ATU honors our fallen brothers and sisters on Workers Memorial Day

Local 627-Cincinnati, OH President Troy Miller joins Vice President Harris for Public Transit Roundtable

Today in Cincinnati, OH, Local 627 President Troy Miller joined Vice President Kamala Harris, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, and transit and community leaders for a spirited roundtable discussion on how public transit will create jobs, spur economic development, and foster healthier communities. “Let’s continue to invest in public transit in America, understanding that it is about supporting working families, it’s about supporting our infrastructure, our economy and our public health,” Vice President Harris opened the roundtable by pointing to the $85 billion for public transit in the American Jobs Plan. Senator Brown introduced Miller by applauding the work that ATU members have done throughout the pandemic, calling them the definition of essential workers. Senator Brown asked Miller about the dangers ATU members have and continue to face on the job during the pandemic. “Over 4,700 members were infected in the United States. Over 3,000 are currently laid off. At one time, we had 20,000 laid off in the United States. It’s devastating. This whole virus has been devastating for us,” said Miller. Vice President Harris also talked about the American Jobs Plan investment of $174 billion in the electrification of buses. Miller praised the Biden/Harris administration for including union members in the American Jobs Plan to train mechanics and drivers on the new technology of zero-emission buses. “I would love to see the ATU be one of the leaders in training across the United States because this is very important for protecting our people, protecting our jobs,” said Miller.

Just transition needed in transit electrification

The ATU joined with the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and the Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO to lay out five key policies Congress and the federal government must follow for an equitable transition to zero-emission vehicles, including battery-electric buses to fight climate change. With only about 3% of ATU's members trained in this new technology, training mechanics and drivers to safely maintain, repair, and operate ZEBs will be critical. "This is all good technology," Costa said. "This is all good stuff. But at the same time, we don't want to lose workers over this. We want to create more jobs for people to have good-paying jobs." The ATU is already conducting training sessions for members, including one virtually last week, and is calling for a national training center that can offer hands-on experience. Representation of frontline workers on any committees or task forces exploring the transition to new technologies is also vital. "It's very important because there's nobody better than having the workers at the table. They know the job. They can explain the job," Costa said.

ATU Canada holds convention, elects executive board

This week, ATU Canada held their 2021 Convention virtually. On day one, ATU Canada President John Di Nino and International President Costa welcomed the 122 delegates, 23 alternate delegates, and 43 guests to the convention. "It's been a very difficult year, and I want to thank you and your members for your heroism and bravery on the job to keep our communities moving during the pandemic," said Costa, pledging continued support in the fight for the rights and dignity of ATU members across Canada. Delegates heard about campaigns to stop privatization, to push for dedicated transit funding, and to demand vaccine priority for our members. Delegates then elected officers and other Executive Board members. The ATU Canada officers re-elected were ATU Canada President John Di Nino, Vice President Eric Tuck (Local 107-Hamilton, ON), and Financial Secretary Travis Oberg (Local 987-Lethbridge, AB). The other elected Executive Board Members are 1st Western Canada Executive Board Member Bill Johnson (Local 583-Calgary, AB), 2nd Western Canada Executive Board Member Denyse Mitchell (Local 1724-Vancouver, BC), 1st Eastern Canada Executive Board Member Jack Johnson (Local 1572-Mississauga, ON), 2nd Eastern Canada Executive Board Member Clint Crabtree (Local 279-Ottawa, ON), and Eastern Canada Executive Board Member - Quebec and East - Paul Churchill (Local 1462-St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador). "I would first like to thank the members of ATU Canada for putting their confidence in me for a second three-year term," said President Di Nino about his election. "It has been my honor to serve you through these difficult and trying times. I am honored to continue to be serving you once again."

President Biden's New Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment is historic step

In a historic step for workers to exercise their freedom to join together to have a voice on the job, this week President Biden signed an executive order creating a new White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment. "For far too long, the deck has been stacked against working people as corporations have sought to trample on the rights of workers to improve their working conditions," said international President John Costa.  Led by Vice President Harris along with Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, this task force will work to ensure that federal policies and programs can be used to help workers organize and collectively bargain. "Along with his strong support of the PRO Act, this is another promising sign of President Biden's commitment to empowering workers, particularly women and people of color. The ATU is looking forward to working with the task force to help increase union membership to ensure more workers will be closer to realizing the American dream through good union jobs."

ATU joins school bus and motorcoach groups to demand additional federal emergency funding
for recovery from pandemic

Almost four months after the passage of the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) Act, hard-hit school bus contractors and motorcoach operators are still awaiting their federal funding and are demanding additional federal relief. In a joint letter to Congress, the ATU joined along with industry groups in demanding Congress to release the $2 billion in funding being held by the Treasury Department. Guidance was also supposed to be given by the Treasury Department in March regarding applying for funding but has yet to do so. The original CERTS ACT request last year was $10 billion in emergency funding, but the final Consolidated Appropriations of Act included only $2 billion. The school bus industry alone has lost nearly $8 billion in revenue due to the pandemic. "It is critical that Congress approves additional robust funding for the CERTS Act program to help motorcoach, school bus, and domestic passenger vessel industries recover and return to full health," the letter states.

OC Transpo begins installing bus driver shields to protect from rider assaults, COVID-19

For over a decade, Local 279-Ottawa, ON, has been fighting for protective barriers for drivers. This week the agency will finally begin to install buses with plexiglass shields that will help save driver's lives. By the end of the summer, 756 of OC Transpo's fleet of 851 buses will have the shields. "It's been a long time coming. We've been pushing for these barriers for bus operators for quite some time. We're very happy that they're coming," said Local President Clint Crabtree. After recent assaults of drivers being sucker-punched, spat on, and burned by hot drinks, the shields were finally considered necessary. OC Transpo is also praising the shields for protecting drivers from the COVID-19 virus. Crabtree acknowledged that while the shields provide some protection from the virus, more must be done to protect drivers from COVID-19 after a surge in cases, including vaccinating operators. "That would be the ultimate protection for the members of my Local and transit employees to receive immediately," said Crabtree.

Portland Local ratifies strong tentative agreement with wage increases while preserving apprenticeship programs

After a year and a half of tense negotiations, discussions, legal battles, a deadly pandemic, fires, and an aggressive member-driven campaign, Local 757-Portland, OR, overwhelmingly ratified a strong three-year contract with TriMet. The agreement includes pay raises that are retroactive to December 2019. The agreement also preserved the apprenticeship program and tuition assistance for workers looking to improve their skills, which the Local says is a critical path toward upward mobility. "Despite the obstacles that TriMet set in place, we stood together, fought together, and won together," the Local said. "Together, we fight! Together, we win!" Samuel Desue Jr., TriMet's interim general manager, thanked the Local's leaders and members for their "hard work and compromise" to get a deal ironed out. "I appreciate the hard work of our union employees," said Desue Jr. "It does not get unnoticed. We know that you are the backbone of our agency."

San Jose transit worker attacked with an arrow, potential hate crime

This week while taking a break, a Local 265-San Jose, CA, bus operator was struck in the back by an arrow. The wounded driver, who is Sikh, was also with another member of the Sikh community at the time. The attack is now being investigated as a hate crime. The VTA driver was immediately taken to the hospital for medical treatment and is recovering. Local President John Courtney said the driver is "doing a little better by the day" since the attack took place. A female transit employee was shot in the head with a pellet gun near the same location in 2019. Courtney says that transit agency employees are frequent targets of assaults and verbal abuse and that more needs to be done to protect them. The ATU wishes our Local 265 brother a quick recovery from this possible hate crime and condemns all forms of racism.