Media Center

Rocking the Transit World

Election season has finally, arrived in the United States, and it is time for all ATU and all union members to stand up, be counted and make a difference.  It is time for all ATU members to come together in solidarity to do whatever it takes to elect pro-Labor and pro-transit candidates to office.

 

Why this is the most important election in your lifetime?

1.  Values.

Do you believe in the right of U.S. citizens to join together and bargain with their employer for a fair wage?
Or do you believe in unlimited corporate power, with profits as the bottom line—which means squeezing wages and shipping jobs overseas?

It may sound overly dramatic, but that is the debate going on in the U.S. right now, and this election could decide which viewpoint wins.

Do you think your city should provide public services like transportation, firefighters and police? We have a Republican nominee who disagrees.

 

2.  Transit is starving.

Many of you have already seen the endless cycle of service cuts and fare increases in your city. In Detroit, the mayor’s proposal of another round of transit cuts is leading some to question whether the system can survive at all.

In September, Pittsburgh’s transit authority will cut 46 of its remaining 102 routes (30 percent), ending service after 10 p.m. on all but 13 bus and rail routes.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. For those of you who haven’t seen service cuts, don’t make the mistake of thinking this can’t happen to your system too.

Funding for transit has remained flat for the past six years, and the new transit bill will keep funding flat for the next two years.

Can you think of anything that costs the same amount it did in 2006? Certainly not gasoline.

The transportation bill passed by Congress in July, encourages privatization of transit systems. While the ATU fought hard to preserve our Section 13(c) collective bargaining rights, which ensure that an outside management company cannot immediately cut transit workers’ wages, we can expect it to be challenged again, and, depending on who’s elected, we might not have any leverage to protect it.

Finally, Congress failed to include much-needed operating assistance in the bill, which ATU and many of our allies championed. Without the flexibility to use federal dollars to operate systems, many cash-strapped cities are making deeper cuts to service and raising fares — sending their systems into a slow death-spiral and forcing riders to dig deeper into their pockets.

3.  They don’t want our riders participating in democracy

If you are an operator, you see riders every day. Many transit riders are low-wage workers, senior citizens, people with disabilities, people of color, and students. Knowing who many of our riders traditionally turn out to vote for, some groups have passed legislation particularly in “swing states” – intended to discourage voting among these groups.

At least 11 states have passed “voter ID” laws, which make it impossible to vote without a state-issued photo identification card.

A study by the Brennan Center for Justice estimates that approximately one out of every 10 voters does not possess a valid photo ID, and in these 10 states, about half a million eligible voters live in households without a vehicle and reside 10 miles or more from an ID-issuing office.

State departments of motor vehicles are typically only open Monday through Friday, 9-5. Even with a car, or a bus route to the DMV, low wage workers, holding down two jobs will find it difficult to get a photo ID so they can vote?

If that doesn’t sound like much, consider that half a million is the margin the GOP needs for victory. Unless our Union and our riders turn out to vote by strong margins, these dirty tactics will cost us the election.

Are you IN?

With so much at stake in 2012, it is critical that the ATU mobilize at every level – and that includes YOU. Are you in?

This election cycle, the key really is you and your co-workers in the garage. The ATU needs you more than ever to volunteer – even if it’s only a couple hours a week – to help mobilize union members and engage riders to elect pro-transit and pro-worker candidates for office.

Since late 2010, ATU has been providing a new kind of training for union leaders, one that has helped them fight for transit. This summer, we’ve revolutionized the training program yet again. International vice presidents have been conducting political mobilization trainings with ATU members all over the U.S. These trainings have been held for small groups of locals, all within driving distance, so that anyone willing to get involved can attend at no cost to the local.

Already, IVPs have trained almost 400 members. These trainings are critical to developing ATU activists who can mobilize member volunteers and build coalitions with riders to elect pro-transit and labor-friendly candidates.

For the next three months, the International will be anchoring its political efforts in two cities that mean the most to the election: Cleveland, OH, and Denver, CO. These are big cities in crucial swing states, where the ATU has thousands of members.

Not only will ATU support the efforts of these two locals to mobilize their membership and get transit riders out to vote, it will also bring in local officers from around the U.S. to help as well.

In late September, it will hold a four day training and political engagement session for its U.S. officers in Cleveland and Denver. These officers will participate in activities that will fire up riders in these two cities, and will also have opportunities to live plan fall 2012 actions for their own locals as well.

As part of these trainings an internet video town hall meeting will be held for all ATU members to hear why this election is the most important in our lifetime and how you can get involved.

If you aren’t “IN” already you should be!  You should print out the “I’M IN” sign by going to http://bit.ly/QFMFsH then take a picture or video of yourself holding the sign in front of you and let us know why you are “IN”. Once done, share them on the ATU Facebook page (facebook.com/ATUInternational). Also be sure to tell your ATU brothers and sisters they should be in too.

If you’ve already decided that you’re “IN”, then it’s time to show how you can help in this critical campaign. Visit our Action Center at www.atu.org to tell us why you are ‘IN’!

We should all know by now what’s at stake in the 2012 election – our future. The future of transit, the labor movement, our jobs, our families, and all working families.