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transportation workers

They killed themselves with greed: How a strike stopped privatization in DC’s Metro

By Ray Valentine - Organizing Work, December 29, 2019

Ray Valentine describes how a scheme to cut labor costs in the DC-area transit system through privatization backfired when workers at the private subcontractor went on strike.

On October 24, 120 bus operators, mechanics, and other workers represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 walked off the job at the Cinder Bed Road MetroBus garage in Lorton, Virginia, launching the first strike to hit the Washington, DC metro area’s mass transit system in more than 40 years. The strike was unplanned and small — small enough that it won’t show up in the federal government’s tally of work stoppages — and after more than two months, workers are still out with no settlement in sight. But even though the issues that provoked the dispute have not been resolved, the fight has led to major changes that have strengthened the position of workers throughout the transit system.

The buses out of Cinder Bed drive routes that are part of the Washington Metro system and the workers wear Metro uniforms, but the garage is operated by Transdev, a French multinational. The garage was outsourced as part of a long-term plan by Metro management to cut costs by contracting out as many services as possible in order to drive down labor costs. The strike began as a fairly straightforward economic conflict over wages and benefits, and the union’s ambitions going into it were modest. But on December 13, the union and Metro reached a deal that would halt further privatization and even bring some services that have already been outsourced back in-house. 

The result is a rare win for labor, but it’s not entirely clear how it happened, even to the people who won it.

Reinvent Transport for Reduced Emissions and More Jobs

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

By Ian Angus - Climate and Capitalism, February 16, 2014 (used by permission)

Cutting greenhouse gas emissions will throw millions of people out of work! That claim has made many working people reluctant to support action to slow climate change. But is it true?

Our Jobs, Our Planet, a report written in 2011 by Jonathan Neale for the European Transport Workers Federation, argues the opposite, that changing the ways that goods and people are moved can reduce emissions from the transport sector by 80% while creating over 12 million new jobs – 7 million in transportation and 5 million in renewable energy.

The author of Stop Global Warming, Change the World writes that such a program will be a big win for workers and for the planet: “there are more than 40 million people out of work in Europe now. The planet needs help. They need work. If we succeed, we can solve both problems at once.”

(Working Paper #12) The Road Lest Travelled: Reclaiming Public Transport for Climate-Ready Mobility

By Sean Sweeney and John Treat - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, May 2019

This working paper examines some of the key questions at the heart of climate-related debates on transport, and around passenger road transport in particular. It also looks at some of the more important issues surrounding public transport specifically, and the failure of neoliberal transport policy to improve and expand public transport in ways that fulfill its full social and environmental potential.

Part One: Mobility Rising: Transport, Energy and Emissions Trends

In Part One of this paper, we survey the current trends in energy, transportation and emissions. Although emissions continue to rise across the global economy, transport-related emissions are growing faster than those of other major sectors. Transport is now responsible for almost one-third of final energy demand and nearly two-thirds of oil demand. It is also responsible for nearly one-quarter of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the use of fuel. This means that controlling and reducing CO2 emissions from cars, trucks, and motorcycles must become a policy priority.

Part Two: Neoliberal Transport and Climate Policy at the Crossroads

In this part, we review the policy landscape, including how transport-related emissions from the transport sector are addressed in the Paris Climate Agreement—which is hardly at all. We show that neoliberal climate policy has failed to make any real progress in addressing transport-related emissions, while at the same time preventing public transport from realizing its potential, mainly due to the insistence on a “public-private partnership” model in a futile effort to “unlock” private investment.

Part Three: The Electric Car—Myths and Realities

We summarize the myths and realities surrounding electric cars, and highlight some of the major issues associated with their possible mass deployment. We show that common assumptions about the role of private EVs in the future of sustainable mobility are not at all consistent with what is actually happening, what is likely to happen in the future, or with what is even possible or desirable from a trade union perspective.

Part Four: Taming the Transport Network Companies (TNCs): From Uberization to Enhanced Public Mobility for All

In Part Four, we look at the rise of TNCs and other recent developments and trends in urban transport. This has triggered a global debate on “new mobility services.” In this part of the paper we argue that TNCs currently undercut public transport systems and contribute to traffic congestion and often increase emissions. But the same “platform technologies” that gave us Uber and similar companies can become integrated into public transport systems in ways that complement traditional public transport modes and reduce dependence on private vehicles.

Part Five: Shifting Gears: A Trade Union Agenda for Low-Carbon Public Mobility

Finally, we summarize some of the climate-related arguments that unions can use in their fight to defend, expand and improve public transport. We believe these arguments are consistent with the values and priorities of many transport unions and progressive trade unionism in general.

The authors hope this paper will encourage unions representing workers in all sectors to deepen their discussions around the future of transport—to join the conversation about what public transport can and should look like in future, and what needs to happen in order to bring that vision to reality.

Read the report (PDF).

Flight attendants know the real job killer isn’t the Green New Deal. It’s climate change

By Sara Nelson - Vox, April 17, 2019

“Pretty much everyone on the plane threw up” is not a sentence most travelers want to hear.

But that’s a direct quote from the pilots’ report after United Express Flight 3833 operated by Air Wisconsin hit extreme turbulence on approach to Washington, DC, in 2018.

Extreme turbulence is on the rise around the world. It isn’t just nauseating or scary — it’s dangerous.

In June 2017, nine passengers and a crew member were hospitalized after extreme turbulence rocked their United Airlines flight from Panama City to Houston.

A few weeks ago, a Delta Connection flight operated by Compass Airlines from Orange County, California, to Seattle hit turbulence so sudden and fierce, the flight attendant serving drinks — and the 300-pound drink cart — was slammed against the ceiling of the plane. The flight attendant’s arm was broken and three passengers were hospitalized.

In my 23 years as a flight attendant and president of our union representing 50,000 others, I know firsthand the threat climate change poses to our safety and our jobs. But flight attendants and airline workers have been told by some pundits that the Green New Deal, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey’s environmental proposal, will ground all air travel.

That’s absurd. It’s not the solutions to climate change that kills jobs. Climate change itself is the job killer.

TUC Congress 2017: UK Unions to Vote on Public Ownership of Energy, Climate Crisis

By staff - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, August 25, 2017

The annual conference of the 5.7 million member TUC will take place on September 10-13, 2017 in Brighton.  The Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union (BAFWU) has submitted a resolution that calls on the TUC to “work with the Labour Party and others that advocate for an end to the UK’s rigged energy system to bring it back into public ownership and democratic control.”  Amendments to the resolution have been submitted by the Communication Workers Union,  Fire Brigades Union, the train drivers union ASLEF, and the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association. 

Resolution 10

Congress notes the irrefutable evidence that dangerous climate change is driving unprecedented changes to our environment such as the devastating flooding witnessed in the UK in 2004.

Congress further notes the risk to meeting the challenge of climate change with the announcement of Donald Trump to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement. Similarly, Brexit negotiations and incoherent UK government policy risk undermining measures to achieve the UK carbon reduction targets.

Congress welcomes the report by the Transnational Institute Reclaiming Public Services: how cities and citizens are turning back privatization, which details the global trend to remunicipalise public services including energy.

Congress believes that to combat climate change effectively and move towards a low-carbon economy we cannot leave this to the markets and therefore need a strong role for the public sector in driving the measures needed to undertake this transition.

Indonesian Uber Drivers Fight Back with Anarcho-Syndicalism

By staff - Black Rose Anarchist Federation, January 30, 2018

As the “uberization” of the US economy continues, along with it is an ever precarious workforce struggling to make ends meet in the dog-eat-dog world of the so-called “sharing economy.” This trend is the same around the world, with Uber claiming to have more than two million drivers in over 80 counties across the globe now.

In Indonesia these conditions are little different. But radical unionists are hoping to change this and are organizing to take back their dignity, better pay and conditions and for great control over their work and lives. Kommunitas Uber Mainstream, abbreviated KUMAN which means ‘bacteria,’was formed by three Uber motorcycle drivers in the Spring of 2017. They have since crafted a list of 14 demands, led four one-day strikes and have grown to a membership of 6,000 drivers. All but two are male in the male dominated field of drivers. KUMAN is structured horizontally with regional sections meeting regularly in parks or other available spaces to discuss strategy and in turn chose delegates to larger general meetings. The union has no dues and supports itself largely by sale of stickers and t-shirts. Drivers can become members by proving they are an active driver and answering three basic questions: 1. What’s your perspective on this group?, 2. Are you a freedom fighter or a loser? and 3. What do you know about what working with Uber is like? KUMAN works together with Persaudaraan Pekerja Anarko-Sindikalis (PPAS), the two-year old anarcho-syndicalist initiative in Indonesia and an affiliate of the International Workers Association (IWA). The majority of the union has decided to adopt the ideas and strategies of anarcho-syndicalism for their struggle, although other political tendencies exist within the union.

KUMAN is continuing to escalate the fight for justice at Uber, with more strikes and actions planned. We hope that this interview will help inspire solidarity with their cause, so that workers around the world will answer KUMAN’s next call for action and join in putting pressure on Uber. We particularly hope that other rideshare and sharing economy workers will learn from the experiences we share here and connect with KUMAN drivers to build international networks of struggle and organization.

We were excited to be able to talk with Enrique, an Uber driver from Jakarta, Indonesia who was one of the initial three founders of KUMAN. We were also joined by Ricardo, originally from Surabaya, Indonesia but now living in Melbourne, Australia. He works in retail grocery and is active with the Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation – IWA. The interview was conducted by Jesus, a Los Angeles based healthcare worker with Black Rose/Rosa Negra. The three sat down together in a cramped Hong Kong hostel room to talk about the situation of Uber drivers in Indonesia now and how anarchist ideas are being applied to build workers power among drivers in Indonesia.

Please note that for purposes of translation, clarity, and length this interview has been heavy edited.

Cutting Off 'Fly-Over' States, Trump to Axe Amtrak for 220 Cities

By Lauren McCauley - Common Dreams, April 6, 2017

In addition to slashing funding for the arts, education programs, climate change research, and worker protections (among many other things), another lesser known casualty of President Donald Trump's "morally obscene" budget proposal: Amtrak.

The president's so-called "skinny budget" will eliminate all federal funding for Amtrak's national train network, meaning 220 cities will lose all passenger service, the  National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) warned this week.

"It's ironic that President Trump's first budget proposal undermines the very communities whose economic hardship and sense of isolation from the rest of the country helped propel him into office," said NARP president Jim Mathews.

"These working class communities—many of them located in the Midwest and the South—were tired of being treated like 'flyover country,'" Mathews continued. "But by proposing the elimination of Amtrak's long distance trains, the Trump administration does them one worse, cutting a vital service that connects these small town economies to the rest of the U.S.."

"These hard working, small town Americans," he added, "don't have airports or Uber to turn to; they depend on these trains."

Specifically, Trump's proposal slashes $2.4 billion (or 13 percent) from transportation spending, threatening long distance routes including the east coast's Silver Star and Silver Meteor lines, the New York-Chicago Cardinal train service, the Empire Builder, which connects Chicago to the Pacific Northwest, as well as the effort to restore the Gulf Coast line.

In addition to cutting Amtrak's national network—which provides the only connection to the national network for 23 states and 144.6 million Americans—it also cuts $2.3 billion in funding for new transit and commuter rail projects that would have provided thousands of construction and long-term job opportunities.

Further, in one of her first official acts, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao indefinitely suspended a grant which would have provided funding for two electric, high-speed rail lines in California: one which would have run from Los Angeles to San Francisco and the other a Bay Area commuter line.

Mathews noted that the cuts come at the same time that Trump continues to "promise that our tax dollars will be invested in rebuilding America's infrastructure."

"Instead," he continued, "we have seen an all-out assault on any project—public and private—that would advance passenger rail. These cuts and delays are costing the U.S. thousands of good-paying construction and manufacturing jobs in America's heartland at this very moment."

Trump's planned infrastructure investment has been largely panned as a "huge tax giveaway for the rich," as it will largely go to subsidizing developers and investors rather than be used for much needed projects and services.

RMT union puts anarchist in charge of London

By anonymous - Freedom, January 15, 2017

Freedom has received the following, written by an anonymous railway worker with the RMT union

At the beginning of this year the RMT elected Andy Littlechild (pictured right), a longstanding anarchist and member of the Solidarity Federation (Solfed), to the RMT union’s National Executive Council as its London transport representative.

The role, which lasts for three years, takes responsibility for the entire battlezone of London Underground including trains, stations, engineers, all ancillary staff and contracted companies, along with Transport for London, Docklands Light Railway, Black Cabs and even Boris Bikes.

Andy, who’s worked for many years as a Tube track worker and union rep, stood unopposed for the position and was duly elected after receiving nominations from every RMT branch in the constituency. His unopposed win was generally linked to Andy’s perceived militancy and non-sectarian approach to organising, which endeared him to RMT’s London activist base and gave him a clear run.

Being elected in this way is not without its downside as it meant there was no election involving the members; and is equally controversial given a general trend of anarchist disdain for full-time union positions, not least within SolFed itself, which bars full-time union officers from membership.

Ed’s note: SolFed, and other anarchist groups, see trade union bureaucracy as taking agency out of the hands of workers and transferring it to people who are not at the site of, or affected by, the struggle taking place. The full-timer’s wages and community ties are linked to a national-level body removed from direct struggle, and their role is therefore based on what’s best for the institution, rather than the workers.
(For more on SolFed and anarcho-syndicalist thinking, try Fighting For Ourselves online|book)

Whether Andy’s decision to engage with the RMT’s executive will be productive or not is yet to be seen. The test will be in how and whether he manages to preserve his class-based anarchist politics in practice against the relentless industrial and political warfare in London, especially on the Tube where he has walked straight into the bitter, escalating dispute and strike activity around staffing stations, as well as several smaller skirmishes which are developing there as I write — and how Andy preserves his politics likewise in his dealings within the hierarchy of the RMT.

One thing we can say is only the RMT would put a known anarchist in charge of London.

Edit: There is one other union which has elected an openly anarchist member to a major position in recent times — Donnacha DeLong was president of the National Union of Journalists from 2011-12 and still sits on its NEC.

How a Railway Workers Union Won New Technology That Improves Jobs and Reduces Greenhouse Gases

By Karl (Fritz) Edler, BLET Div. 482, retired, Special Rep, Railroad Workers United, Washington, DC - Labor Network for Sustainability, December 16, 2016

This is the story of one group of workers who used their union to improve their own conditions – and fight climate change – by proposing and winning their own plan for investment in improved technology. It provides an inspiring example of how workers and their unions can take their own action to reduce their employer’s greenhouse gas emissions while improving their own jobs.

Union railroad workers at Amtrak’s Washington, DC terminal use “small platform” locomotives to make up and service passenger and commuter trains. These diesel-electric locomotives use diesel engines to generate the electricity that is used to provide the motive power.  Their small size is a key advantage in the close quarters of terminal yard operations.  The units that are currently in use are almost a half-century old, and are far behind modern standards and goals for diesel emissions.

Several years ago the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, through its DC State Legislative Board, foresaw a looming dilemma. Without action, these aging diesel-powered locomotives would be kept in service with as little maintenance as possible until they were beyond recovery. At that point they would be replaced — with the lowest price most likely being the prime consideration.

This meant that the workforce and the public would endure ever-worsening diesel particulate emissions as long as the highly-polluting engines were kept in service. When they would finally replaced, the replacement locomotives would not have the kinds of work qualities needed for best practices in train operations.  Replacement units would most likely be harder and more unwieldy to work.

The union’s State Legislative Board devised a plan to modernize the locomotives now with more energy-efficient engines using an advanced technology known as “gen-sets.” That would reduce pollution and provide higher work life quality while reducing fuel costs. It would also preserve the “small platform” that made terminal train operations safer and easier.

The Union approached the Washington, DC area Council of Governments (MWCoG) to put together a proposal to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA had an existing grant program to replace diesel powered equipment with less polluting equipment.

Edinburgh IWW statement on Scotrail/RMT railworkers strikes

By Staff - Edinburgh IWW, June 28, 2016

The Edinburgh Branch of the IWW extends our solidarity to Scotrail workers and RMT members across Britain over the issue of Driver Only Operated (DOO) trains . We support this strike on the principle of an Injury to One is an Injury to All.

The move to DOO trains will mean  that without conductors, drivers cannot ensure the safety of passengers(especially the disabled) and further , drivers are put in a more risky and dangerous position themselves. Clearly Scotrail and other train companies across Britain are putting profit before safety, describing this move as  “competitive” and “modernisation” and looking behind the rhetoric we  can see that this is an attempt to open the way to future attacks on  jobs and conditions.

This attack, this putting profit before people is  in essence no different from the 19th century workhouse-like  conditions of Sports Direct warehouses or the recent cuts in hours and pay for retail workers with the increased Minimum Wage.All we can  learn from these instances is what should be by now plainly obvious- that the working class and the employing class have nothing in common. Our interests are not just different but opposing factors within  society.

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