Winnipeg Transit continues to put drivers at risk

 Winnipeg transit workers continue to question the City’s concern about the safety of bus drivers as the City and workers wait for a report on the current safety protocols on transit buses. Local 1505-Winnipeg, MB, which was never consulted for the report, says the agency is putting drivers at even more risk because transit inspectors have been coming on buses to ask operators to point out which passengers didn’t pay fares. The review of transit safety was ordered after bus driver Irving Fraser was stabbed to death by a rider in February. “Transit said they were going to consult with us. We have about three weeks left until the report is to be released and still nothing. We are totally in the dark,” said Local President John Callahan who fears the report will not address many of the issues the union has been raising for months. Read more.

A Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) report on the ATU Local 113 crisis is “riddled with omissions and specious interpretations of the events” surrounding Bob Kinnear and Unifor’s Jerry Dias’ scheme to raid the Toronto Local, writes The report seems uninterested and unwilling to address key issues including who paid for the three full page newspaper ads from Kinnear and when exactly was the first contact between Kinnear and Unifor about raiding the Local. Furthermore, writes, “The contempt for ATU in CLC Investigator Barry Thorsteinson’s report oozes in every section, he talks about reprisals against members (there has been zero evidence this has occurred), the uncooperativeness during the investigation and their attacks on the CLC President.” Read more.

Buffalo transit workers rally for fair contract, improved service

It’s been nine years since Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) workers have had a new contract, and members of Local 1342-Buffalo, NY kicked their campaign into high gear with a rally calling on the agency to bargain fairly and improve bus service for riders. “It’s absolutely unacceptable that these hard-working men and women have to go to work every single day for nine years, and not only worry about their job, worry about whether or not the routes that they serve in our community are going to be cut, every single day,” said New York State Senator Tim Kennedy, who joined the workers at the protest. “But they do so and are not getting paid the fair wages that they should be.” Read more.

Lessons from the collapse of Bridj

Bridj, a startup that tried to merge the technology of Uber with buses, has abruptly shut down due to funding issues, revealing important lessons about how successful public transit works. First, public transportation is costly. There is a reason why public transportation systems historically require subsidies – they are expensive to build, operate, and maintain. Fares only will not cover all of the costs. The public sector is able to provide the subsidies that keeps public transportation going, largely through vehicles such as a percentage of state sales taxes. Without its private sector funding, Bridj could no longer support itself. This is not unique – take a look at the Uber. That company lost $2.8 billion on $6.5 billion in revenue last year. Once the private sector decides to stop subsiding Uber, it, too, will face either restructuring and downsizing or the final curtain. Read more.

CEO pay increases to 347 times average workers

The rich keep getting richer and workers keep getting left behind according to a new AFL-CIO report on executive pay. In 2016 CEO pay rose nearly 6 percent to an average of $13.1 million per year in 2016 – 347 times more money than the average rank-and-file worker. This comes as more good-paying American jobs have been outsourced contributing to the growing income inequality. Mondelēz International, which makes Nabisco products, represents one of the most egregious examples of CEO-to-worker pay inequality. Mondelēz CEO Irene Rosenfeld made more than $16.7 million in 2016 – about $8,000 per hour. This comes as the company closed its Oreo cookie line at a Nabisco factory in Chicago, sending 600 jobs to Mexico, where workers face poor labor and safety standards. Read more.

Calgary transit workers slam city decision to lay off 60

The safety of the Calgary Light Rail system could be at serious risk as Calgary Transit announced layoffs of 60 workers who maintain the system, says ATU Local 583, who represents the workers. Replacing veteran employees with lower-paid contractors to do the job of maintaining, cleaning or doing snow removal on the platforms could be disastrous. “It can be dangerous — really dangerous — if they’re not in communication with drivers and properly trained,” said the Local. “We’ve got people who have been there for 30 years for god’s sakes, because they love their jobs.” Read more.

Not all heroes wear capes

A South Carolina school bus driver is being hailed as a hero for helping 56 students off her bus before it burst into flames. Two students in the back of the bus noticed smoke and told the bus driver, who got the kids off the bus in under a minute and called 911 for help. “We are so proud of our bus driver,” said school district Superintendent Scott Turner. “She did exactly what she was trained to do. She was calm. She kept the students calm. She made sure they were safe. They were her first priority. She’s our hero today.” The ATU applauds this school bus driver for her quick action. Read more.

MTA Violating Free Speech rights

In an unprecedented act of repression, Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) and Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) officials have violated the First Amendment Rights of Local 1300-Baltimore, MD. The agencies have unlawfully banned Local President David McClure from MTA buildings, forcefully removing him from numerous employee discipline hearings. “They are violating our First Amendment rights in an attempt to silence McClure and all transit workers for informing the riders about the dangerous and life threatening conditions on the system,” says the Local. International President Larry Hanley pointed out similar incidents in Chicago, IL and Grand Rapids, MI. “There is a disturbing trend occurring across our country in which transit agencies trample on the free speech rights of employees who expose illegal practices,” he says. Read more.

Trumpcare most disgraceful legislation since Congress was founded

“The American Health Care Act (AHCA) is the equivalent of a death sentence for thousands of Americans who will be thrown off of their health insurance. Millions of others who won’t be able to go to a doctor when they must will get extremely sick, and lose their jobs, their homes, and their way of life,” says International President Larry Hanley in response to the House of Representatives’ passage of the bill, Wednesday. Hanley pointed out that the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) is flawed and that “changes are certainly needed, but any sane person should understand that ripping away a person’s life preserver and tossing them a twig is unconscionable.” Read more.

Wiedefeld’s outsourcing plan provokes union wrath, may not save money

Pointing to countless examples of failed privatization of transit, ATU and transit advocates blasted WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld’s plan to outsource parts of the system in an effort to cut costs. “It always introduces a partner into the relationship who extracts a profit by becoming the prophylactic for the government in their effort to be a rogue employer,” says International President Larry Hanley. “We don’t want the government to be a rogue employer.” London, England; Nassau County, NY, and Savannah, GA, are just a few bus systems that were privatized where promised savings never materialized and service and employee morale suffered. Read more.

ATU hero in Toronto

TTC employee JP Attard is being hailed for his heroism and quick-thinking for comforting a disturbed man who jumped on the subway tracks. “I didn’t know the cameras were flashing, I just jumped on instinct,” the 55 year-old Attard said. “As long as he was okay, we saved another life.” Dozens of witnesses were singing Attard’s praise. “He just kept talking to him, and said, ‘Breathe in; breathe out’ and ‘Look me in my eye,’” said witness Jeffrey Ribeiro. “Then he was like, ‘Now say, I am strong.’ Then he had everybody on the platform say it with him.” Ribeiro captured the touching interaction between the two men in a video he later posted online, which has gone viral. The ATU praises Attard for his actions. Read more.

Florida bus driver attacked by passenger

Another day and another attack on a transit worker. A man boarded a West Palm Beach bus and refused the operator’s request for him to pay his fare. Surveillance video from the bus shows a verbal altercation between the driver and the suspect, who was then seen striking the driver in the face and dragging him off the bus. “It’s very disturbing,” says Local President Dwight Mattingly, 1577. He called this behavior unacceptable and says the passenger could be banned from riding buses. Read more.

Motor City Freedom Riders to rally for real transit

As Detroit area officials and dignitaries plan to gather at a high-profile event on May 12 to launch a new three-mile streetcar line, the Motor City Freedom Riders will hold a protest highlighting the $140 million taxpayers spent to duplicate existing bus service. The “Rally for Real Regional Transit” will demand officials invest in accessible and affordable public transit for the thousands of Southeast Michigan working class residents who are stranded by the lack of adequate transit service in the city of Detroit and the suburbs. Read more.