Locals in North America are pushing for more safer conditions for Bus operators

Local 689-Washington, DC, joined with Maryland Congressmen Anthony Brown and Jamie Raskin to introduce progressive legislation to improve WMATA service, address bus and rail safety and promote innovative ways to increase ridership. Among the proposals is a year-long pilot program with a $2.50 flat fare on trips starting from three stations in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Local President Jackie Jeter said at the announcement that the group is “committed to working towards substantive improvement to Metro so that it is no longer a system that this region tolerates, but is one that is effective, safe, reliable and affordable.”

Assailants in Staten Island attack on bus driver get 42 months in prison

Two men, who dragged an MTA driver from his bus out onto the ground at the St. George Ferry Terminal in Staten Island, NY and then beat him five months ago, earned themselves a trip upstate after pleading guilty to a felony charge. The incident began when the bus and a Jeep SUV sideswiped each other. The bus drove off and the SUV followed it. When the bus stopped the suspects pulled the driver from the bus and dragged him to the ground repeatedly kicking and punching him. These attacks are becoming all too common for transit workers (see story below) and ATU is calling on transit agencies across North America to better protect transit workers.

Punched, spit on, hit with objects: Bus drivers regularly face violence on the job

In 2009 a vicious attack on Local 569-Edmonton, AB, bus operator Tom Bregg touched off a debate on how to protect transit workers. It took until 2015 for The House of Commons to finally pass Bregg’s Law that allows for steeper penalties in assaults where the victim is a transit worker. But the bill obviously hasn’t deterred attacks. Since 2014 there was an average of one attack on a transit operator per week in Edmonton, AB, and across Canada, there are 2,000 assaults on bus operators every year and more that go unreported. “It’s alarming,” said Local 569 President Mark Tetterington. “There’s got to be more that we can do to protect those operators.”

ATU to City of Winnipeg: Use smaller buses or Uber-like apps instead of cutting service

Local 1505-Winnipeg, MB, is urging the city of Winnipeg to consider using smaller buses, devising flexible routes and moving to service on demand in some areas instead of just cutting back on service along routes with lower ridership. Facing a budget crisis, the city is considering less frequent bus service on up to 23 Winnipeg Transit routes, but many students and people in outlying areas who rely on public transit will be left stranded. “Cutting service on those routes, in the evenings and weekends, you’re going to frustrate people. People are already waiting for service as it is, and if you cut the service, instead of waiting 20 minutes, you’re waiting an hour,” says Local President Aleem Chaudhary. “You’re pissed off, here comes the next bus and who are you going to take it out on? The first person you see. Who is that? The bus driver.”

ATU and allies call on D.C. to end private contracts for public transit

A coalition of ATU Locals and social justice groups are calling on D.C. lawmakers to stop contracting out public transit services, saying the private firms that operate the Circulator bus system and D.C. Streetcar fail to provide reliable service to riders and treat their employees poorly. The group held face-to-face meetings with council members and at least one legislator, Council member Mary Cheh, is taking their argument seriously. The coalition is making its case now to lose the private firms because the current Circulator contract with First Transit expires next June. In addition, RMDT, the French firm that operates the D.C. Streetcar and the subcontractors that hire the streetcar personnel and workers, are still negotiating an initial labor contract nearly two years after the streetcar launched.

Nashville Local calls for better protection after rider dies from shooting

It’s seems like a day doesn’t go by that we don’t hear about an attack on a transit worker or rider. The latest happened in Nashville, TN, where a passenger was tragically shot and killed on a Nashville, TN, bus. This prompted Local 1235-Nashville, TN, to call for transit police and other protections for bus operators and riders. In this deadly incident, the shooter fled the bus and was thankfully captured and charged by police. The bus operator was not hurt and is credited with acting quickly to alert officials.

Happy Thanksgiving from ATU International

ATU International wishes a Happy Thanksgiving to all our U.S. members filled with peace, joy and a great meal. And as you do your last-minute shopping please make sure you have a union-made Thanksgiving. You can this do by checking the list of union-made in America food and other items essential to a traditional Thanksgiving feast that also support our sisters and brothers in the labor movement.

Can talking buses save pedestrians’ lives? No says ATU

Transit agencies in some cities are outfitting their buses with warning systems that use speakers to alert pedestrians when a bus is turning – but it’s just a technological Band-Aid for unsafe bus design. “When we read the story we thought it was an article from the Onion,” says International President Larry Hanley. “It’s basically a speaker broadcasting a loud message to pedestrians saying ‘Run like hell, the bus driver can’t see you!’” More than a dozen pedestrians crossing a street can be obscured by the left-side mirror and the pillar — the vertical frame on either side of the windshield. There are buses manufactured and used in Europe that have no driver blind spots, and ATU is calling on transit agencies to purchase these buses.

Locals gear up to fight right-to-work at Everett, WA training

The whole public sector will likely become “right to work” next year, barring another miracle at the U.S. Supreme Court. Once the conservative court rules in Janus v. AFSCME (likely before June), life will change for ATU and all unions in the 23 states that till now have rejected right-to-work laws. Recognizing the threat for several years now, ATU has been conducting training to mobilize and engage leaders and members in this critical battle. Recently more than 90 officers and members from Local 757-Portland, OR; and Washington Locals 587-Seattle, 758-Tacoma, 843-Bellingham, 883-Everett; 1015-Spokane, 1576-Lynnwood, and 1765-Olympia, participated in a right-to-work training in Everett, WA.

An ATU hero in Cincinnati, OH

Twenty-six-year veteran Cincinnati Metro Operator Orlando King is being hailed as a hero for saving a lost young child. The Local 627-Cincinnati, OH, member spotted the youngster wandering alone shortly before noon on November 2, brought her on his bus and called for assistance. “I’m just glad I was there,” King said, adding that there were no adults in the vicinity. “As a parent, I couldn’t leave her out there.” King, who was named Cincinnati Metro’s 2015 Operator of the Year, was honored with a CEO S.T.A.R. Award at a Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority board meeting. ATU salutes King for his quick-thinking and action.

Guelph transit workers & city ratify new collective agreement

In 2014, the City of Guelph locked out Local 1189-Guelph, ON, members, halting bus service for two weeks, leaving riders stranded, and workers mad. The latest contract negotiations went much more smoothly with the Local and city finalizing a strong contract for workers. “During the negotiation process, we challenged ourselves to think outside the box to get a deal that was fair, and that would show great commitment from both parties,” said Local President Andy Cleary. Under the new four-year contract all full-time and part-time transit workers will receive annual pay increases and other improvements.

Jake Schwab won’t be home with his family for Thanksgiving (PA)

Local 568-Erie, PA, member Jake Schwab died in 2014, when a suspension air bag in a bus he was working on exploded in his face. Schwab, a mechanic, was working with the wrong tools on an unfamiliar bus from another agency. There was no investigation of his death because he was a public employee. There had been no safety training in Jake’s garage for over nine years. A Harrisburg, PA, billboard has been put up as part of an aggressive campaign to push for passage of the Jake Schwab Worker’s Safety bill (H.B.1082) to ensure OSHA-equivalent on-the-job safety rules for public employers. There will be a hearing on the bill in the Pennsylvania legislature on December 5.

Joe, the bus driver, & Jane, the bus rider, ‘take it on the chin’ with Trump tax scheme

“On behalf of Joe, the bus driver, and Jane, the bus rider, we condemn the House of Representatives’ passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R.1) – the most outrageous money grab in the history of our country that will destroy what is left of the American middle class,” says International President Larry Hanley. The bill, Hanley continues, would end the state and local tax deduction, making it impossible for Joe to make ends meet and save for his kids’ college. And Jane, who takes public transit because current law provides her with a tax benefit for taking public transit to work, loses too. H.R. 1 removes the option for employers to deduct the cost of public transit benefits. So Jane’s boss is pulling out of the program and she may have to walk the five miles to her job. “We call on the Senate to be the voice of reason and reject this ill-advised, heartless bill for Joe and Jane – the real people of America,” says Hanley.

Peoria, IL, paratransit workers authorize strike

Frustrated by an unfair contract offer by management, CityLift workers, the paratransit service of Peoria, IL’s CityLink transit system, have authorized a strike by a near unanimous vote. “We hope this gets management to realize that the employees are serious. They are not playing around and they want a good contract for the service that they do,” says Local President Ronald Cox, 416-Peoria, IL, which represents over 60 CityLift drivers, dispatchers, maintenance and utility workers. CityLift drivers are the lowest paid workers in their area with starting pay of $10.50 an hour, while CityLink bus drivers start at about $18 an hour. It is only the third time in 27 years the Local has held such a strike authorization vote.

Make your Thanksgiving union-made

As you and your family get ready to do your final Thanksgiving shopping, make sure you’ll have a union-made Thanksgiving. You can this do by checking the list of Thanksgiving food and holiday items produced by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM); Machinists (IAM); United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW); and United Steelworkers (USW).

Metro Transit Workers reject contract, authorize Super Bowl strike

Rejecting the latest contract offer from Metro Transit, the members of Local 1005-Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN, authorized a strike for the days leading up to Super Bowl LII, in the Twin Cities next year. Expanding hours for part-time work, and driver safety and security are among the major sticking points in the contract dispute, which has been going on since May. “We are very serious,” says Local President Mark Lawson. “Driving a city bus is one of the hardest jobs in America. We have members who are routinely punched, spit on, or assaulted in other ways.” The Local is also pushing for an improved workstation including bus shields to protect the drivers. Lawson says there is still time to reach a deal before the Super Bowl.

TriMet workers reach tentative agreement

Nearly a year after their contract expired, Local 757-Portland, OR, and TriMet have reached a tentative deal. The new contract includes a 3% raise for all employees, retroactive to December 2016, and 3.25% annual raises over the next two years. It also includes bigger pay increases for service workers who clean and fuel buses. A key sticking point had been the agency’s proposal to use outside contractors to overhaul aging MAX trains. “We finally cleared the dust, and here we are,” says Local President Shirley Block, pointing out they had reached an agreement on the issue and that the agency made several concessions for the Local. The negotiations which had dragged on for over five months were followed by several mediation sessions.

Pedestrian dies after being hit by a bus, Winnipeg Manitoba

It’s being repeatedly, talk about the danger of crossing that block located in the core of Winnipeg Downtown, recently one pedestrian jaywalking  (Which is not illegal in Manitoba) died after being hit by a public Transit bus, the collision occurred around 1430 CT, this past Monday afternoon, the writer, a former operator of Winnipeg Transit had mentioned the risk of that several times to the Local Union 1505 and also to city councils about the dangers and risks about this block located at Graham and Fort Street, the question is politics always work after serious incidents occurred even though they were warned.  Let’s talk about this seriously, the operator of the bus won’t be the same after this traumatic event regardless of who was at fault.  It is very important to see safety in a different prospect not only for the public but also for operators who risk their lives every single day, if politicians thing that this matter doesn’t attract more votes then is time to see if you’re working just the status quo or for your people.

Driver Fatigue Contradiction is exhausting!

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) contradicted its own focus groups of drivers and federal inspectors at their recent hearing on a fatal 2016 California bus crash. The focus groups exposed the lack of sleep of motorcoach drivers due to employer pressure to work. “The NTSB just buried this research and said ‘oh it’s just a medical problem – driver sleep apnea – causing driver fatigue and we need better testing of drivers,’” says International President Larry Hanley. “It’s the highest form of negligence, putting peoples’ lives at risk.” Hanley called for passage of the recently introduced Driver Fatigue Prevention Act. “It’s time for the government to extend the labor protections most other workers get to intercity bus drivers and fairly compensate them for overtime work in this safety-sensitive industry,” said Hanley.

Peterborough Local ratifies strong contract

Averting a possible strike, members of Local 1320-Peterborough, ON, overwhelmingly voted to ratify a new contract. The Local which represents 107 drivers and garage staff, was in a legal strike position and had been negotiating with the city for a new contract since the spring. The city also approved the agreement. The new contract includes pay increases and improvements in health care, work conditions and other benefits.


NY voters reject ballot proposal on state constitutional convention

ATU Locals across the state of New York joined organized labor and allies across the state to declare victory as voters on November 7, soundly rejected the anti-worker ballot proposal to hold a constitutional convention to amend the state’s constitution. The Locals waged an aggressive campaign against the proposal which would have put important labor protections, pensions and other rights of New York workers on the chopping block.

38-year old OC Transpo bus operator starts on college basketball team

Local 279-Ottawa, ON, member Dan Stoddard is 38, and a full-time bus operator, but amazingly his college basketball career has just begun. Stoddard’s nearly impossible journey started when he played in his annual high school alumni game. By chance the referee happened to be the coach of a local college team and jokingly told Stoddard, “Hey man, you could play for me.” Stoddard enrolled in the college, got in shape and made the team. His family attends every game wearing “Old Man Dan Fan Club” T-shirts to cheer him on. Stoddard also became an ATU hero last year helping an Ottawa woman flee an assault.

Nashville Local on taskforce to set course for city’s transit plan

A taskforce has been launched to identify strategies and policies for the proposed $5.2 billion transit plan for Nashville, and transit workers’ and riders’ voices will be heard. Local President Patrick Green, 1235-Nashville, TN, will serve as a taskforce member. The transit plan includes the city’s first light rail system and an underground tunnel. The Local is also a member of the People’s Alliance for Transit, Housing and Employment (PATHE), a coalition of transit workers, renters, bus riders, unhoused people, construction workers, and other concerned residents committed to affordable housing, good jobs, and immediate improvements to transit.

As bus ridership sinks, advocates look for ways to lure commuters back

With bus ridership decreasing and travel time increasing across the country, bus-only lanes, all-door boarding, and increased funding for service are among the recommendations in a new report from the Active Transportation Alliance, an advocacy group for transit, walking and biking. The report says buses are appealing because they are less expensive and better for the environment than cars. And improving bus service is cheaper and easier than adding more rail routes. As for all-door boarding, International President Hanley expressed skepticism since it would both create another choke point for getting on the bus and would encourage cheaters. He said the best way to speed up buses is to collect fares outside the bus and create more bus rapid transit routes.

Retirees class 2017, ATU 1505

ATU 1505
It was an spectacular night, lots of friends, amazing food, good music, good dancers and lots of fun. We missed you.
Ayotte Richard, Bohotchuk William, Bracken Dwayne, Burla Ronald, Callahan John, Cox Donald, Coy Donna, Cunningham Wayne, Currier Nicole, Desorcy Phillipe , Doerksen Carol, Dokken Kevin, Dubois Ronald, Ducharme Bernard, Dunstan Alan, Falk Murray, Gusnoski Richard, Handen Linda, Harris Kathleen, Jimenez Franco Leonel, Labaty Brian, Lambert Richard, Lewis Donna, Lumsden Lyle, Lusk Ian, MacKenzie Richard, Maling Edwin, Martin Roy, McKoluff Sanford, Moate Albert, Muller Bryan, Munro Bryan, Olfert Arthur, Paquete Lorna, Parker Harry, Hugo R Paz, Rawson James, Ready Spencer, Russell Dennis, Schafer Grant, Sclanders Don, Spence Robert, Starr Bradley, Stokell Daniel, Swan Jimmy, Thomas William, Turner Brian, Walker Roy, Yuskin Kelly, Zvonik Vaclav.

JIC locals energized by training

More than 30 Locals from across the U.S. and Canada gathered at the Tommy Douglas Conference Center this week for an innovative Joint Industry Council training. The attendees heard from experts and staff on the new realities of bargaining and campaigning against large, deep-pocketed multinational employers. The training included a comprehensive explanation of the RFP (request for proposal) process, a breakdown of revenue agreements, negotiations, strategies for building strength within our Locals, and planning for organizing campaigns. The Locals also exchanged ideas and experiences in dealing with these companies that will change our strategic approach for bargaining contracts.

Aspen Local calls for better protection of bus operators

Bus operators have begun to refer to the late shift (especially on weekends) at Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) as the “drunk run.” One operator recalls he had a whole bus of riders openly talking about being high on acid. Passengers are also openly drinking – which is allowed on Roaring Fork buses. Local 1774-Aspen, CO, President Ed Cortez says alcohol- and drug-fueled assaults on RFTA operators have increased over the past year, and security measures by the transit agency have not curbed the problem. “Something has to be done,” says Cortez. “It’s a dangerous period to be an operator.”

Why do white working-class people vote against their interests? – They don’t!

In 2011, Ohio voters decisively repealed Senate Bill 5, an attack on collective-bargaining rights spearheaded by Republican Governor John Kasich. Voters rejected it in 82 of the state’s 88 counties with huge numbers of white working-class voters. Three short years later, Kasich swept back to reelection with a 30-point victory. And in 2016, Trump won Ohio and swept the Midwestern states. Progressives can’t understand why white working-class people vote against their interests. It’s because corporate Democrats have never advanced their interests – and at least Republicans offer a basic, if misleading, story about why they are getting “screwed.” It’s up to progressives to seriously organize and build an agenda that addresses the economic issues that have created the despair that led people to vote for Trump.

Kelowna, BC, Local pushes for better protections for operators

To remember a Kelowna commuter killed by a random assailant three years ago, bus operators across Kelowna pulled over earlier this week – the second time they have done so. “Violence in transit happens everywhere, but up until that night Kelowna was immune to it,” said Local 1722-Kelowna, BC, President Scott Lovell. “We are community and family-oriented… but the specialness that we have was forever changed in that night. We became a big city transit system.” But protections – safety barriers – have not made it to Kelowna buses, despite being on buses in bigger cities for years. Lovell said it shouldn’t take the death of a transit worker for BC Transit to take operator safety more seriously, pointing out this year a Winnipeg bus driver was murdered while on duty.

Grand Rapids workers pushing for contract for two years running

It’s been more than two years since members of Local 836-Grand Rapids, MI, members have been working without a contract. Local President RiChard Jackson talks about the trials and tribulations of the contract dispute with the Rapid. The Local has won numerous lawsuits against the transit agency for bad faith bargaining. The membership recently rejected numerous concessionary contract offers by the transit agency. Workers have had their wages frozen and are responsible for health care increases which have taken a serious toll on them and their families. Listen to interview.

Palm Tran members go above & beyond

Two Local 1577-West Palm Beach, FL, members were recognized by Palm Tran with the Golden Palm Award, its highest level of employee recognition. Bus operator Joan Jenkins was honored for handling a critical situation with high-level professionalism when someone brought a gun on board her bus. Jenkins’ calm demeanor and adherence to training, reassured all of her passengers as they were evacuated to safety. “When I saw the guy pull the gun out, I pulled out my phone and called dispatch. I told passengers to get off the bus,” Jenkins said. “I just thank God that no one got hurt.” Maintenance technician Willy Acuna is being honored for his hard work and dedication. He was responsible for significant cost savings when he repaired hybrid buses instead of replacing them, saving $397, 525 for the taxpayers. ATU salutes Jenkins and Acuna.

Stay connected for a chance to win an ATU jacket

The weather is already turning colder and what better way to stay warm than an ATU jacket. All you have to do is go to www.atu.org and sign up to receive ATU action alerts on the latest news and developments on ATU, public transportation, politics and other important issues. To enter the drawing, simply provide your e-mail, Local number and zip/postal code. If you have already submitted your email you’re still signed up for the contest, simply click “Skip and Continue to Website.” Also, please pass this message along to your fellow members and tell them to sign up for a chance to win an ATU jacket.