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Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU)

Texas Union Activists Fight 'Microtransit' Privatization

By Joe DeManuelle-Hall - Labor Notes, March 8, 2022

When “microtransit,” the new rage in transit privatization, showed up in Denton, Texas, union activists decided to fight back.

Microtransit is a loosely defined term that combines on-demand service with flexible scheduling and routes—imagine replacing a bus system with shared Ubers. It is presented as a high-tech alternative to public transit, but in reality it’s an extension of the drive to privatize.

Some local governments around the country have already handed off operations of their public transit systems to large private operators like Keolis and MV Transportation. This move takes it one step further: dumping the buses and bus drivers altogether.

MICRO-PRIVATIZATION

Denton is a small city in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, home to two universities. The Denton County Transportation Authority operates buses and a light rail line in Denton and two neighboring cities.

The mayor and the transit agency began exploring alternatives to the existing transit system several years ago, nominally to save money. In 2020, Dallas’s transit system adopted a microtransit pilot, contracting with Uber to provide the service. Following their lead, Denton sought out microtransit and decided to go with a company called Via, a former competitor to Uber and Lyft that got iced out of the rideshare market and rebranded itself as a microtransit company. It has since chased after cities and counties, offering to supplant their public transit systems.

And that’s exactly what Via set out to do in Denton: replace all fixed-route bus service with on-demand vehicles driven by independent contractors who are hailed by an app. Drivers operate rented vehicles that they’re responsible for. For the DCTA, this comes with the benefit of getting rid of the existing unionized workforce and the capital investment that comes with maintaining and operating a bus system.

New Maine Labor Climate Council Calls for Jobs Protecting the Climate

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, March 2022

A dozen Maine unions launched a new coalition this March to push for pro-labor environmental initiatives. The coalition, called the Maine Labor Climate Council, includes:

  • Amalgamated Transit Union Local 714
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 490, 567, 1253, 2327 and 104
  • International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornament & Reinforcing Iron Workers Local 7
  • International Union of Operating Engineers Local 4
  • International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, District Council 35
  • North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters, Locals 349 and 352
  • Laborers’ International Union Local 327
  • Maine AFL-CIO
  • Maine Education Association
  • Maine State Building and Construction Trades Council
  • Maine Service Employees Association SEIU 1989
  • Southern Maine Labor Council

According to Maine AFL-CIO President Cynthia Phinney, “The twin crises of climate change and inequality demand bold and urgent action.”

Workers and Riders Unite for Transit Equity Day

By Bakari Height - Labor Network for Sustainability, March 2022

For the past four years on February 4, Labor Network for Sustainability and a network of transit rider unions, community organizations, environmental groups and labor unions have organized Transit Equity Day (TED)–a national day of action to commemorate the birthday of Rosa Parks by declaring public transit a civil right. This year, TED made a big splash. Two states (Wisconsin and Minnesota) passed formal proclamations that declared February 4th Transit Equity Day—as did dozens of cities. Local transit activists organized more than 60 events across the country, LNS hosted a massive livestream, and we launched a transit equity workforce investment report with some of our partners!

This year, Transit Equity Day showcased many of the local transit organizers and their heroic efforts in making sure that Transit Equity remains a top priority in planning and maintaining our transit systems. Whether it was Fort Wayne, Indiana, Buffalo, New York, Atlanta, or Wisconsin, our network put Transit Equity front and center. And thanks for special guest appearances by Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Department of Transportation Administrator Nuria Fernandez – see the Secretary interview the Administrator at https://twitter.com/SecretaryPete/status/1489634427630141444?s=20&t=EJ9WFljXJeUkxa35CtziSg

Let’s continue to make our voices louder and our presence stronger.

Labor unions form new group to combat climate change in Maine

By Nicole Ogrysko - Maine Public Radio, March 1, 2022

Labor unions in Maine say they have a lot of ideas on how the state can combat climate change and create clean energy jobs.

More than a dozen unions have created a new Maine Labor Climate Council, which they officially launched Tuesday. The unions say Maine has an opportunity to tackle climate change, the economic fallout from the pandemic and income inequality all at once.

The unions partnered with Cornell University to study climate change and have set 11 goals for creating clean-energy jobs in Maine.

They recommend Maine build high-speed rail service to Bangor, install 25,000 public electric vehicle charging stations by 2030, and retrofit half of all residential units around the state with more energy efficient materials.

They also suggest installing solar panels at Maine's K-12 schools and electrifying school and city buses.

Cynthia Phinney, president of Maine AFL-CIO, said the recommendations could generate 10,000-to-20,000 jobs per year for the next two decades in Maine, depending on how far the state takes them.

"As we create a roadmap to transition to a planet-sustaining economy, we see the opportunities to create good jobs that help end that economic divide," she told reporters Tuesday. "As the transition will impact what works get done and how it will get done, we see the necessity of bringing labor's voice to the center of plans to transition."

Mike Frager, a bus driver for the City of Portland and the vice president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 714, said Maine needs to expand public transportation routes and invest in more electric vehicles. Workers, he said, have the best ideas on how to make those investments successful.

"We're the eyes and ears on the ground who will keep the new electric buses running smoothly in Maine's cold winters and on our salty roads," Frager said. "We know best how to expand our transit system so that quality jobs will keep our kids in Maine."

The new council has met with members of Gov. Janet Mills' administration, said Matt Schlobohm, the council's new executive director. The council's report dovetails nicely with the goals outlined in the governor's "Maine Won't Wait" action plan, he added.

"The piece that we really bring to the table is a laser focus on how do we advance job quality standards and equity in these jobs that will be coming online," Scholbohm said. "To date, a lot of the renewable energy jobs in Maine and across the country have been OK jobs, pretty meager benefits in some places, and comparatively with fossil fuels, not the same level of quality jobs. We need to raise that up. We have a tremendous opportunity, but it only happens if we attach job quality standards, if we attach training requirements and we organize workers in these sectors."

Members of the new climate council include the Maine AFL-CIO, the Maine Education Association and the Maine Service Employees Association, among others.

Phinney said the new council will launch a targeted campaign this spring, which will urge the state to invest in carbon-free schools and buildings.

Note: Most of Maine Public's news staff are represented by the MEA.

Transit Workers Deserve Hazard Pay

By Joty Dhaliwal and Nathan Swedlow - Labor Notes, February 15, 2022

Throughout the pandemic, transit workers have kept our cities in motion. In California’s East Bay, even when most residents were isolating at home, AC Transit bus operators were on the front lines ensuring that people could get where they needed to go, including to other essential jobs.

Bus operators spend hours every day in close contact with strangers. More than 200 transit workers have perished from Covid, including members of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and the Transport Workers Union.

Despite this tragedy, and while it has touted their essential work in the press, AC Transit has yet to award hazard pay to front-line employees. The agency currently has a budget surplus of well over $66 million dollars, thanks to the federal relief money it received.

The following photographs and testimonials are taken from four interviews where members of East Bay Democratic Socialists of America spoke with AC Transit bus operators about their experiences on the front lines of the pandemic and the largely unacknowledged sacrifices and risks that come with the job.

Invest in Transit Equity, Invest in Transit Workers

By Julie Chinitz, et. al - Alliance for a Just Society, the Labor Network for Sustainability, and TransitCenter, February 2022

On Transit Equity Day 2022, Transit Riders and Workers Join Together to Call for Prioritizing Workforce Investments

A new report by the Alliance for a Just Society, the Labor Network for Sustainability, and TransitCenter shows how inadequate investments in our public transit workforce have resulted in service cuts in cities, towns, and states across the country. Investments in the public transit workforce are urgently needed to boost economic opportunity and racial equity in our communities.

The report, released on Transit Equity Day, February 4, 2022, notes how inadequate investments in job quality, the aging transit workforce, and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have reduced transit staffing levels, and left many public transit systems unable to meet the needs of the communities they serve. That’s a problem for the millions of people in cities and rural communities across the country who rely on public transit every day.

The report also includes recommendations to help rebuild a strong transit workforce in communities across the country. The report emphasizes that the starting point to addressing any workforce problem is to engage in a dialogue with transit employees themselves, through their democratically elected union representatives, as well as riders and other community stakeholders. Operators, maintenance employees, and other transit workers know better than anyone how to improve job quality in order to hire and retain a skilled, stable and professional transit workforce. Labor-management negotiations can forge the most appropriate policy solutions to providing safe and healthy environments for transit workers; improving their working conditions; expanding access to good transit jobs; and ensuring workers have the skills and training needed to adapt to modernization efforts like electrification.

Read the full report below, including detailed recommendations for building a stable, skilled, and experienced public transit workforce.

About the Alliance for a Just Society

The Alliance for a Just Society’s National Campaign for Transit Justice is working to ensure just transit drives the future of the economy. Started in response to the emergency faced by public transit systems around the country during the pandemic, we mobilize riders, transit workers, small businesses, and transit agencies to #SaveTransit. Learn more at allianceforajustsociety.org

About Labor Network for Sustainability

Founded in 2009, the Labor Network for Sustainability sets out to be a relentless force for urgent, science-based climate action by building a powerful labor-climate movement to secure an ecologically sustainable and economically just future where everyone can make a living on a living planet. Since 2018, LNS has convened the Transit Equity Network joining together transit riders, workers, environmental and environmental and climate justice organizations to host actions on Feb. 4, Transit Equity Day, recognizing public transit as a civil rights, workers’ rights and climate justice issue. Learn more at www.labor4sustainability.org. Learn more about Transit Equity Day.

About TransitCenter

TransitCenter is an applied research and advocacy foundation dedicated to improving transit in major US cities. Learn more at transitcenter.org.

Read the text (PDF).

Bay Area Transit Workers Organize for Hazard Pay, Build toward Contract Campaigns

By Elana Kessler and Richard Marcantonio - Labor Notes, January 21, 2022

Oakland transit worker Connie McFarland drove home after a long shift last July 28 and logged onto Zoom for a board meeting of her employer, AC Transit. She joined a chorus of 40 workers and riders who held up the start of the agenda with nearly two hours of public comment.

Their demand: hazard pay for frontline transit workers.

Bus operator Sultana Adams, an assistant shop steward with Transit (ATU) Local 192, described the trauma of an assault by a rider who spat in her face. McFarland told the board, “We really would like to have some form of appreciation that’s more than lip service.”

By coming together around this popular demand, Bay Area transit workers built power across unions in the lead-up to their contract campaigns and fought to improve transit for their riders.

Building a Just Transition for a Resilient Future: A Climate Jobs Program for Rhode Island

By Lara Skinner, J. Mijin Cha, Avalon Hoek Spaans, Hunter Moskowitz, and Anita Raman - The Worker Institute and The ILR School, January 2022

A new report released today by climate and labor experts at Cornell University in collaboration with the Climate Jobs Rhode Island Coalition outlines a comprehensive climate jobs action plan to put Rhode Island on the path to building an equitable and resilient clean-energy economy.

The report lays out a series of wide-ranging policy recommendations to transition the Ocean State’s building, school, energy, transportation, and adaptation sectors to renewable energy with the strongest labor and equity standards. Core provisions of the plan include decarbonizing the state’s K-12 public school buildings, installing 900 MW of solar energy statewide, 1,300 MW of offshore wind energy, and modernizing the state’s electrical grid by 2030. 

“Rhode Island is in a unique position as a state, in 2019 it had the lowest energy consumption per capita across all the United States. Rhode Island can use climate change as an opportunity to eliminate carbon emissions, increase equity, and create high-quality jobs that support working families and frontline communities,” says Avalon Hoek Spaans, Research and Policy Development Extension Associate for the Labor Leading on Climate Initiative at the Worker Institute, Cornell ILR School and one of the authors of the report.

The Worker Institute’s Labor Leading on Climate Initiative in partnership with the Climate Jobs National Resource Center, and Climate Jobs Rhode Island, began a comprehensive research, educational, and policy process in early 2021 to develop an implementation framework to drastically reduce emissions in the state while creating high-quality union family sustaining jobs.

Over the past year, the Labor Leading on Climate team has conducted outreach to numerous leaders of the labor and environmental movements as well as policymakers and experts in the climate, energy, and labor fields to better understand the challenges and opportunities that climate change and climate mitigation and adaptation presents to Rhode Island workers and unions.

“With Rhode Island on the frontlines of the climate crisis, it will take bold, ambitious action to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollution to the levels that science demands. Fortunately, tackling climate change is also an opportunity to address the other crises Rhode Island is facing: inequality and pandemic recovery,” says Lara Skinner, Director, Labor Leading on Climate Initiative, at the Worker Institute, Cornell ILR School and one of the authors of the report.

“As a small state with one of the lowest emissions in the country, Rhode Island can be innovative and efficient, employing cutting-edge approaches to reverse climate change and inequality. Rhode Island has the potential to be the first state in the country to fully decarbonize and build out a net zero economy with high-quality union jobs. This would make Rhode Island's economy stronger, fairer, and more inclusive,” says Lara Skinner, Director, Labor Leading on Climate Initiative, at the Worker Institute, Cornell ILR School and one of the authors of the report.

Read the text (PDF).

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.

Viewpoint: Climate Justice Must Be a Top Priority for Labor

By Peter Knowlton and John Braxton - Labor Notes, September 21, 2021

Today’s existential crisis for humanity is the immediate need to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy. All of us have to. Everywhere. For workers and for our communities there is no more pressing matter than this.

We need to begin a discussion among co-workers, creating demands and acting on them at the workplace and bargaining table. We need to show up at local union meetings, central labor councils, and town halls supporting demands that move us toward a fossil fuel-free future.

At the same time, we need to protect the incomes and benefits of workers affected by the transition off of fossil fuels and to make sure they have real training opportunities. And we need to restore and elevate those communities that have been sacrificed for fossil fuel extraction, production, and distribution. We should promote candidates for elected office who support legislation which puts those aspirations into practice, such as the Green New Deal.

If the labor movement does not take the lead in pushing for a fair and just transition, one of these futures awaits us: (1) the world will either fail to make the transition to renewable energy and scorch us all, or (2) the working class will once again be forced to make all of the sacrifices in the transition.

The time is long past ripe for U.S. unions and our leaders to step up and use our collective power in our workplaces, in our communities, and in the streets to deal with these crises. That means we need to break out of the false choice between good union jobs and a livable environment.

There are no jobs on a dead planet. Social, economic, and environmental justice movements can provide some pressure to mitigate the crises, but how can we succeed if the labor movement and the environmental movement continue to allow the fossil fuel industry to pit us against each other? Rather than defending industries that need to be transformed, labor needs to insist that the transition to a renewable energy economy include income protection, investment in new jobs in communities that now depend on fossil fuels, retraining for those new jobs, and funds to give older workers a bridge to retirement.

Like any change of technology or work practice in a shop, if the workers affected don’t receive sufficient guarantees of income, benefits, and protections their support for it, regardless of the urgency, will suffer.

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