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Refuse workers take strike action during COP26 climate talks

The Green New Deal–From Below

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, October 30, 2021

This is the first in a series of commentaries on “The Green New Deal–From Below.” This commentary explains the idea of a Green New Deal from Below and provides an overview of the series. Subsequent commentaries in this series will address dimensions of the Green New Deal from below ranging from energy production to the role of unions to microgrids, coops, anchor institutions, and many others.

The Green New Deal is a visionary program to protect the earth’s climate while creating good jobs, reducing injustice, and eliminating poverty. Its core principle is to use the necessity for climate protection as a basis for realizing full employment and social justice.

The Green New Deal first emerged as a proposal for national legislation, and the struggle to embody it in national legislation is ongoing. But there has also emerged a little-noticed wave of initiatives from community groups, unions, city and state governments, tribes, and other non-federal institutions designed to contribute to the climate protection and social justice goals of the Green New Deal. We will call these the Green New Deal from Below (GNDfB).

The purpose of this commentary is to provide an overview of Green New Deal from Below initiatives in many different arenas and locations. It provides an introduction to a series of commentaries that will delve more deeply into each aspect of the GNDfB. The purpose of the series is to reveal the rich diversity of GNDfB programs already underway and in development. The projects of Green New Dealers recounted here should provide inspiration for thousands more that can create the foundation for national mobilization–and reconstruction.

The original 2018 Green New Deal resolution submitted by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called for a national 10-year mobilization to achieve 100% of national power generation from renewable sources; a national “smart grid”; energy efficiency upgrades for every residential and industrial building; decarbonizing manufacturing, agriculture, transportation, and other infrastructure; and helping other countries achieve carbon neutral economies and a global Green New Deal. It proposed a job guarantee to assure a living wage job to every person who wants one; mitigation of income and wealth inequality; basic income programs; and universal health care. It advocated innovative financial structures including cooperative and public ownership and public banks. Since that time a wide-ranging discussion has extended and fleshed out the vision of the Green New Deal to include an even wider range of proposals to address climate, jobs, and justice.

The Green New Deal first emerged as a proposal for national mobilization, and national legislation has remained an essential element. But whether legislation embodying the Green New Deal will be passed, and how adequate it will be, continues to hang in the balance. Current “Build Back Better” legislation has already been downsized to less than half its original scale, and many of the crucial elements of the Green New Deal have been cut along the way. How much of the Green New Deal program will actually be passed now or in the future cannot currently be known.

But meanwhile, there are thousands of efforts to realize the goals of the Green New Deal at community, municipal, county, state, tribal, industry, and sectoral levels. While these cannot substitute for a national program, they can contribute enormously to the Green New Deal’s goals of climate protection and economic justice. Indeed, they may well turn out to be the tip of the Green New Deal spear, developing in the vacuum left by the limitations of national programs.

Green investment brings greater job creation, but job quality not guaranteed

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, October 26, 2021

The Green Jobs Advantage: How Climate-friendly Investments Are Better Job Creators  was co-published by the International Trade Union Confederation, the World Resources Institute and the New Climate Economy, and released in mid-October. The paper reviews a dozen studies from 2009 to 2020 and compares the job creation projections in Brazil, China, Indonesia, Germany, South Africa, South Korea, the United States and globally. The analysis of these studies compares near-term job effects from clean energy versus fossil fuels, public transportation versus roads, electric vehicles versus internal combustion engine vehicles, and nature-based solutions versus fossil fuels – with the conclusion that greener investments create more jobs, dollar for dollar. The report also addresses the issue of job quality, and notes that in developing countries, many jobs are informal and temporary, with limited access to work security, safety, or social protections. In developed countries, “new green jobs may have wages and benefits that aren’t as high as those in traditional sectors where, in many cases, workers have been able to fight for job quality through decades of collective action.” One conclusion: “ Government investment should come with conditions that ensure fair wages and benefits, work security, safe working conditions, opportunities for training and advancement, the right to organize, and accessibility to all.”

Climate Jobs and Just Transition Summit: Strong Unions, Sustainable Transport

A Vision for Scotland’s Railways

By staff - Unity Consulting, ASLEF, RMT, TSSA, and Unite the Union, October 29, 2021

Scotland cannot meet its environmental obligations without a world-class rail service that shifts people and goods from cars and lorries onto trains.

This requires a service that is fully staffed, with affordable fares, stations that are accessible and trains that are clean, green and attractive.

What is needed is an ambition for Scotland’s railways that is expansive, that encourages people to make rail their first travel choice and increases freight capacity.

Our long-term vision for Scotland's railways:

  • It should be a publicly operated and governed system run as public service and not for private profit
  • A system that helps Scotland meet its wider environmental and public policy ambitions
  • A railway that is supported by public subsidy
  • Is fully staffed
  • That reinvests in rail infrastructure, to help grow the economy.
  • Takes ScotRail (and the Serco operated Caledonian Sleeper) back under public ownership permanently
  • A railway that is part of a wider integrated public transport system with through ticketing
  • Is part of an industrial strategy that recognises rail services are a vital part of Scotland’s economy helping create jobs and growth
  • Has a democratic regulatory and governance structure
  • Has a cross representation of Scottish society and rail interests at the heart of decision making
  • Has representation from all four trade unions on the board of the new operator
  • Has local political representatives on the board
  • Has passenger representatives on the board

Read the text (PDF).

The Green Jobs Advantage: How Climate Friendly Investments are Better Job Creators

By Joel Jager, et. al. - World Resources Institute, International Trade Union Confederation, and The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, October 2021

As part of their COVID-19 recovery efforts, many governments continue to fund unsustainable infrastructure, even though this ignores the urgency of addressing climate change and will not secure longterm stability for workers.

Our analysis of studies from around the world finds that green investments generally create more jobs per US$1 million than unsustainable investments. We compare near-term job effects from clean energy versus fossil fuels, public transportation versus roads, electric vehicles versus internal combustion engine vehicles, and nature-based solutions versus fossil fuels.

Green investments can create quality jobs, but this is not guaranteed. In developing countries, green jobs can provide avenues out of poverty, but too many are informal and temporary, limiting access to work security, safety, or social protections. In developed countries, new green jobs may have wages and benefits that aren’t as high as those in traditional sectors where, in many cases, workers have been able to fight for job quality through decades of collective action.

Government investment should come with conditions that ensure fair wages and benefits, work security, safe working conditions, opportunities for training and advancement, the right to organize, and accessibility to all.

Read the text (PDF).

The ATU says Damning IPCC Report Shows Need for Transformative Change and a Green New Deal

By Staff - Amalgamated Transit Union, August 11, 2021

Silver Spring, MD - A grave report recently released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change, stressed the limited time we have to mitigate the irrevocable effects of climate change including more investment in public transit says the Amalgamated Transit Union, the largest union representing transit workers in North America.

The report that Secretary General of the UN Antonio Gutteres called a “code red for humanity,” said that it is now indisputable that human influence has caused unprecedented warming and that the situation is almost certain to worsen for decades to come. Low-lying lands and coastal communities are extremely vulnerable, and oceans could very likely rise as high as two meters.

“This report cements the urgent cries that we have been hearing throughout the past several years for transformative change and a Green New Deal that needs to include things such as heavily expanding and investing in our public transit systems and putting forward measures that eases workers into a just transition,” said ATU International President John Costa. “Anything less could be disastrous and leave millions behind in a worst-case scenario.”

“With a potential election looming, the ATU is calling on politicians from all parties in Canada to step up and implement the drastic changes we need to ensure that future generations can lead livable and sustainable lives,” said ATU Canada President John Di Nino.

Transit Equity Network Calls on Congress to Pass Legislation that Truly Supports Accessible, Safe and Equitable Transit in Support of H.R.3744

By Judy Asman - Labor Network for Sustainability, July 20, 2021

The network of transit riders, community organizations, environmental groups, and labor unions responsible for organizing Transit Equity Day annually on Rosa Parks’ birthday to declare transit equity as a civil right have issued an Open Letter to Congress in support H.R. 3744, the “Stronger Communities Through Better Transit Act,” drafted by Rep. Henry C. (Hank) Johnson (D: GA-04) and introduced to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in early June. Twenty-five organizations have signed on to the letter including the Amalgamated Transit Union, Institute for Policy Studies Climate Policy Program, the Sierra Club, the NAACP Niagara Falls Branch, Central Florida Climate Action, Pittsburghers for Public Transit, and the Labor Network for Sustainability.

“We see transit equity as a civil right, workers’ right and climate-justice issue; and are committed to ensuring equitable access to public transit throughout the United States. Expanding public transit can help combat the causes of climate change and also fight economic injustice by providing greater accessibility in marginalized communities and ample training and job growth for transit workers,” the letter says. It adds:

“H.R. 3744, would authorize $20 billion annually from fiscal years 2023 through 2026 in operating assistance to transit agencies to improve frequencies, extend service hours, or add new high-frequency transit service. It also aims to prioritize that service to disadvantaged communities, areas of persistent poverty, and places with inadequate transit services.

“Workers and communities need better access to affordable, reliable public transit to meet essential needs and to help address climate disruption. Our economy will not grow without it. Communities of color will continue to be disproportionately left behind—today, people of color comprise 60 percent of transit ridership. Transit workers will continue to shoulder the pressures that come with infrequent bus service, lack of safety in transition beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, and possible job loss when new technologies are implemented without proper worker training. The Stronger Communities Through Better Transit Act will not single-handedly ensure transit equity; however, it is a critical step in securing a more reliable, safe, and frequent transit future for communities across the country.”

Grieving Transit Local Has Been Leading Fights for Safety and Service Restoration

By Staff - Labor Notes, May 28, 2021

We join the whole labor movement in mourning the nine brothers and sisters from Transit (ATU) Local 265 and SEIU Local 521 who were killed on May 26 in a mass shooting at a workplace union meeting.

At an emotional candlelight vigil last night at San Jose city hall, Local 265 President John Courtney—who was meeting with members when the shooting broke out—told the crowd: “Hold each other, love each other, hug each other. Kiss each other when you get home from the end of the day. We’re all we’ve got.

“These aren’t names to us. These are people we know, and we love, and we’ve seen every single day of our working lives, and it really, really hurts down to the very core of our souls. So please, ATU, let’s do what we do and stand with each other, for each other, by each other.”

Nationally it’s the third workplace shooting in two months, which is unusually high.

This particular local has been important in waging fights on behalf of transit workers and riders across the entire San Francisco Bay Area. The union fought with the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) to restore fare-free rear-door boarding in January, when Covid cases were spiking in San Jose. Rank-and-file bus drivers forced management’s hand when they started planning to stop boarding at the front door whether the agency agreed or not.

After that victory, Courtney said his union’s 1,500 members had “seen with their own eyes how important it is to be unified within our union, and to have the support of other unions and the community to win what we need.”

That victory inspired a bigger current campaign that has united six Bay Area transit locals with their riders to fight for the immediate release of $1.7 billion in transit rescue funds. Courtney told Labor Notes after a May 6 rally, “It means a lot that the community has our back.”

Bay Area Transit Workers and Riders Demand to Unlock $1.7 Billion Already Earmarked for Jobs and Bus Service

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