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ATU this September: Bring transit workplaces into the 21st Century

ATU Local Unions in the U.S. and Canada will be passing a resolution this September demanding that their governments and transit agencies provide healthy, safe, and secure workstations for their employees. This comes in preparation for an unprecedented campaign in which all of the Locals of our Union will lobby with their local coalitions to make it happen.


ATU members have fought to improve their workplaces since the Union was formed in 1892, and a lot of progress was made over the last 125 years.

But, it was assumed that only so much could be done to buffer spines from continual pounding, or limit exposure to diesel exhaust. The inevitability of bad backs and respiratory illnesses became an accepted part of transit worker culture. But we will accept that no longer.

We now know how continual jolting and dirty air affects our health. Ergonomics has shown how relatively small changes in driver workstation design can put less stress on our bodies, and lead to safer driving. And, new technology can now protect drivers from many of the health problems we endured in the past.


Security has also been a long-time concern for bus operators. Exact change fare collection adopted by virtually all transit agencies in North America brought an end to fatal armed robberies in the late 1960s. But, that has not protected drivers from the recent scourge of assaults resulting from fare disputes, or the irrational decision to attack a driver. And so, drivers are demanding that barriers be installed in current buses, and designed into all future buses they drive.

It’s not just the driver who is endangered by assault and poor workstation design. Obviously, an attack on an operator while driving threatens riders and other drivers on the street. And, wide A-pillars, and poorly placed mirrors create blind spots that threaten pedestrians.

Consequently, the necessity of finding ways to protect operators, riders, and pedestrians has added new urgency to the drive to remake American and Canadian motor coach workstations. These are not impossible goals. European and, even, many third world countries have addressed these problems in the buses they use there.

As always, the major obstacle standing in the way of better workstations in North America is money. Cash-strapped governments and transit agencies have little leeway in their budgets to make the kind of improvements in transit work environments that our members need.

And so, beginning in September, your Local Union will be asking for your help with this campaign to force your employer to provide you with the same health and safety protections that workers rightfully expect in any other civilian occupation.


On the opposite page you’ll find the resolution that your Local will be considering in September. We urge you to join us in our campaign to bring the transit workplace into the 21st Century.