Archive for August, 2014

NYC proposes plan to restore protections for school bus operators

?NYC MayorEdiTo ensure the most experienced school bus drivers and matrons are on the job, Mayor Bill de Blasio has proposed a plan to encourage New York City school bus providers to employ veteran workers.?Under his plan, $42 million in grants would compensate transportation contractors for some of the costs that they would incur by hiring qualified school bus workers. School bus drivers and matrons went on strike in February 2013 when former Mayor Michael Bloomberg removed decades-old employee protection provisions (EPPs) from the city?s school transportation contracts. The mayor falsely claimed that his hands were tied by a recent court ruling outlawing the EPPs, and that his decision would save the city some $210 million.?Both assertions were disputed by Local?1181-New York, NY, ATU?s NYC school bus local, which argued that the mayor?s action compromised student safety. The strike ended a month later when then-front-running candidate de Blasio and other mayoral contenders promised that they would revisit the issue, if elected.?However, when Bloomberg made the changes many school bus workers were forced to leave the industry or accept deep wage cuts last year. Local 1181 President Michael Cordiello supported de Blasio?s plan, saying, ?For over a year and a half, A.T.U. and Local 1181 leadership have fought for the reversal of these wrongheaded policies to restore fairness to our school busing system and stop targeting the men and women tasked with transporting our city?s schoolchildren under the false guise of savings.? De Blasio is seeking city council approval for his grant proposal.?Read more.


Ferguson, MO: The coming race war won’t be about race ? ? ? FergusonThe killing of a teenager in Ferguson, MO that has sparked violent protests and captured the world?s attention is about more than racism writes basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in?Time?magazine. ?It’s about class warfare and how America’s poor are held back?and we have to address the situation.? He points out that the narrative put forward by pundits and politicians across the Internet and social media is distracting from the larger issue that the targets of are based less on skin color and more on being poor. He writes, ?the wealthiest One Percent keep the poor fractured by distracting them with emotional issues like immigration, abortion and gun control so they never stop to wonder how they got so screwed over for so long.? Abdul-Jabbar calls for peaceful protests, just as millions of Americans participated in after the Ohio National Guard opened fire on Kent State University students protesting the Vietnam war in 1970, killing four students and injuring nine. ?What will it take to mobilize 4 million students in peaceful protest? Because that?s what it will take to evoke actual change. The middle class has to join the poor and whites have to join African-Americans in mass demonstrations, in ousting corrupt politicians, in boycotting exploitative businesses, in passing legislation that promotes economic equality and opportunity, and in punishing those who gamble with our financial future.??Read full column.


Hero bus driverHero bus driver in Cincinnati makes fire rescue ? ? ?July 31 seemed like any other day for Cincinnati bus operator Clay Chinn until he noticed smoke coming from an apartment building. Without a second thought, Chinn stopped his bus and, with another good Samaritan, went door to door in the building to see if anyone needed help to escape the fire. The Local?627-Cincinnati, OH member found a woman on the second floor who needed help. After leading her down the stairs, Chinn and the other man went back into the building to look for others until the fire department arrived. A Metro operator since 2004, Chinn modestly described his actions that day as automatic. ?We have this ability ? we see someone in danger and we act. I didn?t think. I just did it. I can?t usually move that fast, but I didn?t feel a thing,? he said. He was later treated for smoke inhalation. This wasn?t the first time he has helped others while out on his route. Several years ago, he helped get a woman and her children out of a burning car. Today Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley presented Chinn a Mayoral letter of appreciation at the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) Board meeting (see photo on the left).?Read more.


Toledo Blade: Area can’t continue to go back on public transit ? ? ? The?Toledo Blade?understands the economic, social, and environmental benefits of a convenient, reliable, and efficient regional transit system. That is why the paper is calling on Toledo political and business leaders to recommend a specific way to increase funding for public transit, such as a uniform and sustainable regional sales tax. Voters in Detroit and Ann Arbor recently passed similar measures by a large margin. ?Toledo competes with these regions for talent, business development, and federal aid. Even these modest steps forward show our northern neighbors are putting this region in the rear-view mirror,? aBlade?editorial said. ?Transit and transit-oriented development mean a stronger regional economy. This region cannot continue to go backward while others move forward.??Read more. Toledo transit workers, members of Local?697, have been waging a campaign to push for more funding and are planning a rally later this month.


Gov. Malloy joins ATU Connecticut to rally for transit Gov Malloy

?Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy joined with transit workers, riders and advocates from across the state for a rally to show support for more, better and safer public transit. Held at ATU Local?1336?s hall in Bridgeport, members from Local?281-New Haven, Local?425-Hartford and Local?1209-New London attended the rally. ?ATU praised the Governor saying we need more elected officials like him who not only stands with us in supporting increased funding for public transit, but also puts his money where his mouth is.?Watch news coverage. The rally is part of an unprecedented effort of tens of thousands of transit workers and advocates mobilizing across North America to engage millions of riders to join in support of more, better, and safer public transit.


Koch brothersKoch brothers attack public transit & more again ? ? ? Last time it was in Boston, now the Koch brothers are attacking public transit in Nashville. In fact, any improvement in a community that might involve increasing taxes is being campaigned against by the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, according to a new report. Conducted by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the report compiles example after example of how the organization is mobilizing supporters to campaign against local tax increases and mass transit systems and for like-minded candidates running for school and county boards.

We?re not kidding.
Columbus, OH, citizens, for example, wanted to pass a new tax to provide a permanent source of funding for their zoo and aquarium.?But, ?NO!,? said the brothers, and their AFP hit men launched a campaign that defeated the proposal. They have launched similar campaigns against mass transit projects in cities across the country.?Read more.

Tampa transit workers to hold agency’s ‘feet to the fire’ ? ? ? Tampa transit members will hold Hillsborough Area Regional Transit?s (HART?s) ?feet to the fire? in an upcoming hearing to determine how much they will receive as a result of an unfair labor practice decision recently issued by Florida?s Second District Court of Appeals. The court ordered the Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC) to determine the amount the members of Local?1593-Tampa, FL, are owed in back pay and health premiums they?ve been denied since HART illegally imposed a contract on its workers in January 2012. PERC will also determine how much HART will have to reimburse the local for the legal expenses it incurred taking the transit system to court. ?We applaud this ruling, which is long overdue,? says Local 1593 President James Saunders. ?Tampa transit workers deserve their fair share of owed back wages and benefits and we will be holding management?s feet to the fire at the upcoming hearing.?

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Hanley talks ATU Acquistion of the Meany Centre on the Rick Smith Show

?Hanley ATU?The ATU plans to return the Meany Center to its original purpose to train aspiring labor leaders who want to organize in their communities to fight back against bullies in their communities. It?s for people in the labor movement, but also people fighting for social justice,? ATU International President Larry Hanley told listeners on the Rick Smith Show.

Hanley discussed ATU?s ambitious and successful efforts to train ATU members to?organize public transit riders to push for more transit in cities across North America including Alabama, which has seen service cut in half in many communities.

Hanley also talked about how the labor movement?s historical archives had been moved from the Meany Center to the University of Maryland and how ATU plans to make the campus a place for people to once again learn about organized labor. ?We will be making great efforts to rebuild a history room and places on the campus where people can get a much deeper understanding of who, and by what sacrifice, built the labor movement.??Listen here.

Another attack on a Cleveland bus driver

Less than two weeks after a Cleveland bus driver was held at gunpoint while driving,00CRta another female Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) driver was viciously assaulted.?This is the latest incident in a growing number of attacks on drivers in Cleveland and across the U.S. and Canada.

A passenger had become unruly on the bus, so the driver pulled over and got off the bus to call the police. The passenger followed the driver off the bus and assaulted her on the sidewalk. The?52-year-old attacker was eventually arrested by transit police and was found to have a long criminal record. The driver is recovering from minor injuries.

?We want our members to come to work, be able to be safe and go home to their families safe,? said William Nix from ATU Local?268.? ?They should not have to come in fear and live in fear when they come to work and it?s not acceptable.?

A spokesperson for the RTA said they have been working to find new ways to protect drivers and passengers.?They better make some serious changes to stop these violent incidents.?Read more.

Canadian public service under attack

Despite the recent deal to end the Guelph transit workers lock out, that dispute is another example of how public services are under attack. During a recent?Save Our Services public forum transit workers and postal workers told their tales about how cuts to services impact the public. ATU Local?1189?and Canadian Union of Postal Workers Local 546 called on the public to stand up to politicians and demand they get their services back.

While postal workers are not facing a strike or a lock out as transit workers did, they are facing job losses as the federal government plans to stop door-to-door mail delivery in favor of community mailboxes. Not only will this be a low blow to postal workers, but also to people who rely on mail delivery, like seniors, families and especially people in rural areas, who will have to travel many miles to pick up their mail or post a letter. ?People matter. Good jobs matter. Pensions matter,” said the leaders of Postal Workers Local 546. In addition to cutting wages and jobs, Canada Post is also tinkering with the employee pension plan, just as the government is tinkering with the Canada Pension Plan.

The Save Our Services forum was set up to organize activists in the community to set goals and take action to fight the attack on public services before the federal election occurs next year.?Read more.

Mileage tax increaseMillage tax increase passes to save SMART bus service in Detroit

The people of Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties in Michigan spoke at the ballot box that a safe and reliable?local public transportation system is essential to a thriving community.?Voters in these communities overwhelmingly approved a $28 million tax increase to support?the?Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation?(SMART) system.

This election result is another example of how Americans are willing to raise their taxes to ensure safe, reliable and accessible public transit. In the last election voters approved 79 percent of transit ballot measures?and 71 percent have passed since 2000.

Prior to the vote,?ATU and community groups held a telephone town hall with voters in the community to talk about the importance of SMART to the community and generate support for the millage.?The money will be used to eliminate an estimated $5 million annual operating deficit, replace 135 fixed-route buses and make facility and terminal upgrades. Over the next four years the millage will generate$27 million a year.?

SMART provides bus service in 27 Wayne County communities, and 24 communities each in Macomb and Oakland counties. Without the millage increase, SMART said it would not have been able to provide service beyond 2015. ?Read more.

Former Massachusetts transit manager indicted

When news broke that former State Rep. John George, owner of the Union Bus Company the former operating firm for Southeastern Regional Transit Authority (SRTA), was arrested and charged with embezzling funds and inflating his salary to fraudulently boost his pension, some were shocked to hear the allegations. Others were not so surprised.

“The officers & members of ATU Local?1037-New Bedford had hoped to put those hard?years of dealings with their old bus company owner, John George Jr.?behind them, but it is all being brought?out into the light of day once again,? said Gary Piers, President of Local?1037. ?It’s easy to understand why the?government would like to get the money back as those funds should have?gone to add service for the public to begin with.?

The indictment alleges that during the time George?s Union Street Bus Company?was?under contract with SRTA he not only lied about his salary, but?directed SRTA employees to repair farm equipment for another company he owned.?Despite the bad publicity for the transit authority, ATU locals across Massachusetts are focused on a bright future and fighting for more and better public transit in their area.

“Local?174-Fall River is not dwelling on the unproductive business practices of the?past. Instead we are focused on the mission before us to continue to work?with our passengers, the community and the new management team at SRTA to?provide affordable, safe, reliable and more public transportation not onlylocally but throughout Massachusetts,” said Eric Carvalho, President of Local?174.

The US Attorney?s Office said George could face a maximum of ten years in prison, and a fine of $250,000 on the embezzlement charge. George has denied all of the charges.?Read more.


Five ways privatization is fleecing American taxpayers
?We’ve all seen the negative impact of privatization of transit systems in Nassau County, NY, Savannah, GA and others proving that outsourcing goes horribly wrong more often than we think.?Has privatization saved taxpayers money and improved services to citizens? Simple answer: of course not.

Outsourcing or privatization, has been going on for decades, and now governments are reassessing whether turning public property and services over to private companies has really been a good idea. An in-depth article examines five horror stories where government outsourcing went horribly wrong. In every scenario the ending was the same. The private companies that convinced governments to hand over public functions have gotten rich off of the deal while the quality of services went down and costs skyrocketed.

Time after time government outsourcing has done more harm than good and that won?t be changing anytime soon. Services to citizens have been cut way back and communities have been made poorer and this won’t stop unless more people know that government outsourcing has been used, but it didn?t work.?Read more.

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Campaign against Transit worker assaults

A Cleveland, OH bus operator held at gunpoint on her bus, a Washington DC bus driver slashed in the face by a knife-wielding passenger, and a Halifax, ON bus driver punched after trying to break up a fight. These are just a few of the growing number of brutal attacks on transit workers across North America that have made headlines recently.In response ATU has launched a campaign to educate Congress and Parliament about this disturbing trend. ATU also worked with the U.S. Department of Transportation to recently convene a summit on how to stop these attacks.

A U.S. report titled ?Ripped from the Headlines: Bus Drivers Under Attack? was recently released to raise awareness of bus operator assaults and pressure Congress to deal with this issue. A Canadian version is being developed to highlight attacks in Canada and push for passage of Bill S-221 to amend the criminal code for harsher penalties for assaults on public transit operators.

U.S. local unions are being encouraged to schedule visits with their Members of Congress at home in their districts to ask them to address this disturbing trend of attacks over the five-week Congressional summer recess. Each local will receive 10 copies of the report, so contact your local to get involved. An electronic version of the U.S. report can be found?here. It includes video that you can show to your elected representatives. The Canadian version will be available on the ATU website soon.

Much more needs to be done to put an end to these violent attacks on our members. It is up to us to make things happen.

 

Congress kicks commuters down the road againUS congress

 

?Anxious to escape Washington for August recess, Congress has already buried its head in the sand at the beach and taken the coward?s way out by putting a Band-Aid on a hemorrhage, and failing to pass a robust six-year transportation bill that will fix the crisis of our nation?s transportation infrastructure and public transit systems,? said ATU International President Larry Hanley in reaction to the Senate passing the House bill to provide a funding extension for the transportation bill.

This marks the fifth time since 2008 that Congress has passed a short-term extension of the bill.?Hanley noted that while Congress cut capital funds for bus and bus facilities by 50 percent they are shifting money to ?vanity? street car projects. ??These streetcars, most of which are set in tourist areas, have taken money away from real public transit, resulting in bus routes being cut and leaving those who rely on it each and every day to get to work, school, the doctor, and other essential destinations stranded,? he said

Hanley called on Congress to pass a long-term bill that would get our transportation systems back on track and criticized the infighting and ?do nothing? Congress. ?The current dysfunctional atmosphere on Capitol Hill has paralyzed the process and fails the real people who count on safe and reliable transit systems.??Read more.

 

City of guelphCity of Guelph and transit workers reach tentative agreement

There?s hope on the horizon for stranded Guelph, ON commuters as transit workers and the City reached their second tentative agreement after two days of intensive negotiations.?Bus service will remain suspended until both parties ratify the deal.

Members of ATU Local?1189?will vote on deal today.?If the contract is ratified, Guelph City Council will hold a special meeting to vote on the agreement.

The city and Local 1189 started bargaining on October 30, 2013 for a new contact, which expired at the end of June 2013. After workers voted down the first agreement the city locked transit workers out of work.

Details and terms of this latest contract will not be released until both sides have had the opportunity to ratify it.?Read more.

 

Heroic DC bus driver stops suicide

 

Sometimes news about a heroic act is slow to get out because of the humility or reluctance of the hero to come forward.?That is the case with Mamie Doyle,689-Washington, DC, (pictured on the right) who risked her own life to stop a suicide.

It happened on a cold day in February on Interstate 495 (the Washington ?Beltway?) in Virginia.?Doyle was driving her bus back to the garage after her first run of the day, when she noticed a woman walking dangerously on the highway toward an overpass railing.?She immediately called ?911?.

When she saw the woman start to lean over the side of the bridge, she stopped her bus and risked her own life running across eight lanes of traffic toward the woman. She caught the woman by her scarf and jacket just, as she was about to leap, and held on even as the woman screamed and cried and fought to escape.

It was later discovered that the woman had taken PCP, which made her extremely dangerous. Doyle has received a letter of commendation and a ?gold valor? award from the police.?And she has ATU?s great admiration for her heroic actions above and beyond the call of duty.

 

ALEC infiltrates city and county gov’t with ACCE

The Koch brothers backed anti-union ALEC is at it again. The group has stooped to a new low in trying to undermine working families and promote corporate interests with the formation of the American City County Exchange (ACCE).

Anything but American, ACCE has set its targets on influencing elected officials at the city and county levels. ?The group will bring ALEC’s modus operandi of courting legislators with corporate lobbyists to draft model bills advancing corporate interests – to the local level.

So not only do we have to worry at the state level with ALEC, but now we have to be on?the look out for ACCE in our cities and counties. Just remember they will stop at nothing to destroy working families.Read more

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A new beginning for progressive labor education and activism

New beginningToday marks a rebirth and reinvigorated commitment to education and progressive training for organized labor as ATU expands its long-standing union education and activism program to the newly acquired campus of the former National Labor College.

?Today the ATU has stepped up and assumed a greater leadership role in the molding of minds, values and progressive reform for both Canada and the United States, where we represent more than 190,000 workers. The state of the art conference and training center will again be a hub of activity for ATU and the entire labor movement,? says ATU International President Larry Hanley. ?It represents a new beginning in terms of our capacity to train not only our leaders and members, but also those who work every day to improve the life of our society.?

Over the past four years, ATU has made an unprecedented commitment to training and education to empower its members with the skills, strategies and knowledge needed to strengthen the Union and build community alliances.? ATU, which will train more than 10,000 members this year, will make the facilities of the new ?ATU Training and Education Center? available to other unions and progressive groups seeking to educate and train their members, as well.??Read more.

Locked out Guelph transit workers head back to the table

There?s a glimmer of hope for stranded Guelph, ON commuters as city officials have agreed to meet with leaders of ATU Local?1189?in hopes of reaching a deal to end the contract dispute.

More than 200 Guelph bus drivers and other workers have been locked out since July 21. 1189 members have been without a contract since July 2013 and overwhelmingly rejected the city?s last contract proposal.

Local President Andrew Cleary said members want to get back to work and he is cautiously optimistic about the meeting. ?We want to be working and serving our community. Any step that can help us move towards that goal is one we?re willing to consider.”?Read more.

Be sure to check out the ATU website and social for the latest developments around this dispute.

Mass transitMaking mass transit free gaining backers

Back in March the city of Paris gave further proof that the best things in life are free when the transit system introduced alternate driving days and eliminated all fares on local trams, buses, trains and subways. Traffic declined by nearly 20 percent and air pollution fell by 6 percent demonstrating that implementing free service can be a worthwhile investment.

It?s time for American cities to take notice.

Can a fare-free policy transform regional transportation??For bigger cities across the US, eliminating fares is a means to increase ridership, reduce traffic and pollution, and provide more parking and mobility. Also, most cities have a large number of transit-dependent residents who don?t own cars and don?t live close enough to their workplace to walk.

Currently, nearly all-public transport systems are heavily subsidized, and make only a fraction back from rider fares. The dozens of small American towns that have free transit service usually aren?t losing much revenue by doing so.?In the few American cities where such programs have been tried on a short-term basis ridership has surged.?When Topeka made transit free for May of 1988, ridership rose 98 percent; when Austin made transit free for the fall of 1990, ridership increased by 75 percent. ?Maybe it?s time for city governments to start considering giving its residents a free ride. ?Read more.

A streetcar named deception

Current urban transportation trends appear to be going ?back to the future.?

The latest phenomenon in public transportation is not a high-speed train or bus that will get you to your destination in under an hour but rather new streetcar lines. And it may be ?the worst transportation project in America? writes investigative reporter Matthew Yglesias in Vox.com.

In cities like Detroit and Washington, DC, tens of millions of dollars are being funneled toward the creation of new streetcar lines. ATU has been campaigning against these streetcar projects, which are being proposed as the savior for transit in many cities, calling them a waste of transit dollars. Furthermore they are mostly in tourist areas and take away bus service from the communities that rely on transit.

Along with being costly, streetcars are also inefficient; with no dedicated lane, a streetcar cannot compete with a bus. Moreover since streetcars can?t switch lanes, they run slower than buses. Yglesias argues there?s no wisdom in adding a vehicle like a streetcar to the curb lane of a congested street only to further slow down buses, especially during rush hour traffic.

The only method to make a new surface rail project feasible is the creation of a dedicated lane over significant portions of its route, but for this to happen road space needs to be taken from motor vehicles and other public transit.?Read more.

NYPD cracks down on jitneys

Thanks to pressure from an ATU campaign the New York Police Department (NYPD) has had it NYPDwith?unpermitted and dangerous jitney shuttle buses?illegally operating in the city. NYPD officers are handing out fines or shutting down these companies, many of which are based in New Jersey, for not having the necessary permits to operate in New York.

These Jitney companies have been slow or fail to file for city permits leaving the NYPD no choice but to crack down on the operators. While the jitney buses may be convenient and cheap for passengers, without regulation they can be extremely dangerous. Last year one crashed into a light post in NJ that fell on and killed a baby in a stroller.

ATU has worked with lawmakers in New Jersey to put forth measures to regulate jitney buses. These measures include increasing the amount of insurance required, forcing drivers to register with the municipalities in which they operate and requiring drivers to have valid commercial licenses.?Read more.

Seattle King County Metro bus cuts postponed, but not averted

Faced with outrage over Metro bus cuts, the King County Council in Seattle, WA unanimously voted on a plan to postpone service reductions until September. The Council resolved to ?explore options before implementation of future service cuts.?

The transportation-funding crisis was sparked by voters? defeat of Proposition 1 in April. ATU had launched a campaign with rider groups to pass Prop 1, which would have created a county transportation district to fund Metro and roads with a sales tax and a hike on vehicle registration costs.

However, the King County Council has delayed the cuts asking for more community input including workshops on proposed transit reductions with those communities impacted by possible cuts. County officials say they are focusing on the needs of customers by improving connections between Link light rail and RapidRide high-frequency buses and other transport to the entire bus network leading to faster, more reliable trips and greater mobility.?Read more.

NYC exploresNYC explores more “Bus Rapid Transit” to reduce commutes

In hopes of reducing commute times and encouraging more bus ridership the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) and the MTA are looking at implementing more Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) improvements on routes throughout the city. BRT is a proven cost-effective approach to transit service that cities around the world have used to make riding the bus more like riding the subway.

In Bogota, Colombia, BRT service uses roads with at least six lanes, bus-only spaces and a center median for stations. “People who used to take three hours now take 40 minutes in their transport. TransMilenio works exactly as a subway,? said the former mayor of Bogota.

Where in NYC might you see more BRT? Officials are considering Queens and the Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevard corridor for BRT. NYC currently has seven Select Bus Service (SBS) lines, which promise speedier rides.?Read more.

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