Hundreds take part in largest ATU Activist Training ever & Labor Notes Conference

HundredsHundreds of ATU members travelled to Chicago to take part in ATU Activist and Officer Training in coordination with the 2014 Labor Notes Conference. It was the largest training ever conducted by the ATU.

Attendees heard from International President Larry Hanley about ATU?s vision for 2014 to train members to mobilize riders to fight for more and better transit. They attended workshops on coalition building, passenger organizing, grievances and arbitrations, the new health care law, and building and sustaining political power, among others. The workshops were designed to equip activists with the tools they need to fight during the coming year.

Members put the skills they learned to use at the conference by bombarding their Senators with cell phone calls urging the legislators to support increased funding for transit. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn addressed the conference praising ATU members for their hard work and dedication in getting the people of Illinois safely to their destination each and every day.

Energized from the ATU Activist training, members joined unionists from around the world at the Labor Notes conference.?They chose from more than 100 meetings and workshops covering topics such as organizing, fighting austerity, beating apathy, bargaining over technology, understanding the economy, creative tactics, and winning contract campaigns.?Read more.

Supreme Court puts democracy out of reach for ordinary Americans

The Supreme Court recently dealt another blow to the democratic rights of ordinary Americans. The Court?s campaign finance decision does away with an overall limit on how much an individual can give candidates and political parties

The decision tilts the political playing field further in favor of the rich by opening a new spigot for money to flow into ?campaigns already buffeted by huge spending from independent groups.

?One can only conclude that the Supreme Court believes that democracy exists only for wealthy people like the Koch brothers and their billionaire cronies,? said ATU International President Larry Hanley about the decision. ?All Americans ? transit workers, teachers, firefighters, fast food employees ? deserve an equal voice in politics regardless of how deep their pockets are. Our fore fathers founded this nation on the principle that all men are created equal. This court ruling is a step back for our democracy.?

Canada’s wealth inequality “outrageous?

?Income inequality is a growing global problem and a new Canadian wealth survey showsinequality there?s an even greater problem -?wealth?inequality.

Almost 70% of all Canadian wealth belongs to Canada?s wealthiest 20%.?Move higher up the income spectrum and the wealth gap is even greater.

There has been an increase in wealth in Canada, but that money has flowed into the hands of a concentrated few. For every new dollar of real wealth generated in Canada since 1999, 66 cents of that dollar has gone to the wealthiest 20% of families.

It has reached such extremes that the 86 wealthiest Canadian individuals and families now have the same amount of wealth as the poorest 11.4 million Canadians combined, according Canadian Business magazine.?Read more.

Will Tories back bill to protect bus drivers?

With assaults on drivers on the rise, a Liberal MP has introduced a private member?s bill (C-533) that would mandate harsher sentences in the nation?s Criminal Code for those convicted of assaulting transit workers.

ATU has offered strong support for the bill and?The Globe and Mail?columnist Gary Mason is challenging the Tories (Progressive Conservatives) in Parliament to support the bill as well. ?Bus driver is one of the most stressful jobs you?ll find. You?re constantly dealing with members of the public, a percentage of who is trouble.

?Meantime, bus drivers mostly remain defenseless and vulnerable to attack, despite a raft of measures introduced in recent years to make them less so,? he wrote. ?This would seem to be an issue, a cause, that would be a natural for the governing, tough-on-crime Conservatives.??Read more.

PittsburgPittsburgh transit cuts taking toll on riders

Transit cuts are taking a toll on Pittsburgh area riders who find that the bus no longer serves their vital transportation needs. Suburban bus patrons have been abandoned by the Port Authority as state and local legislators balance their budgets on the backs of those who can least afford it and rely on the bus to get to and from work and other daily tasks.

Gloria Johnson, 80, is one of those riders. She now has to walk a mile to get to a stop that?s still in use. Meanwhile Wayne Gray must spend five or six hours a day traveling to work because of service cuts.??Hard-working people, we can’t

City rejects Saskatoon transit workers’ contract offer, possible strike vote

After Saskatoon city officials rejected ATU Local?615?s latest contract offer, transit workers are weighing their options.

?The potential for a strike vote could be there, if the membership determines they’re willing, and they’d like to guide us in that direction, then by all means, the potential could exist for that,” said ATU Local 615 President Jim Yakubowski.

He pointed out the collective bargaining process is still working and another date is set for talks later this month. ?It’s not that’s we’ve arrived at an impasse, or received a final offer from the city,? he said.

The last contract with the city expired Dec. 31, 2012 and the union made its latest offer to the city in February.?Read more.

Jersey City Mayor: Investing in public transit helps combat climate change?

It?s time to stop debating whether or not climate change is real and start talking about solutions to deal with it, says Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.

Recent reports reveal the effects of climate change are becoming more severe. The negative effects are everywhere in the world:? melting polar ice caps, extended droughts and massive floods, and devastating storms like Hurricane Sandy. Unless we reduce our dependence on oil, we will face climbing temperatures, rising seas, species loss and dwindling agricultural yields for decades, if not centuries.

While Congress has failed to deal with this growing problem,?city mayors have become the leaders in recognizing and acting on the impact of climate change. Mayor Fulop points out one of the best ways to combat climate change and pollution is to develop and invest in a more robust public transportation network.?Read more.