International President Larry Hanley convened representatives of all of the major transit and labor groups working to address the mass transit crisis in the United States.
Hanley brought the group together Thursday, October 13, at the Union’s international headquarters in Washington, DC, to stimulate interest in mounting a national campaign to restore transit service which is being cut at record levels all over America.
Specifically, the new international president suggested that the group focus on three things:
1. Bringing ATU activists from key cities to a series of “boot camps” in the Washington area where they would receive training in community organizing, and meet and interact with their counterparts from their cities to build effective coalitions locally. The activists would then take these skills back home where they would create local coalitions to pressure legislators to restore transit service. This is the beginning of a nationwide outreach to our passengers.
2. Focusing attention and resources for a non partisan campaign for public transit, beginning in Chicago in the coming months.
3. Working to persuade the president and Congress to appropriate funds to restore transit jobs and service during the coming lame duck session and beyond.
Chief Concern: Laid-Off Workers
General agreement was expressed by the group on the three goals, above, and a wide-ranging discussion ensued on the problems facing mass transit and what could be done about it.
Chief among the concerns expressed by participants was the fact that urban America is losing its’ mobility, passengers are losing their service and transit workers are losing their jobs. More than 3,000+ transit workers have been laid-off as a result of the current recession. Greg LeRoy, from the organization “Good Jobs First” asserted that the alliance should ask why a decrease in real estate tax revenue should deny people “the right to go to work.”
John Samuelson, president of Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union in New York, warned that the group shouldn’t let its long-term strategy “overlook the immediate crisis of laid-off workers.”
‘The Best Story in Town’
Hanley acknowledged the nature of the challenge, saying that “we want to create a very ambitious plan that stretches people’s imaginations. We have the best story in town. We just have to stop just saying it to each other, and say it to those outside our circle.”
Several at the table stressed that the alliance needed to present a “clear, simple message” devoid of the legislative jargon that so often scrambles what the public hears when we make our case.
‘This is an Emergency’
Dale Marisco, executive director of the Community Transportation Association stressed the urgency of the situation for riders, declaring, “The people we have access to have not found favor in the current thinking about mass transit. We’re talking about mobility for people who have already been hurt.”
“We’re losing ground every day in terms of state and local funding,” he added.
“We’ve been telling people this is an emergency,” Hanley said, “but we’re not saying it loud enough. We must figure how to build a fire under Congress.”
‘Got to Get Our Issues on Their Plate’
Local President Jackie Jeter, 689-Washington, DC, emphasized that the coalition needed to make maintaining mass transit service the “topic of conversation” just as transit safety and security is now. If that happens, she predicted, we’d start getting things done. “We’ve got to get our issues on their plate,” she asserted.
Various goals and strategies with regard to Congress were discussed. It was generally acknowledged that time was short for accomplishing anything during the lame duck session, but that wouldn’t dissuade the group from trying. However, everyone understood that this would be a long-term battle.
International Executive Vice President Bob Baker brought the gathering back to the immediate crisis, saying, “We need to get people back to work and then people can become productive, tax-paying citizens” – something even conservative politicians should want.
The group was enthusiastic about both the need to build a national campaign and our collective ability to do it. In broad terms, Hanley said, their goal would be to change the way people think about mass transit; the reality of where transit stands in the mind of the public and Congress. “We’re gonna change reality,” he said.
The list of participants at the meeting is as follows:
Convenor: ATU International President Larry Hanley
AFL-CIO-New York State: Joe Jamison
AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department: Brendan Danaher
AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department: Larry Willis
AFSCME, International: Dennis Houlihian
ATU International Executive Vice President: Bob Baker
ATU International Secretary-Treasurer: Oscar Owens
ATU Local 689-Washington, DC: Jackie Jeter
Bill Lynch Associates: Bill Lynch
Bill Lynch Associates: Sabrina Philson
Community Transportation Association of America: Scott Bogren
Community Transportation Association of America: Dale J. Marsico
Good Jobs First: Greg LeRoy
NAACP: Roslyn Brock, Chair
Policylink: Anita Hairston
Reconnecting America/T4 America: Sarah Kline
T4 America: Vivian Buckingham
T4 America: Akshai Singh
Teamsters: Fred McLuckie
Transit Riders for Public Transportation: Chantal Coudoux
Transportation Equity Network: Casey Stanton
TWU, International: Portia Reddick White
TWU Local 100-New York, NY: J.P. Patafio
TWU Local 100-New York, NY: Shannon Poland
TWU Local 100-New York, NY: John Samuelson, President
TWU Local 100-New York, NY: Harry Wills
Vic Fingerhut Campaign: Vic Fingerhut
ATU Legislative Director: Jeff Rosenberg
Attorney: Robert Molofsky