepest, heartfelt condolences to the loved ones of all those who were killed and we wish a full recovery to those injured and stand with the families and friends of the victims,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister added that there is nothing to suggest that there is a national security element to the situation.

Police said another update on the case will be provided this afternoon but a time and location has not yet been determined.

Courtesy of CTV and CP 24 and GMA

The Dark Side of The Gig Economy

This past Monday morning, livery driver Doug Schifter tragically killed himself in front of NYC City Hall, posting on Facebook that he did this in hopes of raising awareness of how ride hailing services have devastated taxi workers financially. In his post, Schifter said he had to work more than 100 hours a week just to survive, had lost his health insurance, racked up credit card debt and put the blame on mayors Michael Bloomberg and Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo for permitting so many cars to flood the streets of NYC. His story is representative of how Uber, Lyft and their competitors have inflicted serious economic hardship on taxis drivers in NYC and other cities leading to driver bankruptcies, foreclosures, eviction notices, homelessness and depression. It’s time we all recognize that Uber, Lyft and their competitors are exploiting and ruining hardworking people’s lives.

Worcester, MA, Local mobilizes riders in fight for transit funding

With the Worcester Regional Transit Authority rumored to be considering slashing service and jobs in the face of a $1 million budget deficit, Local 22-Worcester, MA, members aren’t sitting silent. The Local is mobilizing riders to join in the fight and formed the Funding for Public Transportation Committee. “I think that this is really the first time that I can remember that we have formed a committee to focus on gathering people together to try and get funding, and the reaction has been incredible,” said Local Business Agent Ken Kephart. “Our focus is to try to rally the people to say enough is enough, and call their elected officials and demand that they fully fund the RTAs.” Demonstrations and other actions are being considered to protest the governor’s budget.

Winnipeg Local calls for a review of flawed electronic fare card system

The City of Winnipeg has cut corners in adding its electronic fare card, Peggo, which is run on an outdated system, says Local 1505-Winnipeg, MB, in calling for a review and audit of Peggo. “Unfortunately, we warned about this quite some time ago … They purchased a system that was outdated,” said Local President Aleem Chaudhary. “These glitches were and are a daily problem.” The Local says riders adding money on the cards online or by phone can be delayed by 24-48 hours, and many riders board buses with a pre-paid card that doesn’t work.

Black History Month: Harriett Tubman, conductor of Underground Railroad

In recognition of Black History Month, ATU is remembering important people and events in the history of the civil rights movement and public transportation. This week we are remembering Harriett Tubman, who escaped slavery and became a leader in the abolitionist movement during the Civil War. Tubman risked her life to lead hundreds of slaves and their family members from the plantation system to freedom on an elaborate secret network of safe houses that is known as the Underground Railroad. In honor of her accomplishments, the U.S Treasury Department recently announced Tubman will be featured on the $20 bill to replace Andrew Jackson.

Nashville Local & Music City Riders United Demand Transit Equity

In recognition of Rosa Parks’ birthday and her fight for transit equity, Local 1235-Nashville, TN, members joined with Music City Riders United to demand better public transit for all. Their demands – better bus safety, improved training of maintenance workers and other improvements – come as residents will soon cast their vote on a new $9 billion transit plan proposed by Nashville’s Mayor. Local President Patrick Green points out the training deficiencies and the lack of personnel leads to bus delays and break downs, which happen every single day. “It’s not about us, It’s not just about the workforce here at this system. It’s about the entire community,” said Green.

Minneapolis hosted the most public transit-dependent game in Super Bowl history

The Super Bowl was a great game this year with the Philadelphia Eagles beating the New England Patriots. It also went off without a hitch thanks in part to Local 1005-Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN, members playing a key role in safely transporting people to and from the game and events in the week before the game. Experts are saying Minneapolis hosted the most public transit-dependent Super Bowl ever because the stadium is located in downtown Minneapolis. The City’s light rail system took more than 20,000 fans to and from the game and the two of the starting points for light rail served as major security screening checkpoints to help alleviate security-related bottlenecks at the stadium.