Attacks on Bus Drivers

Not a week goes by that we don’t hear at least one story about a bus operator being attacked by a passenger. This past week was no different as a Baltimore bus driver was beaten and bloodied by a rider while shocked passengers watched. Meanwhile CBC (TV) uncovered that in 2015, Ottawa bus drivers were assaulted, spat on or threatened 85 times — about once every four days. Local 279 is calling for constables to get out of their own vehicles and board buses in an effort to cool passengers’ tempers and cut down on the frequency of the assaults. Also an investigation by an Austin, TX, FOX (TV) affiliate found most bus drivers, members of Local 1091, don’t feel safe after a rash of attacks by passengers.

CEOs paid 335 times average worker; Outsourcing results in higher Inequality

Last year, executives at S&P 500 companies earned a whopping 335 times the pay of the average U.S. worker, according to a new analysis by the AFL-CIO. The typical CEO raked in $12.4 million in 2015, while the average rank-and-file worker took home just $36,875. The study also found that outsourcing jobs to countries with low wage workers, like Carrier and Nabisco have recently done, contributes to the growing income inequality in America. ATU members know all too well that outsourcing public transit has led to slashed wages, weaker benefits, and dismantled pension plans. Read more.

ATU NJ State Council ‘Fights for $15’

ATU New Jersey Locals are leading the way in the Fight for $15 in the Garden State. Leaders and members joined with the Working Families Alliance, NAACP, CWA, and NJ Citizens Action at the statehouse to call on NJ lawmakers to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour. ATU and its coalition partners are supporting NJ Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto’s bill that would do just that. ATU members are engaged in the Fight for $15 campaign in communities across the U.S.

Bill Clinton’s five major achievements were longstanding GOP objectives

The Democratic Party has always been considered the political party that fights for the rights and values of working families. Is that still true today? Thomas Frank, author of “Listen, Liberal”, discusses the Hillary Doctrine’s basis in “neoliberalism”, how the Democratic Party stopped governing on behalf of the working class and how President Bill Clinton’s major achievements actually enacted conservative goals, and ultimately hurt working people. Read this interview of Frank for his very interesting and revealing thoughts on the Democratic Party, politics and elections. Read more.

New rule expands overtime pay to millions of US workers

With the pressure of rising costs and lackluster wage growth, middle class and working families have been feeling pinched for some time, but President Obama delivered a victory for them this week. Millions more workers will become eligible for overtime pay under a new rule announced by the White House. Anyone making a salary of less than $47,476 ($913 a week) will automatically qualify for overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours a week. That’s double what the threshold used to be. Vice President Joe Biden characterized the changes as “restoring and expanding access to the middle class.” Read more.

City of Alexandria still violating transit workers’ First Amendment rights

Transit workers protested outside of city hall this week while the Alexandria (LA) City attorney continues to censor ATRANS workers who are fighting to increase funding for critical bus service. At the council meeting immediately following the demonstration Local 981representatives were only given a brief opportunity to talk about worker and rider concerns with increasing funding for buses. Moving forward, it’s their goal, as well as some of the councilmembers goals, to sit down and further discuss these issues. The union’s legal counsel sent a letter threatening legal against the city for violating workers’ First Amendment Rights, but the city has not responded. Watch news story.

BART workers ratify a deal to extend their current contract

Bay Area commuters can breathe a sigh of relief as Local 1555-Oakland, CA, members and BART’s other two largest unions ratified agreements extending their current contract for another four years. The BART board of directors also approved the agreements. In 2013, BART workers went on strike after contract talks broke down. The strike also saw the death of two BART maintenance workers who were struck and killed by a train that management was using to train replacement drivers at the time of the incident. Read more.

Toronto bus driver reunites distraught rider with lost money

TTC busoperatorAt least once a month we hear a story about an ATU member going above and beyond the call of duty making us proud to be part of this great Union. The latest story comes from Toronto. A man who was rattled with grief after his mother’s death left $50,000 and his passport on a TTC bus. The man seemed to have lost everything. But lucky for him, TTC driver Daniel Clavette found the items and returned them to their rightful owner. The Local 113 member was honored for his good deed with a ‘Good Samaritan Award’. ATU salutes Brother Clavette for his honesty and integrity. Read more.

Brampton transit workers ratify contract

Averting a possible strike, Brampton transit workers ratified a new contract that will ensure labour peace in the city for the next four years. The City Council also finalized the deal. The talks had broken down over the agency’s demand that drivers forego their 30-minute lunch breaks. Local 1573 was rightly very concerned about the possibility that a driver could be behind the wheel for eight hours straight without a break. After a deal was reached and ratified Local 1573 President Rob Goudie said the union looks forward “to a good working relationship with the City of Brampton to provide citizens with the safest transit system in the GTA.” Read more.

The middle class is shrinking just about everywhere in America

It should come as no surprise that the great shrinking of the middle class is not only playing out in troubled regions like the Rust Belt, Appalachia and the Deep South, but in just about every metropolitan area in America, according to a major new analysis by the Pew Research Center. The decades of widening inequality, declining industry and the erosion of financial stability and family-wage jobs has led to the stagnation of the middle-class across the country. The report points out that these same underlying and uneven economic forces have fueled the rise of Donald Trump. And as the middle class has been shrinking, median incomes have fallen, too. Read more.

Pedestrian Deaths Increase: The Cause and Solution

A recent study revealed that pedestrian deaths increased exponentially – 10 percent – in 2015, which is shocking and unacceptable. Pedestrian fatalities account for 15 percent of all traffic deaths. One of the causes of this disturbing uptick is the new designs in buses that put pedestrians in danger, which ATU has been arguing for years. These new designs are meant to increase efficiency of the vehicles, but poorly designed windshields and mirrors increase blind spots for the drivers, which jeopardizes the safety of all pedestrians in intersections. “Until the industry demands a change in the design of buses to remove the unnecessary blind spots like European buses, people will continue to die in these preventable accidents,” says International President Larry Hanley. Read more.

WMATA employees stand ready to make the system safer

It seems like every other day there’s been a smoke incident or other safety issue with Washington DC’s Metro system, WMATA. Many are often quick to blame the workers, members of Local 689, claiming they don’t understand the safety concerns. However, the union has “been at the forefront of the safety conversation for years,” reads a letter to the editor that recently appeared in the Washington Post. In fact, last year the union outlined to WMATA’s board the long-term safety changes including four major benchmarks Metro needed to meet immediately. “Local 689 has been the loudest voice calling for safety changes, and we stand ready to work with Metro to take positive long-term action to implement a safety culture,” the letter read. Read full letter.

Phoenix fines bus company for strike

Transdev, the private bus company that operates dozens of Phoenix routes, will have to pay the city $20,000 for an eight-day driver strike in January that left thousands of riders scrambling for service. The Phoenix Public Transit Department assessed a total of $50,000 in damages, $30,000 of which was used to pay the changes needed to end the strike. The Local1433 members staged the strike when talks broke down over language on bathroom breaks, a tiered system for wages and benefits and payment methods for drivers. The Local, which has been pushing for the transit system to not rely on private contractors, has an open case against Transdev with the National Labor Relations Board. Read more.

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Alberta declares state of emergency as firefighters struggle to save Fort McMurray

Alberta Fire

Raging wildfires force more than 80,000 to flee the oilsands city of Fort McMurray. About 1,600 buildings, most of them homes, were hit by the fire. Feds pledge all possible assistance.

FORT MCMURRAY, ALTA.—Alberta declared a state of emergency as it took sad stock Wednesday of the devastation from wildfires that torched entire neighbourhoods and forced more than 80,000 to flee the oilsands city of Fort McMurray. Fire crews, backed by helicopters and air tankers, braced for renewed incursions from waves of flame menacing the city.

“The situation in Fort McMurray is not stable. It is unstable,” Scott Long of Alberta Emergency Management told reporters in a Wednesday afternoon briefing.

“The downtown core is being held through some Herculean efforts of the structural firefighters in the area.”

Premier Rachel Notley said about 1,600 buildings, most of them homes, were hit by the fire that leapt over crews late Tuesday afternoon and raced into the city.

“There’s been fairly significant destruction of residences,” said Notley.

She and her officials admitted the outlook remained grim as the fire, which obliterated neighbourhoods to the south and west, moved north.

“We saw areas where there was a tremendous amount of smoke,” she said later at a relief centre for evacuees in Anzac. “We were way up in a helicopter and the plumes of smoke were higher than we were.”

Notley said the state of emergency will also ensure that the federal government pays part of the costs of the wildfire.

The blazes effectively cut Fort McMurray in two late Tuesday, forcing about 10,000 north to the safety of oilsands work camps.

The other 70,000 were sent streaming south in a bumper-to-bumper snake line of cars and trucks that stretched beyond the horizon down Highway 63. Some vehicles sat in ditches, the victims of engine trouble or a lack of gas.

The situation took a tragic twist Wednesday when an SUV collided head on with a tractor-trailer on another southern escape road, Highway 881, killing two and shutting down the road in both directions.

The wildfire was still listed out of control as it curled around the city, 435 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.

By mid-day Wednesday, the looming flames forced officials to abandon the evacuation command centre near the airport.

Neighbourhoods most affected are Waterways, where 90 per cent of the homes have been lost; Beacon Hill, where 70 per cent of the homes have been lost, and Abasand where half the homes have been lost. More than 30 homes have been lost in Wood Buffalo.

Watch the video

Courtesy of the Star

Fort McMurray wildfire: Shifting weather forces more evacuations

Shortly before 10 p.m., the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo said shifting weather patterns prompted a mandatory evacuation order of Anzac, Gregoire Lake Estates and Fort McMurray First Nation.

They said buses were being brought in to help and that Mounties were going door-to-door to make sure everyone leaves.

The evacuation is scheduled for 11 p.m with buses departing at midnight.

Displaced Fort McMurray residents had taken refuge at the Anzac Recreation Centre, about 50 kilometres south of Fort McMurray.

Good Samaritan TTC driver turns in $50,000 in cash

Ever wonder what you might do if you stumbled upon a bag containing $50,000?

For TTC operator Daniel Clavette, who faced such a dilemma last Monday evening, the answer was simple — “do the right thing” and “return the money to its rightful owner.”

The 48-year-old was driving his bus in Scarborough, heading up Bellamy Rd. — just north of Eglinton Ave. E. — when one of his passengers handed him a knapsack that another rider had left behind.

When he pulled into the Scarborough Town Centre half hour later, he opened the bag to see if it contained anything that might help identify its owner.

“I ended up finding envelopes full of money,” Clavette recalled Friday, as Toronto Police presented him with a certificate commending him for his “honesty” and “integrity.”

He explained there were five TD Bank envelopes each stuffed with $10,000 in $100 bills.

“My initial reaction was like, ‘Wow!’” Clavette said. “I was stunned.”

He alerted his supervisor who notified police at 41 Division.

Not for second was he tempted to keep the cash, nor did he dream about how he might spend such a large sum.

Clavette said he also found a man’s passport and paperwork from a funeral home in the backpack and he figured if the owner had just lost a loved one, he was “going to need the money.”

Supt. John Tanouye said the bag’s frantic owner walked into 41 Division “distraught and upset” soon after accidentally leaving $50,000 inherited from his mom’s death on the bus.

“We got the phone call (from the TTC) while he was standing there that Daniel had turned in the money,” he said, adding the man was “elated.”

“He’s such great role model, a Good Samaritan,” Tanouye said of the TTC driver.

TTC spokesman Brad Ross lauded Clavette for his “professionalism.”

The married father of two daughters, 18 and 21, was a contract driver with Pizza Pizza for 13 years and had no benefits prior to getting hired by the TTC nine years ago.

Clavette said he’s so grateful that he would never do anything that would jeopardize his job or cast a negative light on the TTC.

He also downplayed his decision to return the money.

“I was just doing my job,” Clavette said humbly. “That’s what the TTC trains us to do, to be honest.”

Watch the video

Courtesy of  Toronto Sun