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Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU)

A win for Pittsburgh public transit

By Paul Le Blanc and Jonah McAllister-Erickson - Socialist Worker, August 5, 2015

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.

The authors of this article are long-time members of Pittsburghers for Public Transit; views expressed here are not necessarily those of the organization as a whole.

SINCE PORT Authority of Allegheny County (PAAC) cut 15 percent of its service, residents of Baldwin, Mooncrest and Groveton--working-class suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania--had to walk two miles, over roads with no sidewalks, just to catch the bus.

But on September 8, Baldwin residents active in the struggle of "Buses for Baldwin" and Groveton residents who pushed for service in their county housing authority will be riding the first restored buses, celebrating the sweetness of the victory.

The battle for public transit has been often been an uphill struggle under both Democratic and Republican administrations at the city, county, state and federal levels. Lessons from the Pittsburghers for Public Transit (PPT) campaigns might be useful for others struggling for economic justice today and tomorrow.

Amalgamated Transit Union President Larry Hanley has pointed to Pittsburghers for Public Transit as a model for those defending public transit throughout the country, especially for the ways the organization unites transit riders and workers in its campaigns.

Since the 1980s, business interests and the right wing have crusaded for even more aggressive policies of laissez-faire capitalism (sometimes called neoliberalism). Public services--won over the years through struggles by working people--have been the target of late. Their successful efforts have cut funding for public transit systems, public education, public housing, public parks and libraries, the public postal service and more.

This, combined with a push to lower taxes for the rich and stagnant or diminished wages of working people, resulted in a shrinking tax base that often made public services shabby and inadequate. Right-wing ideologues create the problem, then insist that "privatization" and "market mechanisms" are the solution. But this makes things worse--capitalism functions not to meet the needs of the majority of people, but to maximize profits for private business owners.

The Pittsburgh Port Authority, in consultation with an "economizing" Democratic County executive, Dan Onorato, had already made severe cuts in 2007, and in 2010 approved a new 15 percent cut in service. In autumn 2010, Tom Corbett, a conservative Republican candidate promising pro-business tax cuts and budget tightening, ran for governor of Pennsylvania. His Democratic opponent was the very same Allegheny County executive who had twice cut public transit service. The Republican won.

In January 2011, budget proposals by Gov. Corbett projected an additional 35 percent cut in Pittsburgh's transit service. Right-wing elements argued that transit workers had been too greedy, that public transit was inefficient and unsustainable, and that privatization would provide a solution.

(Working Paper #4) Power to the People: Toward Democratic Control of Electricity Generation

Press Release - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, June 24, 2015

Unions welcome new report highlighting the need to ‘reclaim’ and democratize the energy system and to promote publicly owned renewable power

Globally, the energy system is failing to protect workers and communities.  Airborne and water pollution levels are out of control, especially in Asia. Energy-related emissions continue to rise as more fossil-based power comes on line. Union leaders say the struggle for democratic control of electrical power generation is central to the struggle for a healthier, safer and fairer world. A major scale-up of publicly owned but democratically controlled renewable power is required. Public renewable power will make it possible to conserve energy, control and then reduce demand, and begin to make transport as well as electrical power less dependent on fossil fuels. A truly “just transition” for workers and communities will require re-asserting the public good over private greed.

A new Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED) working paper titled Power to the People: Toward Democratic Control of Electricity Generation shows how “another energy is possible, and absolutely necessary.” It succinctly explains the failure of profit-driven approaches to either emissions reductions or controlling energy demand. The TUED paper, published by the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung–New York Office, examines the actual and potential content behind the term energy democracy in order to help unions get a better grasp of what is happening now and what could happen in the future. It discusses the major “fronts” on which the struggle for democratic control of power generation is currently expressing itself: cooperatives in the renewable energy sector and their potential contribution to energy democracy, as well as recent attempts to reclaim electrical power generation at the municipal level. The 4-part paper also examines the historical experience of the “public works” approach to energy transition during the New Deal in the United States and, in particular, the Rural Electrification Administration—a model of state-cooperative interaction and partnership replicated successfully in numerous countries during the post-World War II period. It proposes that a “Renewable Energy Administration” is needed today.

Unions and social movements have the power to help create a new energy system, one that will be located at the heart of a new political economy grounded in equity, true sustainability, and economic democracy. This paper, co-authored by Sean Sweeney (Murphy Institute, CUNY) Kylie Benton-Connell (New School for Social Research) and Lara Skinner (Worker Institute at Cornell) explores concrete possibilities for moving toward this goal.

According to Sweeney, the coordinator of TUED, “The paper is not a blueprint. It shows what is happening, and also what needs to happen in order to reduce emissions and pollution in a way that shifts power toward workers and communities. Its main message is, if we want to control atmospheric warming and to protect our common home, then we have to get serious about reclaiming and democratizing energy.  Unions in different countries and from all sectors are increasingly aware of the need to do this.”

Fighting Fatigue

By Jenny Brown - Labor Notes, December 3, 2014

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.

Paul Proudlock went to bed at midnight to calibrate his sleep for a freight train he was to drive at 2 p.m. the next day. At 2:15 a.m., a Canadian Pacific dispatcher called him and asked him to take a passenger train in three hours.

“I’m not rested,” Proudlock is heard explaining in a company recording. The dispatcher threatened to discipline him and cancel his 2 p.m. train. “You’re obligated to go. If you answer the phone, you have to go.”

“No, I’m not,” said Proudlock. “I’m obligated to do the safe thing first… I drive a train.”

This kind of pressure is commonplace, according to railroad and airline workers. They say managers push workers to pilot planes, trains, and buses when they are too tired to safely do so. The stakes are high for the workers—and for the general public.

3/4 FELL ASLEEP

In a survey of freight train operators conducted by the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, 96 percent said they had gone to work tired. More alarmingly, three-quarters said they fell asleep while working—in the previous month. Among those who, like Proudlock, turned down jobs because of fatigue, 43 percent said they faced investigation or discipline.

“They’ll pressure people… and people don’t know what leg to stand on,” said CSX locomotive engineer J.P. Wright, who is based in Kentucky. “There are so many gray areas in the contract, if you could see a flow chart, it’s like a Merrie Melodies crazy cartoon.”

The railroads claim they don’t push people to work tired. Regulators scolded Canadian Pacific in the Proudlock case.

The main problem with freight railroads, said Wright, is that “they’ve short-staffed everything to the bone.” So when somebody takes time off, others have to unexpectedly fill in, creating cascades of scheduling complexity.

While rest times were increased in a 2008 rewrite of railroad scheduling rules, fatigue problems persist.

And regulations don’t help if the penalties are low, along with the chances of being fined. “I was just told, on a recorded CSX line, that they knew specifically they were violating the rest law but they would just go ahead and pay the fine,” said Wright, who is co-chair of the cross-union caucus Railroad Workers United.

5 Unions Oppose Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline and Efforts to Force Its Approval

By National Nurses United, 1199 SEIU Health Care Workers East, Amalgamated Transit Union, New York State Nurses Association, and National Domestic Workers Alliance - November 18, 2014

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.

We are five unions/workers organizations representing workers in nursing, health and domestic care, and public transport.

We are opposed to the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. If fully constructed, it will bring dirty tar sands oil through the United States and to the global oil market at a time when we should be drawing the line against the most carbon polluting fossil fuel in order to protect public health, defend the rights of farmers, ranchers and native communities, and avoid out of control levels of global warming and climate instability.

Climate change is already wreaking havoc in areas of the world - like the Caribbean, the Philippines and Central and South America - where many of our members have families and loved ones. The present drought in California, the wildfires across the Western and Central United States, and killer storms like Katrina and Sandy are enough to demonstrate that climate change is also affecting the United States.

From the ground to the pipe to the refineries, Keystone XL's tar sands oil, with its thick, dirty, corrosive properties, poses a clear and present danger to public health. Toxic contaminants in the massive water needed for extraction are infecting clean water supplies, with towns nearby in Alberta experiencing spikes in cancer deaths, renal failure, lupus, and hyperthyroidism. Huge pipeline spills near Marshall, MI and Mayflower, AR have led to respiratory ailments and other health ills. Pollutants from tar sands refineries are linked to heart and lung disease, asthma, and cancer. Federal policy should be guided by the precautionary principle and must uphold public health and safety above all else.

The Keystone XL jobs numbers claimed by the oil industry and its backers in Congress are not based on sound research. The southern leg of the pipeline has already been built, and yet the job numbers the oil industry and their political allies claim will be created by the project seem to keep on rising.

We are for jobs. There is no shortage of water and sewage pipelines that need to be fixed or replaced, bridges and tunnels that are in need of emergency repair, transportation infrastructure that needs to be renewed and developed. Many thousands of jobs could also be created in energy conservation, upgrading the grid, maintaining and expanding public transportation--jobs that can help us reduce air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and improve energy efficiency.

Congress is not set up to be a permitting authority, and this pipeline doesn't even have an approved route. The ongoing review process should continue, and the decades-long precedent of having the Executive Branch make decisions on cross-border projects should not be overturned.

St. Louis Bus Company Fails at Racial Divide and Conquer Against ATU Local 788

By Jenny Brown - Labor Notes, September 25, 2014

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.

Bus workers in Amalgamated Transit Union Local 788 are celebrating a tentative agreement after they called management on outrageous racism.

The workers, who serve St. Louis, including Ferguson, have been trying for over three years to get a new contract with Metro, the bi-state agency that runs the buses. The union said the new contract preserves workers’ defined benefit pension plan, increases wages, and improves health care coverage.

Members are voting today.

Part of the reason the contract took so long, said ATU President Larry Hanley before the agreement, was that “the company is populated by racial arsonists.

“They have economic goals for the agency, and the linchpin of economic goals these days is to strip the workers of pensions and wages,” Hanley explained in early September. “The method that the agency has chosen to use is to separate workers by race and category.”

OREO RECIPE

Most of the drivers are Black, and most of the mechanics are white. So “officials of the agency have been privately negotiating with the mechanics to get them to leave the ATU, telling them they can get them more,” said Hanley. “In other words, ‘If you aren’t part of that Black bus drivers union, we’re going to take care of you.’”

The real motive, of course, was to separate workers into smaller groups so they wouldn’t have the power to stand up to management’s cuts. But management’s strategy was failing, so they stepped it up.

In July management came into bargaining, “and they say, ‘We have a gift for the bargaining committee,’ and they hand each one of them the recipe for Oreo cookies,” recalled Hanley.

The union responded with demonstrations, radio spots, and newspaper ads. When workers leafleted riders at transit centers, Metro tried to ban their leafleting on employer property. Members turned up the heat by demonstrating at the residence of Metro’s CEO, John Nations.

Unions Join Global Calls for Climate Change Action

By staff - International Transportworkers Federation, September 24, 2014

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.

Global unions including UNI, PSI, the ITF and their affiliates were among over 650,000 people around the globe who took to the streets on 21 September to inspire world leaders to take ambitious action on climate change.

The 2,000 or so people’s climate events around the world preceded the historic UN summit on climate change in New York taking place today (23 September). The marchers and activists were demanding cuts in carbon emissions and a just transition to a green economy.

Representatives from the ITF, US affiliates including the ATU (Amalgamated Transit Union) and Teamsters, and UK affiliates including the GMB and PCS, joined some 400,000 people at the New York march, thought to be the largest climate change march in history.

David Hansen Miller, ITF strategic research, said from New York: “It was a really impressive trade union presence and an extraordinary march to witness. The events here and in Australia, London and around the world gave the marchers an unprecedented opportunity to demand a global society that works for people and the planet. We hope world leaders will act courageously.”

More than 700 ATU members at the New York march promoted public transit as one of the best and easiest ways to combat climate change.

At a fringe meeting at the ITF’s first paperless congress, in August, transport workers renewed their commitment to act on climate change and took stock of their recent actions. These included the ITF signing a memorandum of understanding with the international body of employers in public transport, which commits both parties to extend public transport in order to reduce carbon emissions and create green, decent jobs.

The ITF has launched a survey of unions on climate change and urges all affiliates to respond.  You can also view the ITF’s climate change video.

Labor’s Route to a New Transportation System: How Federal Transportation Policy Can Create Good Jobs, First-Rate Mobility, and Environmentally Sustainable Communities

By staff - Cornell University Global Labor Institute, July 2011

Federal transportation policy is set every five to six years through the Surface Transportation Authorization Act. This policy largely shapes investment in our nation’s transportation system. Currently, only unions whose members are employed in the transport sector play a role in trying to influence federal transportation legislation, but the Reauthorization Act is hugely important to all union members and working people. The current legislation, Safe, Accountable, Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA -LU ) expires September 30, 2011. The reauthorization of federal transportation policy presents an important opportunity for union leaders and members to advocate for key policy reforms that will create good union jobs, defend and expand the role of the public sector in transportation, provide safe and affordable mobility to working families and reduce the transport sector’s contribution to air pollution and climate change.

The state of the U.S. transportation system determines working families’ access to affordable, high-quality mobility and, in turn, their ability to meet essential needs such as getting to work, school, medical services, recreation and more. The maintenance and operation of private vehicles consumes a growing portion of working families’ household budgets and puts owning and operating a vehicle completely out of reach for some. The impact of rising gas prices on working families’ mobility exacerbates the fact that only 50% of Americans have access to public transit. (need citation) Furthermore, in response to budget shortfalls, local governments have increased fares, laid off workers, reduced transit services and offered up public transit systems to privatization.

Read the text (PDF).

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