bus_frontLast month in Olympia, Wash., passengers on a city bus witnessed their driver being brutally beaten in an attack that was caught on video for the world to see. The footage is alarming and sickening. It was not, unfortunately, uncommon.

From sexual and physical assaults to verbal abuse, the nation’s bus drivers are facing an epidemic of hostility. In the New York area alone there are seven attacks per month on average that range from spitting to beatings to stabbings, according to the Metropolitan Transit Authority. Other cities see the same level of hostility against drivers, meaning it is time to address this problem at the national level.

Last fall, the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, called on the Department of Transportation and Federal Transit Administration to hold a summit on bus driver assaults. Today, with the blood-soaked face of the Olympia bus driver fresh in our minds, we renew that call.

We must evaluate new measures, and new technologies, being used successfully in parts of our country and abroad to protect drivers and their passengers, who often get dragged into the fray. The installation of Plexiglas partitions to separate drivers from passengers or other changes to a driver’s seating area, are options to consider. Another is the presence of uniformed police officers on buses, and tougher penalties for those who do attack drivers. Other steps include video surveillance and better training for drivers. In New York City, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has started offering rewards of up to $2,000 for information that leads to the arrest and indictment of those assaulting drivers.

The solutions to curb violence against bus drivers are out there – we have simply lacked the will to implement them. This must change, and we can start by holding a national summit with transit unions, public transportation leaders, local law enforcement and the appropriate federal government agencies.

Let’s not wait until statistics on physical attacks become numbers of fatalities. The men and women who help keep America moving deserve better. They deserve the safest working environment this country can offer.

AFL-CIO logoWASHINGTON – The threat of unscrupulous school bus contractors transporting our nation’s students and the working conditions of drivers are among the topics featured at today’s school bus summit hosted by the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO.

“During this summit we will drill down on the challenges faced by school bus drivers in a fast-changing industry that we believe needs greater scrutiny from federal and state regulators,” said TTD President Edward Wytkind. “To push this dialogue forward we will discuss reforms and better practices needed to protect the 25 million students our members transport daily. We are especially pleased that Anne Ferro, Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), will join us.”

The summit, TTD’s second gathering of this kind in three years, will bring together national and local bus union leaders and activists, experts and federal regulators.

“We are grateful for the dedicated men and women who drive our kids to and from school and extracurricular events safely every day,” said Wytkind. “But we owe them more than our thanks – we must address their working conditions, improve oversight of private contractors and make sure we are providing them the support they need to maintain the highest safety standards possible.”

“We at FMCSA share a deep commitment to high safety standards for school bus drivers who keep our most precious cargo – our children – safe as they travel to and from school,” said Administrator Ferro. “It’s critical that everyone works together to make our highways and roads continually safer, and for the public do its part by driving safely in the vicinity of school buses.”

The agenda for today’s second summit will address four core issues:

  • Privatization: Unscrupulous private contractors often cut all the wrong corners, which undermines workers’ wages and benefits and subjects school children to substandard, poorly regulated school bus operations.
  • Driver Training to Keep Buses Safe: From intruders who try to board buses to students bullying each other, violence can erupt on buses. Drivers, who face physical attacks, need to be trained to respond to these situations while maintaining safe operation of their vehicles.
  • Bus Capacity: When drivers transport more students than a bus can reasonably fit, cramped space can jeopardize student safety if an accident or behavior outburst occurs.
  • Sleep Apnea: Any future regulations that create additional employment requirements must treat school drivers fairly.

“We will leave this summit with a better understanding of the challenges faced by America’s school bus drivers and their passengers and with a renewed commitment and strategy to make these operations safer,” Wytkind said. 

Transportation unions want new regulations for train crews and bus drivers. 

The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO Oct. 29 endorsed potential federal mandates to require at least two crew members on all U.S. freight trains, protect bus drivers from physical assaults and make sure they are paid overtime when they work more than 40 hours a week.

Read the complete story at The Hill.

WASHINGTON – The Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO joins the rest of the nation this week in thanking the men and women dedicated to transporting children to and from school during National School Bus Safety Week. In recognition of the challenges faced by school bus drivers, today TTD is announcing it will host a School Bus Summit on Dec. 2, 2013, in Washington, D.C., with its member unions.

“It is time to both thank school bus drivers for the indispensable role they play in making sure our kids are safe and secure, and also to address their everyday challenges,” said TTD President Edward Wytkind.

School buses remain the safest form of transportation for school children, carrying 25 million students to and from school every day on approximately 500,000 buses. TTD honors the drivers for their unyielding commitment to safety and dedication to their communities.

“The untold story is that school bus drivers are expected to fulfill their enormous responsibilities while too often driving overcrowded buses and without adequate support and training,” Wytkind said. “Meanwhile, unscrupulous private entities seek to outsource their jobs on the cheap and force them to work under often difficult conditions.”

To address many of these challenges, TTD will bring together union activists and drivers and federal regulators in the December summit. Participants will share ideas and strategies to address pressing concerns, including privatization of bus service, unmet training needs, overcrowded buses and burdensome employment requirements.

“The TTD School Bus Summit will focus on the men and women who work in this sector,” Wytkind added. “We cannot expect our nation’s school bus drivers to work in substandard conditions due to flawed policies and employers who cut all the wrong corners.”

More details on the summit will follow in November.

UTU Membership Survey National GOTV ProgramWASHINGTON – New polling shows that Americans across the ideological spectrum support more public funding of Amtrak passenger rail service.

“We polled people who mostly do not live in large passenger rail regions and yet they overwhelmingly said they want the same level of or more federal funding for Amtrak,” said John Previsich, president of the SMART Transportation Division. “What’s interesting about this poll is that a majority of Democrats, Independents and Republicans alike all want to maintain or expand Amtrak service. It is now time for Congress to listen.”

In a poll conducted by DFM Research of St. Paul, Minn., from February to September 2013, eight districts in Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri were polled and 70 percent of respondents said they support a robust federal government role in funding Amtrak. In Illinois’ 3rd District, which includes the Chicago Amtrak hub, the percentage jumped to 80 percent.

“This new polling confirms what we have always known: Americans want more, not fewer, transportation choices,” said Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD). “And while too many politicians in Washington are saber rattling about government spending, people across the nation, from conservatives to liberals, believe the federal government has a responsibility to play in supporting and funding Amtrak passenger rail service.”

Previsich added that in the weeks ahead, SMART Transportation Division activists will be working with TTD and the other rail unions to make the case for more federal funding for Amtrak as lawmakers prepare to rewrite federal passenger rail law (known as PRIIA). “This polling will boost our effort to advocate for common sense passenger rail legislation that gives Amtrak and its employees the resources they need to deliver first- class passenger rail service that Americans are clearly telling us they want.”

The full survey results can be found here.

The SMART Transportation Division represents a variety of employees in the freight and passenger rail, mass transit and airline industries throughout the United States.

The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, represents 32 member unions in the aviation, rail, transit, motor carrier, highway, longshore, maritime and related industries. For more information, go to www.ttd.org or find TTD on Facebook and Twitter.

WASHINGTON – The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) Sept. 6 endorsed certain changes by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to Buy America policy that will lead to job creation and stronger transportation and manufacturing sectors.

“TTD and our affiliated unions have long advocated for strong transportation Buy America policies,” said TTD President Edward Wytkind. “We should be using the taxpayers’ investments in transportation to maximize U.S. job creation.”

TTD submitted comments today to the FHWA supporting its review of three Buy America general waivers that exempt certain products from the requirement that FHWA-funded projects use American-made iron, steel and other manufactured products. TTD also supports the agency’s determination to apply Buy America standards to fuel efficient and low emission vehicles and related equipment purchased with FHWA Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program funds.

“FHWA’s decision to apply Buy America standards to CMAQ-funded purchases of vehicles is an investment in American manufacturers, including the thousands of workers who melt and pour steel and produce parts and components for vehicle production,” said Wytkind. “We applaud the continuing efforts of this Administration to beef up transportation Buy America rules.”

TTD suggested the FHWA require that no less than 60 percent of each vehicle be U.S. made, increasing that percentage over time until it reaches 100 percent. This should be coupled with the requirement that the vehicles be assembled in the U.S.

“The bottom line is that the FHWA has the authority to set standards that ensure federal transportation spending supports American jobs. We should expect no less from our government as it invests public funds,” said Wytkind.

The following statement was issued by AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department President Edward Wytkind regarding the raiding of union membership by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

“As many of you are aware, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) has increased raiding activities directed at TTD affiliates. At a time when the labor movement – and more importantly, its membership – is under constant attack in Washington, at the state and local government level and on the job, these raids are weakening our movement and should not be tolerated.

“Specifically, the IBT has filed for an election with the National Mediation Board (NMB) to represent US Airways mechanics who are longtime IAM members. This election has now been ordered for July 8 by the NMB. Simultaneously, the IBT has filed for an election with the NMB to represent American Airlines mechanics who have been TWU members for decades.

“These raids are especially egregious and ill-timed. As you know, US Airways and American have a pending merger before our government and by all accounts, the merger is headed towards approval. Clearly, IBT is attempting to take advantage of the fear and uncertainty surrounding this merger, and to position itself to represent the combined mechanics workforce once the merger is consummated. This is not how to grow our movement.

“It is significant that American Airlines is just emerging from bankruptcy where TWU has had to wage a difficult fight under badly rigged bankruptcy rules to defend its members. Similarly, the IAM has represented mechanics at U.S. Airways through mergers and difficult economic challenges and the union is fighting to secure a new contract in the face of company stonewalling. Another important fact is that the IAM and TWU reached a joint council agreement in May to represent the employees together – a forward-looking approach to dealing with the wrenching employee challenges stemming from mergers. This will combine the strength of the two unions in representing workers at the new American Airlines who will be employed at the world’s largest airline.

“TTD stands solidly and completely against these raids. We will lend any assistance needed and urge all affiliates to do so as well. I have directed the TTD staff to no longer work or cooperate with the IBT on legislative or political activity in Washington. While we have had many transportation labor issues in common with IBT, we can no longer conduct business as usual while these raiding activities continue.

“In addition to the raids against the TWU and IAM, I know that IBT has raided other TTD unions. Recently, the IBT attempted to raid SMART – Transportation Division bus drivers in Charlotte, N.C. Fortunately, this raid was defeated by a vote of 268-94. Similarly, in 2012 IBT failed in its bid to raid SMART-represented bus drivers in Pennsylvania. We would appreciate receiving any information regarding other IBT raids against your union.

“This is of course a very challenging time for the labor movement and for the workers we represent. The last thing we need is to spend time, money and other resources on these types of destructive raids. It is my sincere hope that the IBT raids will be rejected and that this predatory behavior will end. More than 9 out of 10 private sector workers in America do not have collective bargaining. Surely, IBT could redirect its organizing resources to giving voice to those workers that desperately need union representation.”

Edward Wytkind, chairman of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department, testified April 24 before the House of Representative’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Panel on 21st century freight transportation.

Read his testimony here.

SMART Transportation Division President Mike Futhey and Assistant President John Previsich this week joined the leaders of other AFL-CIO affiliate unions at the organization’s annual winter meeting.

They also meet separately with members of the organization’s Transportation Trades Department to roll out a 2013 transportation investment and jobs agenda, stake out an aggressive stance against irresponsible liberalization of aviation trade and to condemn damaging cuts to transportation programs and jobs that are threatened by sequestration.

“It is the height of irresponsibility for extremists in Congress to use the sequestration battle to tank our economy and use public and private sector working men and women as pawns in their partisan games,” said Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO following the annual winter meeting of its 33-member Executive Committee. “It is time for Congress to end this senseless sequestration stalemate and finally start focusing on an agenda to modernize our failing transportation system and create middle-class jobs.”

The TTD Executive Committee was joined by new House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) who said, “I appreciate today’s opportunity to meet with the Transportation Trades Department’s Executive Committee, and look forward to working with them and all parties interested in a stronger transportation network for our nation. By listening to a diverse set of opinions and working together to build consensus, we can improve America’s infrastructure, make us more competitive, and strengthen our economy.”

U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.), ranking minority member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Water Resources Subcommittee, also joined the meeting and said, “Investments in infrastructure put skilled laborers to work now and lay the foundation for a growing economy in the future. I am proud to partner with TTD in advocating for a 21st Century American transportation network and fighting back against destructive budget cuts like sequestration that will undermine vital programs. I am also proud of my work with TTD to extend [Family and Medical Leave Act] protections to airline flight crews, protect fair wages for transportation workers, and ensure our roads, rails, transit operations, ports and aviation system are safe and well funded for the future.” 

The Executive Committee also heard from U.S. Department of Transportation Undersecretary for Policy Polly Trottenberg, who said, “Transportation workers are our partners in safety, who build, operate and maintain the roads, rails and runways that every American depends on. The Obama Administration will continue investing in good transportation projects that keep our economy and the traveling public moving forward.”

The Executive Committee adopted several policy statements during the meeting that offer detailed, substantive policy prescriptions on behalf of the workers who operate, maintain and build the world’s largest transportation network.

On the eve of possible federal spending cuts due to sequestration, the Executive Committee condemned threatened draconian cuts to vital transportation programs that form the backbone of our system of commerce. The “ravages of sequestration,” they said, must be avoided and federal workers “should not be made scapegoats” in this dangerous political game.
To end the stalemate on long-term investments in public transit and highways, transportation unions offer a bipartisan solution to the “broken and outdated funding system,” noting that the purchasing power of these funds has fallen 33 percent in two decades.

TTD affiliates support an increase in the gas tax indexed to inflation, as well as possibly replacing the current excise tax with a sales tax.

On the globalization of aviation, TTD opposes the European Union’s push to hollow out U.S. airline ownership and control laws, and impose its heavy-handed agenda in talks with the U.S. and in the upcoming meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization.

As for a long-term plan for Amtrak, TTD laments, “Too many politicians fail to understand the enormous economic benefits of modernizing passenger and freight rail.” Transportation unions will push for a long-term funding plan for Amtrak and oppose “risky” privatization schemes.

Transportation union leaders also vow to preserve a strong maritime industry. TTD unions sharply criticize congressional action to weaken cargo preference laws that ensure most federal government-generated cargo travels on U.S.-flagged ships crewed by U.S. maritime workers.

TTD affiliates will also join the battle to stop the use of “our own transportation system” as a “haven for predatory criminals” that engage in human trafficking.

The affiliates of TTD also pledge their support for the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) campaign against the sinister efforts of Patriot Coal, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal to exploit our bankruptcy code at the expense of “hard-working mine workers, retirees, and their families.”

Amtrak Logo
ORLANDO, Fla. – As lawmakers prepare to debate passenger rail reauthorization, leaders of AFL-CIO transportation unions are calling on Congress to set a long-term future for Amtrak that meets the demands of a growing ridership, invests in the railroad’s decaying equipment and network, protects the rights and jobs of workers and rejects “risky” privatization of key routes and services.

“While Americans are clamoring for more transportation options, Congress must ensure that Amtrak and its employees have the resources necessary to meet the nation’s growing rail transportation needs,” said Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD). “Inaction and neglect in Washington have left Amtrak with an enormous backlog of critical upgrades to its infrastructure and rail cars.”

In 2013 both the House and Senate will draft legislation to provide funding and structure to our nation’s passenger rail network. A policy statement adopted by TTD’s Executive Committee urges Congress to replace the current policy of “underinvestment and disrepair” with a long-term plan that modernizes our passenger and freight rail infrastructure and discards proposals to “sell-off the carrier’s most prized routes and assets, and hollow out the remainder of the network.”

Transportation unions emphasized Amtrak’s readiness to lead the nation’s expansion into both higher speed and conventional passenger rail services.

Amtrak has “an extensive reservation system, mature relationships with the freight railroads, the physical infrastructure needed to support high-speed rail initiatives and decades of demonstrated compliance with all federal rail laws,” the Executive Committee declared, adding that as billions in new public investments are rolled out in the rewrite of federal rail policy, “the reauthorization must safeguard the rights, jobs and wages of front-line workers.”

Wytkind added: “We will mobilize behind this sensible plan to rewrite our passenger rail laws and give our government the tools it needs to execute a national rail policy.”