Ed Wytkind, President of TTD, AFL-CIO, John Previsich, President of SMART Transportation Division and other union leaders have released a joint letter to Anthony Foxx, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), urging the DOT to issue a rule “to protect bus drivers and other transit operators from the physical assaults that are plaguing this industry.”
The San Diego Free Press reported that, at the winter 2016 AFL-CIO executive meeting in San Diego, the agenda suggested a growing emphasis on broad political actions like economic inequality and democracy in America. The big story from the meeting has been the decision not to make a presidential endorsement. Read the entire story here.
In a letter to the editor and published by The Hill, AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD) President Edward Wytkind warns that GOP presidential candidates want to devolutionize laws governing freight and passenger rail in the U.S. The candidates are in support of deregulating the current rail laws and funding and turning it over to each individual state to mete out transportation policy and funding. GOP candidates Ohio Governor John Kasich, Jeb Bush and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (Fla.) have come out in support of devolution of transportation policy and funding. “…we must not accept candidates for president who fail to grasp the magnitude of this transportation investment crisis, and who advance policies that would make us a loser in the increasingly competitive global economy,” Wytkind said. “We need a vast transportation system that can deliver goods and people safely and with speed and precision, not some piecemeal experiment dreamed up by anti-government crusaders who can’t seem to get out of their own way.” Click here to read the full story from The Hill.
Yesterday (January 11), the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case you may have heard about — Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (CTA).
The gist of the case is this: many California public school teachers are members of CTA. Like all union members, California teachers can choose whether or not to join the union. However, when the majority of people vote to form a union (as is the case with California school teachers), the union is required by law to represent everyone in the workplace, whether that employee is a union member or not. Teachers who don’t want to belong to a union only have to contribute to the costs of the representation they receive. Because all teachers enjoy the benefits, job security and other protections the union negotiates, it is only fair that all employees contribute to the cost of securing those benefits and protections.
Pretty simple, right? Not so fast. Those challenging this common-sense system argue that simply paying fair-share fees is a violation of free speech.
So why should transportation workers across the country care about teachers in California?
Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (CTA) is an orchestrated, malicious attack on workers’ rights. This case isn’t just about teachers in California—it’s about weakening the rights of workers, specifically those employed in the public sector. The group behind the court case is the Center for Individual Rights, which has ties to greedy CEOs and wealthy special interests. If the court finds that teachers no longer have to pay fair-share fees (and sides with those wealthy extremists), teacher unions (and all other public sector unions) will lose considerable strength and leverage. By the way, if details of this case sound familiar to you, it’s because they are. The same special interests that backed Gov. Scott Walker’s attack on public sector workers in Wisconsin in 2011 are the same groups and individuals at play here.
Many transportation workers are public sector workers. Transportation workers account for less than 3 percent of all public sector workers, but nearly 50 percent of those workers are covered by collective bargaining agreements. A bad decision by the Supreme Court could significantly weaken the power these workers have to stand up for basic workplace rights, like fair wages and safe working conditions.
A bad decision by the Supreme Court will only make the rich richer. For far too long, America’s economy has unfairly favored the wealthy at the expense of ordinary people. Our middle class is shrinking and it’s getting harder to get by, let alone get ahead. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, things will only get worse. That’s because unions act as a check against corporate power. When unions are weak, corporate CEOs and wealthy individuals have more power to manipulate the rules in their favor and exploit working people.
$5.4 billion — that’s how much public transit agencies collectively spend on buses and trains each year.
U.S. public transportation authorities are using taxpayers’ dollars to employ Americans. Well, sort of — there’s a lot of room for improvement. Thanks to weak laws and procurement rules, taxpayer dollars all too often reward low-road companies that pay poor wages and routinely game our domestic content rules to manufacture just the minimum here in America.
That’s why transportation unions have long supported policies that raise domestic content standards for transit and rail purchases made with federal funds — the same kind of laws found in the recently passed Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. In addition to being the first long-term, bipartisan surface transportation bill in a decade, the FAST Act raises Buy America standards for transit vehicles from a 60 percent minimum to a 70 percent minimum domestic content.
This is a great next step in our effort to beef up transportation manufacturing jobs, but we aren’t stopping now: the goal must be 100% domestic content for publicly funded transit and rail equipment orders. Unfortunately, changes to procurement laws alone aren’t enough to get us there. In fact, a new report by economist Robert Pollin and the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) shows more can and needs to be done to ensure that investments in our nation’s transportation infrastructure help sustain domestic manufacturing and the millions of jobs the sector supports. The report, titled Strengthening U.S. Manufacturing Through Public Procurement Policies, focuses on railcar procurements, but its lessons can be applied to the broader Buy America program.
The report finds that:
60 is the new 40. Under law, 60 percent of component production and 100 percent of final assembly of railcar manufacturing are supposed to happen in the U.S. However, as the authors show, for a variety of reasons, these standards amount to an overall requirement of only 40 percent domestic production.
Monitoring and enforcement standards are a weak link. Because few local transit agencies have adequate capacity to conduct audits in-house and public interest groups face major obstacles in obtaining relevant compliance information, the monitoring and enforcement of domestic content requirements leave much to be desired.
Too many waivers are still granted. Available evidence suggests that a significant number of domestic content waivers are being granted to contractors bidding on transportation procurement projects covered under Buy America. The good news? Under the Obama Administration, the wavier process has improved significantly. But there’s more work that needs to be done. The Department of Transportation needs to keep systematic records on waiver applications and decisions and to establish consistently high thresholds for granting waivers.
As the authors of the study point out, we must pair stronger laws with straightforward, effective measures that encourage public transportation agencies to consider the impact of their purchases here at home. Some of the plans outlined in the report — including changes to Request for Proposal (RFP) procedures — are the same kind of forward-thinking measures being pushed by the Jobs to Move America Coalition, of which TTD has been a member since 2013. They include incentivizing companies that bid on publicly-funded transportation equipment orders to describe the number and quality of jobs that would be created from a contract, and encouraging local transit authorities to select bids based on best value instead of just the lowest price. This new approach rewards employers that train their workers and make a genuine effort to hire people from disadvantaged populations including, for example, veterans and single mothers.
These kinds of smart procurement strategies act as a win-win for all parties involved: public transportation dollars help create good transportation manufacturing jobs here at home; transit agencies purchase high-quality, American-made components; and high-road manufacturers are rewarded for lifting labor standards and keeping buses and trains made in the USA.
Washington — Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issued this statement in response to a House-Senate deal on a long overdue surface transportation reauthorization bill:
“The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act is a bipartisan, long-term funding bill for our nation’s transit systems, highways, bridges and passenger rail networks that we are proud to support. The deal reached by House and Senate negotiators breaks the cycle of flat-line funding and short-term extensions that has strangled our economy and stunted job creation. We applaud Congressional leaders for their work on this important legislation and particularly want to thank Chairman Shuster, Ranking Member DeFazio, Chairman Inhofe and Ranking Member Boxer for their pursuit of a long-term bill.
“TTD and its member unions have never relented in our multi-year campaign to convince lawmakers to forge a bipartisan compromise on a long-term highway-transit bill that prioritizes funding growth and job creation. We applaud lawmakers for crafting a bill that makes great strides in reversing many years of neglect.
“The FAST Act strikes the right balance on many of the important policy issues that were considered in this legislation. The bill includes measures to address bus driver assaults, handles transit public-private partnerships in a more responsible manner, improves Buy America rules and makes improvements to rail safety and the transport of hazardous materials. Conferees wisely chose not to use this bill to attack the bargaining rights of port workers, adopted provisions that preserve the role of sound science in determining the appropriateness of hair specimen drug testing and rejected an attempt to force contracting out of public-sector engineering work.
“We are pleased that the FAST Act contains a multi-year Amtrak reauthorization that will help sustain America’s national passenger railroad, protect thousands of middle-class jobs and allow Amtrak and its employees to meet the soaring demand for rail transportation. Finally, the bill includes the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, which will help American manufacturers and their employees compete with foreign companies and support good middle-class jobs in this country.
“We urge both chambers to pass the FAST Act and send it to the President’s Desk for his signature.”
It’s that time of year again. Americans across the country will get ready for the time-honored tradition of gathering with family and friends to give thanks. But first, they will agonize – possibly panic – over how to get where they’re going on the busiest travel day of the year. The latter isn’t exactly how Norman Rockwell depicts this day — but it is reality.
Forty-two million travelers will hit the road or take to the skies. Before that grand turkey feast graces their dinner tables, Americans will first have to endure long lines, suffocating traffic, canceled, delayed and overbooked flights, and lots of stress. It is on this day when we feel the true consequences of letting our transportation system and infrastructure fall apart.
Yes, Congress is poised to pass a long-term surface transportation bill — the first of its kind in a decade. But that doesn’t change the fact that, right now, there are 70,000 bridges in the U.S. in need of replacement or repair, transit systems choked by anemic budgets, Amtrak trains running through century-old tunnels, millions of miles of neglected highways, an aviation system operating with severely outdated technology and a maritime system, including ports, suffering from decades of neglect.
As frustrated as travelers may feel, there’s a group of people who understand their concerns all too well: the men and women who keep America moving. Transportation employees know, probably more than anyone else, that this country can and must do better when it comes to making travel safe and efficient. After all, they, too, contend with the consequences of a neglected transportation system — and they do so on a daily basis.
Talk to a transportation worker, and you’ll hear about more than just poor infrastructure. They’ll tell you stories about staffing shortages, obsolete and outdated equipment, fatigue on the job, belligerent employers, supposed cost-saving schemes that hurt customers and workers alike, and attacks on bargaining rights. You’ll hear about budget cuts that undermine safety and reliability, and threaten good wages, benefits and job security.
You’ll also hear about dedication, hard work and responsibility. That’s because, despite the immense challenges they face, the men and women who keep America moving remain focused on the needs of the people and country they serve. America’s transportation workforce understands that no matter what obstacles they face, their priority is transporting people and goods as safely and efficiently as possible. Many will give up or postpone Thanksgiving plans with family and friends to accommodate the needs of the traveling public. And that — putting others before yourself — is what the season of giving is all about.
This Thanksgiving, pause for a moment and give thanks to the people who operate, maintain and build our transportation systems. Their commitment to getting the job done is what keeps our journeys safe. Their commitment to service helps make holidays, including the one we’re about to celebrate, possible.
California has more museums dedicated to railroads than any other state in our country – and it’s easy to see why. From the transcontinental railroad to the developing high-speed rail system, rail transportation has played a significant role in shaping this state’s history.
The people of California believe passenger rail is key to the state’s future, too. At a public hearing in Modesto last summer, plans to improve and expand passenger rail service received overwhelming support from area residents, Republicans and Democrats alike. And a new poll prepared by Dean Mitchell of DFM Research found those same sentiments are shared by the people of California’s 10th Congressional District.
Those living in the district enjoy six daily Amtrak train routes in the San Joaquin Valley, running from Bakersfield to Sacramento and the Bay Area. More than 8 of 10 polled say they want to see Amtrak service increased or at least remain the same, and more than 80 percent want commuter rail services increased or maintained at current levels.
Modesto-area residents aren’t alone. As Amtrak continues to grow in popularity – ridership hit an all-time high in 2014 with 31 million passengers – an overwhelming majority of Americans support increasing passenger rail service in all parts of the country, both in traditionally blue and red states from the south to the Midwest and Northeast.
Sadly, not everyone is hearing this call.
Some in Congress continue to fight the old anti-Amtrak wars by proposing the elimination of all federal funding to support the service, which would bankrupt the railroad and strand riders in California and across America. While those efforts have failed, the persistence of anti-passenger rail forces has brought headwinds to efforts to advance a robust passenger rail expansion and modernization plan.
Like the vast majority of Americans, most residents of Stanislaus County and the surrounding areas have shown they don’t agree with such proposals. In fact, when told that Amtrak gets over $1 billion per year in federal support, more than 80 percent say they reject attempts to eliminate it and want to continue the current funding level.
In addition to expanded passenger rail service, Californians also say emphatically that they favor policies making rail transportation safer.
Not unlike the views of most Americans, the idea of running 19,000-ton freight trains – many containing hazardous materials – with only one crew member doesn’t sit well with the people of the 10th Congressional District. With up to 50 freight trains running through the region each day, a stunning 95 percent of residents support a state law requiring a minimum of two crew members on all freight trains running through California – such as the one signed into law in September by Gov. Jerry Brown.
More than 90 percent of those surveyed want national legislation mandating the same thing. This issue impacts passenger rail safety as well, because in most parts of the country Amtrak shares the tracks with freight trains.
Californians understand that having a safe, efficient rail system is vital to a strong economy. We need actions that can bring relief to a clogged transportation system that is choking productivity, stunting job creation and undermining efforts to grow our economy. California voters couldn’t be more clear: they like passenger rail service, they want more of it and they expect their elected officials to make it as safe as possible.
WASHINGTON — Transportation labor leaders — gathered today at the fall Executive Committee meeting of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) — met with key members of Congress to seek solutions to a woefully underfunded transportation system and to boost job creation in what remains a slow recovery that TTD’s leader said is “leaving too many working people behind.”
“The need for long-term investments in our transportation system and infrastructure will not ‘just go away,’” said Edward Wytkind, president of TTD, who added that the dialogue with congressional guests “focused like a laser” on ending the stalemate on crucial investment bills. “With the recent progress on a surface transportation bill and strong bipartisan display of support for the U.S. Merchant Marine, we may be witnessing a brief but important timeout from senseless partisanship.”
TTD hosted roundtable discussions with Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), the ranking Democrat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), chairman of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee.
“As Chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, I value input from my friends in the transportation labor community who bring a critically needed front-line employee perspective to our work,” Diaz-Balart said. “By seeking the views of both labor and business, community leaders and other important partners, we can develop real, long-term solutions to our nation’s transportation infrastructure challenges.”
“We need to increase investments in our infrastructure and focus on the areas that will truly help create jobs and support our economy,” Nelson said. “We also need to protect the men and women who are out there every day making our transportation systems work.”
“Transportation infrastructure is at the heart of the U.S. economy. Our economic competitiveness, our businesses and millions of American jobs depend on robust investments in our crumbling network of roads, bridges, highways and transit systems,” DeFazio said. “We must continue to push for legislation that will modernize our nation’s transportation infrastructure, create good jobs and enhance the rights and working conditions of the men and women who keep America moving. I thank TTD for joining in that effort.”
The Executive Committee also held a discussion about plans for member education in the 2016 presidential election.
TTD, which represents some 2 million workers in every sector of transportation, has been working with its affiliates on a flurry of key issues. Just today TTD and its maritime and aviation affiliates sent a letter to President Obama urging his Administration to keep maritime and aviation out of any TTIP negotiations. TTD has aggressively countered the trucking lobby’s agenda to bring “unscientific” hair specimen drug testing to front line bus and truck drivers. And TTD coordinated efforts with its member unions to advance a surface transportation bill out of committee last week that awaits House floor consideration.
“When you’re talking about transportation jobs, you’re talking about middle-class jobs — the types of jobs that elude too many Americans,” Wytkind added. “The policies that affect our sector have a real impact on working families, and that’s something Congress can’t forget despite working in the Washington bubble.”
Washington — Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issued the following statement on the progress to build a new Hudson River rail tunnel:
“We are pleased that Governors Chris Christie (N.J.) and Andrew Cuomo (N.Y.) have advanced a joint plan — in a letter to President Obama — to build a desperately needed Hudson River tunnel that serves Amtrak and commuter rail traffic between New Jersey and New York, and links to the entire Northeast Corridor. We applaud the governors for coming together to offer a path forward and thank Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) for their leadership on this important issue.
“While we will want to review the details of this proposed funding partnership between New York, New Jersey and the federal government, today’s news gives us hope that this looming mobility and economic crisis may be resolved.
“We have long called for investment in a new Hudson River rail tunnel, especially since Superstorm Sandy devastated the region’s infrastructure including these tunnel crossings. Soon, Amtrak will be forced to initiate rolling shut downs of tunnels for major repairs and upgrades. The chaos and economic damage a shutdown of any of Amtrak’s tunnels would cause are immeasurable as commuters and businesses alike would face many years of severe disruptions.
“We want to thank Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx for his persistence. The Secretary’s aggressive effort to bring the parties together kick-started New Jersey-New York negotiations and led to today’s progress.
“We urge the Obama Administration and Governors Christie and Cuomo to reach an agreement quickly on a full funding plan for a Hudson River rail tunnel. This project will put thousands to work, give Amtrak and commuter railroads the infrastructure they need to meet projected growth in traffic and serve as a much needed shot in the arm for our economy.”
Washington – Working people are achieving significant victories through the most expansive period of collective bargaining in modern labor history, according to a new report by the AFL-CIO’s Center for Strategic Research.
“This country is having an important debate about raising wages and tackling income inequality,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “This report provides clear evidence that joining a union and bargaining with your employer is the most effective way to give workers the power to raise their own wages. When working people speak with one voice, our economy is stronger, and all workers do better.”
The AFL-CIO report represents the most comprehensive look at the current state of collective bargaining in a period when an estimated 5 million American workers will bargain for new contracts.
According to the report, working people who bargained for new contracts in the first half of 2015 saw their wages increase by an average of 4.3 percent, an increase of $1,147 a year for an average wage earner in the United States. These increases are up from 2.9 percent in the first half of 2014, with substantial wage wins occurring in sectors from nursing and oil to airline pilots and teachers.
Other notable statistics from the report include:
Among private sector workers: grocery stores, health care, rail transportation, telecom, and auto manufacturing combined account for 31 percent of workers covered by newly bargained contracts.
The contracts in the top eight industries include workers from 22 AFL-CIO affiliated unions.
A combined 2.4 million union members will bargain for new contracts in the top eight industries negotiating contracts.
The full report, complete with bargaining trends and an industry analysis of where workers are bargaining can be found here.