ATU Delegates Re-Elect Hanley, Back Clinton, Hit Privatization

TORONTO—Some 630 delegates to the Amalgamated Transit Union convention re-elected top officers – led by union President Larry Hanley – ratified the union’s support for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton, and took square aim at multi-national privatizers of mass transit.

Meeting in Toronto, Ont., delegates also promised to hit the sidewalks for Clinton and other pro-transit candidates, even though their union initially supported her primary opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, now D-Vt.

The union’s support is important, as surveys show mass transit workers garner huge respect among the commuters and riders they serve – and that the union is successful in building local pro-transit coalitions.

Delegates also ratified “a strategic vision to build power for transit workers and riders, fight for more and better public transit, and raise standards for working families,” ATU reported.

“I am honored and humbled to be re-elected to lead a union of leaders and activists who make a difference in their communities,” said Hanley in accepting a new term as president.

“We face many challenges. Multi-national companies are trying to take over transit systems at the expense of workers and riders. Billionaires and their political stooges are attempting to destroy democracy, gut public services, marginalize workers and debilitate communities. Our delegates pledged to fight back more than ever,” he added.

The union particularly targeted the right wing politicians who control the U.S. Congress, many of whom have advocated cutting – if not eliminating – mass transit funding altogether.

Indeed, one GOP representative, arguing to kill the money, says it mainly benefits only six U.S. cities, thus showing a bias against cities, transit workers and their riders. Many of the riders and workers are minorities and women. The offending lawmaker was a Southern white male.

For their anti-privatization drive, the delegates also can use a new report, Privatization Increases Inequality by the In The Public Interest think tank. “Privatization of public transit can bring about rate increases that severely impact communities, especially poor residents, who often disproportionately rely on public transit as a main mode of transportation,” it says.

The report cited Nassau County, N.Y., as an example. In 2012, supposedly to save money, its officials switched the buses from New York’s public Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), which is unionized, to Veolia, a private for-profit bus firm known for labor law-breaking against bus workers’ unions in Arizona. In Nassau, Veolia cut 30 bus routes in 2012 and raised fares by 10 percent, to $2.50 per ride. It added 25 cents more and further service cuts in 2015.

“As one organizer for the nonprofit Long Island Bus Riders Union explained at a public hearing where a $0.25 fare hike was being discussed, ‘The hike will force many low-income riders to have to choose between spending an extra $130 [per year] on getting to work, or on heating their homes,’” the report said.

Source: PAI