Archive for April, 2013

ATU out in force to support “Robin Hood tax” initiative

Robin Hood?Isn?t there something perverse about slashing transit services when people lose jobs and cars?? That?s the question posed by International President Larry Hanley who led the ATU members who participated in the National Nurses United rally in front of the White House last Saturday, in support of the Inclusive Prosperity Act ? H.R. 1579 ? that has been re-introduced in the U.S. Congress by Rep. Keith Ellison, D-MN.

The so-called ?Robin Hood tax,? would ?tax transactions on Wall Street to provide revenue that?s needed to provide services for everybody else.? says Hanley. ?The tax is reasonable, it?s cheap, it?s fair ? but it will provide $350 billion in income to our government at a time it really needs it.

?People are suffering all over this country,? continues Hanley, ?and this is an opportunity for [Congress] to tax people who are very wealthy, and painlessly provide the services we really need.?

Is BART politicizing safety?Bart

With reports of the Boston bombings still ringing in their ears, the Board of San Francisco?s BART announced they would initiate a review of the agency?s safety procedures at their next meeting.

Local 1555-Oakland CA, whose members operate BART, was somewhat chagrined that the board did not inform them about the review before it was publicized. ?We feel this is just another way for management to politicize an issue that could be handled in a much more direct manner,? says Local President Antonette Bryant.

Nevertheless, the review comes none too soon for members who have complained about verbal and physical abuse for a long time. The local is currently in contract talks with BART, and Bryant says worker safety will be part of the negotiations.

W. Palm Beach local calls for transit chief’s resignation

Local President Dwight Mattingly, 1577-West Palm Beach, FL took a petition with 1,000 signatures to their county administrator asking for the resignation of Palm Tran Executive Director Chuck Cohen. The petition states a series of ongoing problems with Cohen including refusing to protect bus operators and to work with the local on safety and health issues.

Dozens of Palm Trans Connection customers and workers have filed complaints and held protests against poor service since Metro Mobility Management Group took over last year, citing late service, excessively long trips, and drivers who didn?t show. MMMG has until July 15 to load buses with GPS systems so they?ll know where drivers are and what time they arrive.

Transit workers, advocates call for more state funding in WI, PA

With ridership reaching new highs and cash-strapped transit systems cutting service and raising fares, transit workers are joining with advocates to urge state legislators to invest in public transportation.

In Milwaukee, ATU Local 998 has called for transit to be restored to the pre-2011 funding levels after it was cut 10 percent last year. Anti-union Governor Walker?s latest two-year budget proposal would freeze dollars for transit. ?You can create all the jobs you want but if people can?t get to them, how will this help our economy?? says 998 President Al Simonis.

ATU Local 85 ? Pittsburgh members joined 40 labor, business, and religious groups at a rally to urge Governor Corbett and state lawmakers to invest in ?stable, long-term state funding for transportation” with an emphasis on mass transit to help the city?s financially-troubled transit system.

TartasToledo’s paratransit service – TARTA’s ‘dirty little secret’

Discount paratransit service is proving just as bad for employees of public agencies as it is for those of private contractors. TARPS, which provides paratransit service for TARTA (Toledo?s urban transit system), has come under fire from Local 697-Toledo, OH, which represents the workers at both services.

TARPs ?is TARTA?s dirty little secret,? says Cynthia Betts, financial secretary/business agent of the local, who told the board that its paratransit drivers are paid less even though they work harder than their TARTA counterparts. ?Many employees have to rely on public assistance? because their wages are so low, she says.

Betts said, discipline at TARPS is ?capricious and severe,? seniority is ignored, bathroom breaks are frequently denied, and the union is barred from communicating with its members at the garage, as is allowed at TARTA.

It?s unlikely that the TARTA board will do anything about the workers? grievances. The local is appealing a county court dismissal of its lawsuit.

Baltimore member saves with Union Plus energy savings

Wayne Bowers, 1300-Baltimore, MD, and his wife, Sheila, were fed up with paying high heating bills every winter, so they decided to fix a vexing draft by replacing their front door and the side panels of their house.

But the cost was looking prohibitive until they found UnionPlus.org and discovered the Union Plus Energy Saving Rebate program. Not only did the Bowers receive a $500 rebate, they also enjoyed an energy-related tax cut and yearly savings of $360 on their utilities.

To learn more about Union Plus programs visit UnionPlus.org. Union members can receive Union Plus savings alerts on their mobile phones by texting ?UNION? to 22555.

Potty peril: Portland member knifed at portable toiletPotty peril

Transit agency neglect of the safety and dignity of their employees is a nationwide problem. Local President Bruce Hansen, 757-Portland, OR, wrote a letter asking TriMet to quickly resolve the problems surrounding a portable toilet the agency provides as a rest area for its employees.

The letter comes in the wake of an incident in which a TriMet driver was stabbed while exiting the toilet, Saturday night, in Portland. The local has voiced many concerns about the safety of members using the facility that has been moved in response to complaints. The Oregonian called on TriMet to fix this problem saying in an editorial ?more than anything, though, it’s shameful. It’s beneath human dignity.?

?We?re not asking them to move the toilets again,? Hansen says. ?We want the whole layover moved to another location. The current situation is unacceptable.?

ATU, Charleston rider coalition campaign for transit

ATU,?Americans for Transit, and the?Hungryneck Straphangers?began a week long effort to reach transit riding voters in the first congressional district special election between Mark Sanford, R, and Elizabeth Colbert Busch, D, with transit rider voter outreach at five express bus stops around Charleston, SC. Organizers provided information and spoke with over 2,500 transit riders.

The effort included a training session for transit voter empowerment at Longshoreman?s Hall, and intense outreach will continue in Charleston.

Their efforts expand beyond the urban core to areas where transit is scarce or nonexistent. There will be a day-long transit building effort in Beaufort. And an Earth Day event to help celebrate, inform and empower transit voters in North Charleston.

 

 

Tighter transit security in Boston, ATU says remain vigilant

In the wake of Monday?s tragic Boston marathon bombings, security has been beefed up on Boston’s transit system to allay the fears of anxious riders.

According to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority every subway car, trolley, and bus is being checked before the start of service.?Read more.

ATU International President Larry Hanley condemned the bombing and reminded riders to remain aware. ?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,? said Hanley.?Read more.


Halifax members support family of girl raped, bullied into suicide

Several ATU drivers wore pink shirts in Halifax, NS, last week, in support of the family of Rehtaeh Parsons who committed suicide earlier this month. ?Parsons, a relative of a fellow Local?508?member, was allegedly gang-raped by four local teens who thought it would be fun to post a picture of themselves raping the 15-year-old on the internet which, then, went viral.

Consequently, the girl was subjected to constant sexual harassment and bullying over the next two years that included texts soliciting sex and harassment that continued even after she moved to a new town. Parsons was even hospitalized for anger and depression, but the bullying proved to be too much for the young woman who took her own life at the age of 17. ?The Halifax members wore their pink shirts on the International Day of Pink ? an effort to combat all forms of bullying.?Read more.

Time to invest in transit is now?

Investing in our nation?s infrastructure and public transportation system to meet the needs of our growing population is key to our economic recovery says Brian Lombardozzi, a member of the United Steelworkers (USW)?and a?senior policy analyst at the BlueGreen Alliance, of which ATU is a member.

Lombardozzi pointed out that despite record ridership, public transit is currently not serving the communities that rely on it every day. Currently 20% of American-American, 14% of Latinos and 13% of Asian households have no car while 50% of seniors don?t drive.

?Instead of pushing through an austerity-based ideological agenda that pushes privatization of public resources to effectively shrink government that will further devastate our nation?s infrastructure, jeopardize needed services and threaten jobs in mass transit, our nation?s policymakers should look at how the poor management ruining service delivery; the aging buses plaguing a city; or the inadequate investment that is causing mass disrepair of city infrastructure can be solved through investment and sensible reform,? wrote Lombardozzi.?Read more.

 

More Trouble with Ottawa double-deckers??

They lucked out again.?Another OC Transpo double-decker bus slid off the road and crashed into a hydro pole, cutting the power to thousands of homes. The driver ? who was alone on the motor coach ? was thankfully unhurt.?This is the second time this winter that one of these new buses has gone off this same part of the road in bad weather.

?It?s like a sailboat,? explains Local?279?– Ottawa President Craig Watson. ?You?re going down the road and that is an extremely windy location in the city?. We were hoping that it was a one-off, that it was just a fluke, but unfortunately it doesn?t seem that it is.?

OC Transit?s general manager responded to inquiries about the accident saying that the city is relieved the driver wasn?t injured, and that the agency would be investigating the incident.?Read more.

Pulitzer winner on poor state of public transit & ATU?s fight to save it

 

?A?truthdig.com?column ??Sweatshops on Wheels?? by Pulitzer Prize winning columnist?Chris Hedges?is a must read on?how public transportation has deteriorated since 2008 and what the ATU is doing to fix it.

Hedges spoke with ATU International President Larry Hanley about the critical issues impacting mass transit and reveals that it?s all ?part of the relentless seizing and harvesting of public resources and programs by corporations. Public-sector unions are being broken. Wages and benefits are being slashed. Workers are forced to put in longer hours in unsafe workplaces.?

Where is all that taxpayer money going? ?Of the top three multinationals that control U.S. transport,? Hedges reports, ?only one ? MV Transportation ? is based here. ?FirstGroup, a multibillion-dollar corporation headquartered in the U.K. owns First Student, which operates 54,000 school buses in 38 states and nine Canadian provinces. FirstGroup also has a controlling stake in Greyhound.?

?Veolia Transportation, a conglomerate headquartered in France, has 150 contracts to run mass transit systems in the U.S.” It was Veolia, after Hurricane Katrina, he writes, ?that took over the New Orleans bus system, and stripped bus workers of their pensions as it has done elsewhere.?

Hedges notes that Veolia ?is partly owned by a pension fund that covers one-third of French citizens.?U.S. workers, therefore, are losing their benefit plans to a company created to provide benefit plans for the French!

But they want even more: ??[They successfully] lobbied the Senate last year to include a call for privatization in the highway bill which mandates the federal government to undertake feasibility studies to privatize the nation?s mass transit on behalf of French, British and American transportation corporations.?

?I am watching as 80 percent of transit systems have had to raise fares or cut service since the recession,? says Hanley. ?These are the worst conditions for mass transit since the Depression.?

Hedges also documents the problems of deregulation in the intercity bus industry, highlighting the problem of driver fatigue because of a loophole in federal law that exempts intercity bus drivers from the overtime provisions of the?Fair Labor Standards Act, forcing many to work second jobs during??rest periods??to survive financially.

The result: ?Three times as many passengers and workers over the last five years were killed in bus accidents than plane crashes.?

The number of over-the-road bus companies has risen from 3,000 to 152,000 since President Reagan deregulated the industry.??These fly-by-night bus companies, union officials say, are little more than ?sweatshops on wheels.??

Hanley says about this problem, ?People now have to drive a bus 100 hours a week to make a living. Whenever you hear about one of these buses rolling off the highway, I can tell you with 95% certainty that the driver fell asleep.?

Hedges highlights ATU successful efforts to build rider groups in towns and cities to save public transportation.

Hanley ?maintains that communities have to save their public transportation systems because no politician, Republican or Democrat, is prepared to step in and do it for them. But with 10 million riders per day on public buses, there is the potential for organizing.? ?Read the full column here?and be sure to send it to your friends on?Facebook?and?Twitter.

Transit Union President Condemns Boston Bombings

Media Contact: David Roscow, 202-537-1645 x 254

?Washington, DC – Lawrence J. Hanley, international president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, released the following statement on yesterday?s bombings at the Boston Marathon:

?Yesterday?s bombing at the Boston Marathon was a vicious, senseless attack on innocent people that is rightly condemned by all Americans.?The Amalgamated Transit Union joins President Obama in his determination to see the full weight of American justice brought to bear upon the perpetrators of this cowardly act.

?Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and their families, as well as our praise for the heroic first responders who saved many lives and treated the injured with their quick actions.

?This tragedy serves as a sad reminder that the war on terror is not over.?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.?

About the ATU

The Amalgamated Transit Union is the largest labor organization representing transit workers in the United States and Canada. Founded in 1892, the ATU today is comprised of over 190,000 members in 264 local unions spread across 44 states and nine provinces, including 3,000 workers at Greyhound Lines, Inc. Composed of bus drivers, light rail operators, maintenance and clerical personnel and other transit and municipal employees, the ATU works to promote transit issues and fights for the interests of its hard-working members.

Another cautionary tale of failed privatization

In a growing string of failed attempts of outsourcing public transit systems, Savannah, GA?s Chatham Area Transit board voted to end its relationship with Veolia Transportation, calling the partnership ?too expensive.?

The French conglomerate, which recently rebranded itself as “Transdev,” was given 45 days to transfer management of the system back to the authority. Under the terms of the delegated management contract, Veolia was paid 5% of CAT?s annual operating budget.?Read more.

New rider coalition to push for more transit in South Carolina

If a newly formed bus riders group has its way,?Columbia, SC riders will be more involved in decisions made about public transportation throughout the city.

With a growing membership the Midlands Transit Riders Association officially launched the organization at the Sumter Street Transit Center in Columbia, SC this week. Central among the group?s top priorities is to have bus services such as later hours and Sunday services restored. The system cut service in May 2012 citing budget woes.

The grassroots group plans to take an active role in communicating with city and county leaders on what riders want ? a key element that has been missing on the 11-member board that governs the bus system.?Read more.

Metrolinx considers higher taxes & tolls to expand Toronto mass transit

To deal with the growing traffic congestion problems in Toronto, Metrolinx is considering a gas tax, higher tolls on designated highways and a parking levy as options to pay for the next generation of public transit.

The ambitious plan proposes a 1,200-kilometre expansion to create a more extensive public transit network, putting more than 80 percent of Greater Toronto residents within two kilometres of a transit line. But it comes with a $50-billion price tag, only one-third of which is currently funded.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and her government have pledged support for using taxes and tolls to pay for dedicated funds for public transit in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.?Read more.

 

More transit cuts in Seattle?

King County Metro Transit says it may need to cut 65 bus routes and reduce trips on 86 more, unless the state Legislature allows the county to collect new taxes. Entire neighborhoods could be left without any transit coverage.

This comes as the system?s ridership has seen an upswing, serving 400,000 riders a day, ranked seventh by passenger miles and 10th in boardings among U.S. bus-transit agencies. Some cuts would still be made even if Metro goes through with an expected 25-cent fare increase, which were also raised in 2011 by a $1.

The transit agency is pushing the County Council to enact ? or send to the ballot ? a bill that would allow the council to impose a motor-vehicle excise tax (MVET) of $150 per $10,000 of vehicle value, to be split 60 percent for transit and 40 percent among county and city roads.?Read more.

No shock: national TV news not covering unions?

Talk about media bias?except maybe MSNBC.

A new study confirmed what most us know already – national TV news rarely covers labor unions or union voices. The researchers found that over a three-year period, ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN aired only 141 stories in which unions and the labor movement were either the primary or secondary topic. During that time period there were 16,000 news stories on these four networks, so that comes out to less than 0.3 percent of all news stories.

Conducted by Texas State University School of Journalism, the study also found a pattern of portrayal of unions as negative, with people critical of unions more likely to be heard than union workers.?Read more.

New ATU jacket winner!?

Congratulations to?Alexander Crichton of Local?1572?- Mississauga, ON the latest winner of an ATU Jacket.?

Make sure you stay connected?and receive the latest ATU news and action alerts by signing up atatu.org. Simply type your e-mail, local union number, and zip or postal code in the boxes on the opening page and click ?Go.?

ABOVE AND BEYOND

NATHANIEL ARNOLD

Nathaniel Arnold, 192-Oakland, CA, has only been a bus driver four years, but he has quickly recognized the importance of getting involved in his union, the community and political action.

Affectionately known as ?Big Brother?, Nathaniel uses his 20 years of experience in law enforcement working with at-risk youth and gang members in Los Angeles to connect with passengers and serve as advocate for ATU, Labor, and his community.

Passion, commitment

Local 192 President Yvonne Williams cites Nathaniel?s passion, commitment, and work building relationships with transportation advocacy groups as a critical reason local funding has increased and bus service has been protected in the County.

Williams says Nathaniel has dedicated hundreds of volunteer hours, personal time, and effort to ATU and the community. Nathaniel says he volunteers because he recognizes that establishing relationships with community-based organizations, politicians, clergy, and other allies is a crucial element not only in securing a fair and equitable contract, but also in fighting for better transit in Oakland.

Nathaniel points to the impact and the power the public ? bus passengers ? have on politicians and other decision-makers. It is critical, he says, that transit workers show they care about our passengers and that they share common interests and concerns.

?We can embrace our diversity?

Nathaniel explains, ?We can embrace our diversity, find strength in it and prosper together, or we can focus on our differences and try to restrict access and limit prosperity for us all with the 1% getting richer and the rest of us fighting for what?s left.?

Why does Nathaniel dedicate so much time and energy to the ATU and his community? He summed it up simply saying, ?You are my union brothers and sisters, my family; I love you dearly.?


ABOVE & BEYOND HONOR ROLL

Chinese bus driver survives after being hit by lamp post!

A bus driver in China narrowly evaded death after a lamp post smashed through the windscreen of his vehicle.

CCTV footage of the accident, which happened in the Zhejiang Province on Monday, shows Mao Zhihao ducking for cover as the pole sends glass and debris flying through the air.

Despite suffering a ruptured spleen he managed to call for help and safely removed his 26 passengers from the bus.

Claire Brennan reports.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-21960295

ATU, coalition defeat MARTA privatization bill

 

ATU Local?732?- Atlanta, and a coalition of Atlanta transit advocates won a great victory in the battle against privatization of MARTA last week.

The bill that would have mandated outsourcing of much of the city?s transit system died in the Georgia legislature.

Dr. Quincy Harris, Chairman for the NAACP State Conference Political Action Committee and spokesperson for Georgians for Better Transit said about the victory, ?This is not to say that the struggle for better transit is over. We will remain active in every area of our state to secure dedicated state funding for mass transit, in order to ensure and expand the ability of all Georgians to get to work, school, church, doctor’s office, and other daily obligations, as well as to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion.”

The coalition vowed to continue the fight and also push to remove the 50/50 restriction to allow MARTA the flexibility to spend more of its sales tax revenue on operating expenses to help the agency meet its budget shortfall.?Read more.

Another ATU hero saves a life

Atu heroToledo operator Geraldine Mitchell is the latest ATU hero to save a life while on duty.?The 16-year member of Local?697?- Toledo stopped her bus recently, when she saw what she thought was a mannequin hanging on a porch.?It didn?t take long for her to realize, ?She is real!??Mitchell, three passengers and an off-duty police officer in the neighborhood rushed to the house and lifted up the woman so that the Mitchell could untie the extension cord the distraught woman used as a noose.?Mitchell performed CPR on the woman until she started breathing again. Sgt. Joseph Heffernan, spokesperson for the Toledo Police Department, said, ?without her action she would have died.” ATU salutes Sister Mitchell for her quick action to save this woman’s life.?Read more.

 

Veolia sets sights on RIPTA, ATU vows to fight

Veolia Transportation, the North American arm of the notorious French multinational transit corporation Veolia Transdev, has hired five lobbyists to convince the state to privatize the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) in Providence,?and make Veolia the operator.?In a related development, Veolia Transdev announced, March 27, that the company has rebranded itself, simply, as “Transdev.” ATU Local?618?- Providence, RI, pledges to fight the attempt to privatize RIPTA.?Read more.

MD, VA overhaul transportation funding

The Maryland General Assembly joined a growing national trend, when it passed the state?s first gas tax increase in 20 years.? The measure levies a new 1% per gal. sales tax on gasoline which will be adjusted for inflation over time. Dedicated to mass transit and highways, the tax will be phased in over three years.
The action was partly a response to the transportation funding overhaul just approved in nearby Virginia which replaces the state gas tax with a new 3.5% wholesale tax on motor fuels that will keep pace with economic growth and inflation. Supporters say motorists could pay as little as $15 more a month.

The Virginia legislation increases the sales tax on nonfood merchandise from 5% to 5.3%, as well, and dedicates more revenue to transportation. It also creates a regional funding mechanism that boosts the sales tax to 6% in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads and requires those funds to be spent only on transportation there.?Read more.

NY Times’ Krugman on why subways pay?

NY Times?columnist Paul Krugman discusses a?new working paper showing public transit use in Los Angeles significantly reduces the amount of traffic congestion experienced by other drivers.?Authored byMichael Anderson of the University of California Berkeley,?the paper analyzes the effects of a transit strike in 2003 and?found that highway delays increased 47% when transit services were suspended. Anderson suggests that congestion relief alone might justify investments in transit operations and infrastructure. Anderson estimates the monetary benefit derived from public transit and reduced traffic in LA to be between $1.2 billion and $4.1 billion per year. Read Krugman’s thoughts on this interesting new paper?here.

Gov’t shutters two unsafe bus operators, but still fails to address driver fatigue

“The U.S. Department of Transportation’s crackdown will take more unsafe bus companies off road, but this loophole in federal law continues to allow unscrupulous operators to get away with paying criminally low wages, forcing drivers to work as much as 100 hours a week to support their families,? ATU International President Larry Hanley said.??That is the real reason behind driver fatigue, which is the number one cause of fatal bus accidents on our highways.?

Deregulation of the bus industry in the 1980s gave rise to countless small, “fly-by-night” operators that have been involved in an increasing number of deadly crashes. Rimrock Stages Inc. and Heartland Charters & Tours., the two companies recently shutdown, are products of deregulation. Three times as many passengers and workers were killed in bus accidents in the last five years in the US than in plane crashes, largely due to working conditions imposed by deregulation.

 

ATU is calling for passage of the Driver Fatigue Prevention Act, (S. 487) sponsored by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, which would ensure that drivers would be paid fairly for the work they perform above 40 hours per week.?Read more.

Hamilton, ON searches for way the disabled can continue to ride free

The Hamilton, ON City Counsel has voted to extend the city?s voluntary fare program for transit riders with disabilities until June 1, and is looking for a way to keep it going beyond that.

The city was required to change the policy to comply with new provincial legislation that all passengers pay the standard fee by Jan. 1, but the Counsel pushed that back to April 1 to examine alternatives. The city still needs more time.

?I think we can be leaders on this particular issue,” said Coun. Sam Merulla, who introduced a motion to extend the program. “In many ways, we need more time to find a plan B.”?Read more.

 

Get the latest ATU news and a chance to win at ATU jacket!

Stay connected and you could win an ATU jacket. More winners will be announced soon.?

For a chance to win an ATU jacket and receive the latest ATU news and action alerts sign up at?atu.org. To be eligible for the drawings, simply type your e-mail, local union number, and zip or postal code in the boxes on the opening page and click ?Go.?? Don?t worry, if you?ve already submitted your email you?re still eligible to win in this contest.

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