From streetcar operators in Toronto, to bus drivers in San Diego, ATU represents the men and women who help move the United States and Canada. Millions of riders depend on public transit to get to work, to medical appointments, and to the grocery store every single day. Our members are the bus drivers, rail operators, mechanics, station attendants and other support personnel who make safe, efficient, and affordable public transportation possible.
From 1995 to 2009, public transportation ridership in the U.S. grew at a rate of 34 percent – twice as fast as the population growth rate and 10 percentage points faster than the growth rate of vehicle miles traveled on our road and highway system. As a result, transit ridership is at record levels with transit authorities providing more than 12 billion annual passenger trips in the U.S. and Canada.
Despite record ridership, U.S. public transit systems are carrying out some of the steepest fare increases and deepest service cuts in recent history. Since the beginning of 2009, approximately 85% of public transit systems have raised fares or cut service, and thousands of workers in the industry—a significant percentage of the “green” workforce—have been laid off. Unemployed people can’t get to potential jobs, and people who work non-traditional hours, typically people of color without other means of transportation, are disproportionally affected. It is critical that lawmakers understand the mobility challenges that their constituents face every day (Stranded Voices - White Paper). With federal guidelines prohibiting some transit systems from using federal money to keep systems running, many systems are in the odd situation of having brand new buses purchased with federal money, but no state and local funds to place those vehicles into service. This transportation crisis clearly marks the need for transit systems to have the flexibility to use their federal funds for operating costs to maintain critical service.
Public transit continues to be a much safer mode
of transportation than automobiles. (Safety Chart)
When employers cut corners to save money in training costs, they are putting their maintenance employees at an increased safety risk. Local 1277 is committed to getting training standards and schedules, to help ensure the safety of our personnel and the safety of riders as well.
— James Lindsay of Local 1277 in Los Angeles
The ATU stands up for the health and safety of workers in the public transportation sector. One of the most serious problems workers in the industry—particularly bus drivers and station clerks—face is physical assaults by riders. For several years, the ATU Canadian Council has been pushing for legislation to increase the penalty for assaulting a transit operator. Statistics in Canada show that about 40% of operators are physically assaulted on the job sometime during their career. The Canadian Urban Transit Association says than on average, one operator is physically assaulted every single day. Aside from the terrible risk to operators’ lives and safety, assaults on transit operators also endanger passengers and motorists who share the roadways. The ATU supports legislation that would amend the criminal code, making assault on a transit operator an “aggravating circumstance” subject to stricter sentencing guidelines. Currently, Parliament Bill C637—also called Bregg’s Law in honor of Tom Bregg, an ATU member who suffered severe injuries from an assault—includes this language, and looks likely to pass by the fall of 2011.
Other health & safety concerns include bathroom breaks, heart disease (stress) and musculo-skeletal problems caused by repetitive motion.
The ATU continues to stand up for the fair treatment of transit industry workers, their health and safety, and their right to a decent living. Some of our priorities include:
- Secure increased flexibility of Federal funds for operating assistance; and
- Promote public transit as a “green” transportation alternative; and
- Defend and strengthen middle class jobs
- Address health and safety issues through legislation, regulation and collective bargaining.