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Do Working-class People Really Care About Climate Change?

Bus Drivers Strike with Climate Activists in 57 German Cities

By Berit Ehmke and Yanira Wolf - Labor Notes, April 8, 2024

Public transit workers across Germany have broken new ground by coordinating our contracts—nearly all of them nationwide have expired over the last four months—and shutting down bus systems with strikes in 57 cities.

To add to the pressure, we’ve done something new for our union and for Germany: we’ve formed an alliance between local transport workers and climate activists, including the students who have been leading massive school walkouts.

The devastating effects of climate change are already rocking Germany: major heat waves, flooding, and water shortages. A growing movement demanding climate action has made real headway—our energy and industrial sectors have almost halved their climate pollution over the past 30 years. But on transportation, our third-biggest source, we’ve made nearly zero progress.

To beat climate change we need more buses on the road. We’re building a movement to double bus service. After three decades of cuts and privatization, we need a major federal funding boost.

But these jobs have become so tough that most agencies have huge worker shortages. To make the climate impact real, we’ll also need to raise the floor for wages, breaks, and schedules—making this a good enough job that workers will sign on and stick around.

ScotRail Punitive Fare Hike Will Impact on Climate Targets

By RMT Press Office - National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, April 1, 2024

Rail union, RMT union has slammed ScotRail's decision to hike fares by 8.7% from April 1st, exactly two years since the railway came under public ownership.

This punitive price increase comes at a time when the Scottish Government itself is running a successful off-peak fares trial, effectively removing peak fares entirely.

RMT is calling on the Scottish Government to make this off-peak fares trial permanent, otherwise passengers face the return of significantly increased peak fares from June.

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said: "This fare hike is terrible news for ScotRail passengers and a betrayal of the promises made when public ownership was introduced. 

"The counter-productive move will push people back into their cars at a time when we desperately need to be encouraging a shift to sustainable and environmentally friendly public transport."

The RMT demands the Scottish Government make the off-peak fares trial permanent, preventing the return of extortionate peak fares from June. 

Failing to do so will have a negative impact on passenger usage of trains and endanger Scotland's climate change targets.

Mr Lynch added: "The Committee on Climate Change recently made it clear – Scotland's current approach to transport isn't delivering the emissions reductions needed. 

"Making rail affordable, accessible, and reliable is essential. 

"This fare increase undermines all of that. The Scottish Government needs to get serious about putting passengers and the planet first."

RMT urges the Scottish Government to act decisively to reverse this damaging fare hike and commit to long-term policies that make rail the natural choice for passengers, not an affordable luxury.

Fair is free fares for London

By Simon Pirani - The Ecologist, March 19, 2024

Fares for public transport around London should be abolished, says a new campaign briefing from Fare Free London.

Free public transport “opens the city to all” and should be “provided as a public service, just like health, education and public parks,” a new campaign briefing from Fare Free London argues.

And abolishing fares for public transport in London is “one of the drastic, demonstrative actions needed to tackle climate change globally and air pollution locally”. 


Fare Free London, set up at a meeting of community, trade union and environmentalist activists this year, is calling on the city’s mayor to adopt the policy, and commission research on how to implement.

It urges national government to support the fare-free approach around the country, and change local government finance rules so that it can be paid for. 

Climate activists join public transport workers in strike across Germany

Transit Equity Day Promotes “Stronger Communities through Better Transit”

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, March 1, 2024

To mark Climate Equity Day 2024, LNS Transit Organizer Bakari Height wrote in an Op Ed published in five newspapers:

For far too long, policymakers in Washington have prioritized highways and cars over public transit. This has devastating impacts not only for the climate crisis but on the budgets of local transit agencies and communities across the nation.

The fix?

>A new piece of legislation introduced last month by Congressman Hank Johnson from the Atlanta area would change that. The bill titled, “Stronger Communities through Better Transit Act” will provide high-quality transit to communities across the country.

A Newsweek op ed by John Samuelsen, international president of the Transport Workers Union and John Costa, international president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, explains how the Act would work:

The legislation would allocate $20 billion annually for four years, specifically so agencies could “make substantial improvements in transit service.” That’s $80 billion for operations, not capital projects.

>With such financial support, agencies could significantly boost their current schedules and run buses and trains more frequently. They could robustly extend the hours of operation on routes and lines that now are shut down for the night. And they could add entirely new service, like a local or express bus route, in tragically underserved neighborhoods.


For Height’s full op ed: 

For Samuelsen and Costa’s full op ed: 

Bringing The Jobs on Board: The Stronger Communities Through Better Transit Act would create 230,000 new jobs

By Emmett Hopkins - The Climate and Community Project, February 2024

Transit plays a central role in providing access to schools, jobs, medical care, parks, grocery stores and other everyday necessities. For decades, the United States has underinvested in this essential building block for economic mobility and equitable prosperity. Transit is also a vital climate solution, providing the fastest pathway for cutting transportation emissions. Ambitious investment in reliable, fast, and affordable public transit systems will help communities flourish and support an economy that works for all.

Congressman Hank Johnson introduced a federal bill that would invest $20 billion in transit operations through a formula grant program that increases by 50% the operations funding for every recipient of the Federal Transit Administration’s existing urbanized area and rural area formula funds, and increases the federal share of operating costs for rural transit agencies from 50% to 80%.

This infusion of funds could translate into up to 230,000 new high-pay, high-quality jobs nationwide, including for transit operators and staff who work tirelessly to keep the systems moving, and also the indirect jobs set in motion by the increased economic activity.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Socialize the Railways!

By Tom Wetzel - East Bay Syndicalists, November 13, 2023

The downward slide of the major (Class 1) American freight railroads in recent years shows how capitalist ownership of the railway system is dangerous and inefficient — and fails to make use of the potential of the railways as a solution to the global warming crisis.

Downward slide has been accelerated over the past decade due to the adoption of “Precision Scheduled Railroading” (PSR). This has no precise definition but the aim is to reduce costs. As in “lean production” management theory, any expense not directly needed for profit is regarded as “waste.” PSR is a cost-cutting strategy that puts short-term profits for stockholders as the controlling priority. To maximize the rate of return, the railroads cut corners on maintenance, constantly work to reduce the number of railroad employees, and actively discourage shipments that are less profitable for them to haul. To keep Wall Street investors happy, they work to maximize short term profit. To enrich stockholders, the rail companies have poured billions of dollars into stock buybacks rather than invest in system improvements.

Rail Privatisation: 30 years of waste and rising fares

By staff - National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), November 5, 2023

As Britain ‘celebrates’ 30 years of rail privatisation, RMT reveals that the three-decade debacle has seen at least £31 billion leak out of the system, mostly into shareholders pockets, while passengers are paying 8% more in real terms to travel on a deteriorating system.

  • Renationalising the railway and creating a single, integrated publicly owned railway company would save around £1.5 billion every year which could be used to cut fares by 18%, helping to encourage more people back onto Britain’s railways.
  • At least £1.5 billion and very likely more leaks out of Britain’s railways every year in the form of profits extracted by train operating companies, rolling stock leasing companies, subcontractors and other costs that arise the fragmentation of the railways.1 Throughout privatisation, the annual outflow of funds would have enabled, on average, a cut of 14% in fares (Table 1.)
  • If the railways were nationalised now and the flow of funds into the private sector was cut off, the money saved would fund a cut of 18% in fares.
  • The cost of travelling by rail is now almost 8% higher in real terms than it was in 1995, before privatisation. This figure has dropped in the last two years only as inflation as risen above 13%. Until the cost-of-living crisis, when fare increases were decoupled from RPI inflation, fares were consistently 15-20% higher in real terms than before privatisation.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Transportation Webinar: Where is This Train Going? Freight Rail in the Public Interest


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