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Legislative Report: ATU Locals Mobilize to Upgrade Safety for Members

Nearly two years after President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the biggest infrastructure bill in our nation’s history, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is working to issue rules to implement the legislation. Our Union is focused on making sure that the labor-management safety committees created through the bill have the power to force transit agencies to make real changes related to safety. Not surprisingly, U.S. transit management is fighting to maintain the status quo, trying to convince the FTA that the safety committees, which are required to approve agency safety plans, are only advisory.

In public comments to FTA, International President John Costa stated that for transit workers, each shift can be treacherous. “Our members get punched, slapped, and clubbed over the head with blunt objects such as canes and baseball bats. They have been stabbed and shot. Women bus operators regularly get sexually assaulted. Bus drivers also get spit on all day long, and it is common for riders angry about fares or other regulations to throw soft drinks, hot coffee and even urine in the face of the driver. The conditions under which transit bus operators currently work are disgusting, frightening, and appalling,” said Costa.

During the recent ATU Legislative Conference, our Local leaders worked with International Staff to tell their stories about Local Union safety ideas that have been ignored by management over the years, resulting in further senseless attacks on workers as well as other safety hazards. These stories were shared with FTA; more than three dozen Locals submitted public comments to the agency. Each Local stated that FTA needs to ensure that management is required not only to listen to frontline workers in their safety committees but also to implement the changes that the committees identify to  increase safety.


Key Senators Show Support for Labor

In addition to comments from unions and transit systems, ATU’s allies on Capitol Hill weighed in, supporting Labor. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote that the FTA should remove language in its proposed rule that would relegate the safety committees to an advisory role. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chairman of the Banking Committee which wrote the law, also led a group of Senators in a letter supporting Labor over management.

“Everyone is entitled to a safe workplace and to come home safely to their families at the end of the workday,” Costa said in the ATU’s comments. “The safety committees authorized under the IIJA, once provided the power designated and intended by the U.S. Congress, are fully capable of achieving these reasonable goals quickly. The FTA need only implement Congressional intent in this regard, as quickly as possible. Transit workers’ lives depend on it.”