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We can’t and won’t let up our fight

It’s been over a year since COVID-19 first hit us, and it’s been one of the most difficult challenges we’ve undertaken as a union. Nevertheless, our determination to protect our members is stronger than ever. While it’s been a few months into the new year, we’ve already seen promising victories and hope.  

 

Elections have consequences

We started this year off strong, making history in Georgia by mobilizing our members, riders, and the public to elect Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock, flipping the U.S. Senate to the pro-worker majority needed to pass meaningful COVID relief. We’re so proud of the work the ATU and Locals 732-Atlanta, GA, and 1324-Savannah, GA, contributed to these significant victories.

Then we witnessed President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ historic inauguration. The Administration hit the ground running with the CDC mandating masks on public transportation. This directive, which the ATU has been advocating for since day one, will save lives. 

While the mask mandate is great and the right thing to do, we have to continue to fight to protect our frontline heroes. Our members are not mask enforcers, nor should they be. We must demand our transit agencies keep our members and passengers safe from anyone not following the directive.

In addition to the mask mandate, President Biden further signaled he’s a friend of labor by appointing worker advocates to his cabinet. Pete Buttigieg, who supported ATU bus drivers in Martha’s Vineyard, was tapped for Secretary of Transportation. Former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, an ally to our members of Boston Carmen’s Union Local 589, is the new Secretary of Labor. Our good friend, Nuria Fernandez, was picked to lead the Federal Transportation Administration as Administrator. The ATU couldn’t be more hopeful about these appointments and what they mean for the future of transit in America when working people have a seat at the table.

 

Locals fight on the frontlines of the pandemic

Sadly, our hero brothers and sisters continue to die from this deadly virus. The ATU and our Locals continue to fight on the frontlines of the pandemic.

In Halifax, NS, Local 508 rallied thousands online to petition legislators to demand passengers wear masks on public transit. Local 1622-Danbury, CT, and Locals 1493-Raleigh, NC, have fought for safe service, including mandatory masks, smaller passenger limits, rear door entry, and more. Locals continue to push back against proposed layoffs and cuts to service, including Bay Area Locals 192-Oakland, 265-San Jose, 1555-Oakland, 1574-San Mateo, 1575-San Rafael, and 1605-Concord, as well as Local 1001-Denver, CO.

In Calgary, AB, Local 583 has successfully mobilized members for a political campaign to elect politicians who support transit to ensure affordable and safe service and jobs for our members in civic elections next fall.

 

Vaccinations Have Arrived

With the vaccines offering hope to end this pandemic, the ATU continues to advocate to have our members prioritized for vaccines in all states and provinces. Right now, transit workers are receiving vaccines in New Jersey, Illinois, Missouri, New York, California, Massachusetts, and other states. 

Now, we must work to ensure mass participation in vaccination programs to protect ourselves, our coworkers, our families, our communities, and the transit industry. To ensure our members are informed, we created a COVID-19 Vaccine Website page. I also hosted a vaccine webinar with Dr. Bob Harrison, an occupational health and safety doctor, to provide expert information and guidance about the vaccines, which can be viewed on our COVID-19 website.

 

Advocating at the Federal Level

Our advocacy continued at the Federal level. So far this year, I’ve had the honor of being invited to testify twice on behalf of transit workers. 

First, our friend, Nuria Fernandez, invited me to speak at a round table hosted by the Federal Transit Administration on the federal mask requirement. I shared our members’ concerns regarding mask enforcement and the risks drivers take every single day when they go to work. 

I then testified in front of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs about how critical transit is, the urgent need for additional federal transit funding, and the importance of keeping our members and riders safe.

Thanks to our efforts, Congress passed, and President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan, providing $30 billion in federal relief for transit agencies.

In Canada, ATU Canada and our Locals continue to push for critical federal operational transit funding needed to help continue to recover from the pandemic.

 

Edmonton Local Mobilizes Members to Fight

With a contract battle and privatization fight on the horizon, Local 569-Edmonton, AB, has mobilized their members to take action. The Local set up a CORE team to recruit rank-and-file members. Almost 70 percent of the bargaining unit got involved, signing a petition against privatization that was delivered at a protest outside Edmonton City Hall.

 

Looking ahead with apprenticeships   

While all of this has been happening, the ATU continues to lead the way with apprenticeship programs in the transit industry, including our Zero Emission Bus (ZEB’s) programs. 

I’m so proud of the work our great union has done through these unprecedented times. With spring upon us and vaccine distribution getting underway, I’m hopeful that the worst is behind us, but we can’t and won’t let up our fight. Because…

Together, we fight. Together, we win.