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ATU Pennsylvania fighting for commonwealth’s transit workers

More than a year and half ago Jake Schwab, 568-Erie, PA, was tragically killed in a garage when an engine he was working on exploded in his face. The 27-year veteran Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority (EMTA) mechanic was working with the wrong tools on an unfamiliar bus from another agency in a garage that workers said had no safety culture.

Safety bill introduced

In response to his death, the Jake Schwab Worker’s Safety Bill was introduced in the state legislature with strong backing from labor and transit advocates. The bill would extend safety protections equivalent to those of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration to the state’s public employees not currently covered by OSHA.

The legislators never passed the bill. Their inaction speaks volumes about the disregard and lack of concern they have for workers and their safety, and has provided additional motivation for Pennsylvania’s Locals to join together in a stronger, unified voice to pass this bill, and pursue other issues.

Privatization threat

In addition, another threat has emerged. Transit agencies across the commonwealth are contemplating merging to create, larger, regional transit systems. This regionalization could have serious implications for Pennsylvania Locals’ wage and benefit packages and seniority rules, and lead to the privatization of systems that have long been publically operated.

To better arm our Pennsylvania members in their fight to protect the rights of transit workers, the International has established “ATU Pennsylvania” – a new joint service council (JSC).  ATU Pennsylvania will provide assistance and training for Locals in matters related to contract bargaining, administration, organizing, legislation, politics, education and training, rider engagement, and any other challenges that come up.

To ramp up the council, ATU Pennsylvania representatives have been meeting with Locals across the state to discuss the key concerns of transit workers, and discover how the newly formed organization can best help them achieve their goals.

Honoring Jake’s memory

“Across Pennsylvania, ATU members like our late brother Jake Schwab work hard every day to provide Pennsylvanians a safe reliable way to work, school, the doctor and other daily tasks,” says International President Larry Hanley. “ATU Pennsylvania will fight for transit workers to ensure their safety in the workplace and rights on the job. This is the least we can do to honor the memory of Jake Schwab."