FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MAY 31, 2020–(TAKOMA PARK, MD)–The Coalition that organizes Transit Equity Day, which takes place each year on Rosa Parks’ birthday, stands in solidarity with Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and its Local 1005, Minneapolis–some of whose members are refusing to transport police to protests and arrested demonstrators to police precincts. The Coalition shares the Union’s view that this is a “misuse of public transit,” which fundamentally runs counter to transit equity.
In a May 28 statement, John Costa, the President of ATU International, the largest representative of transit employees in the United States and Canada, said:
“We are deeply disturbed and angered by the tragic death of George Floyd, an African-American who was held, handcuffed, on the ground by a white Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck as he pleaded, “’I can’t breathe.’”
“We are calling for a full and independent investigation into Floyd’s death, and for appropriate action to be taken to ensure that justice is served.
“Furthermore, as our members – bus drivers – have the right to refuse work they consider dangerous or unsafe during the pandemic, so too Minneapolis bus drivers – our members – have the right to refuse the dangerous duty of transporting police to protests and arrested demonstrators away from these communities where many of these drivers live. This is a misuse of public transit.”
For three years, under the leadership of the late ATU International President Larry Hanley and current President John Costa, the Labor Network for Sustainability has collaborated with transit unions, civil rights organizations, climate justice and environmental groups, and allies, to promote public transit as a civil right and a strategy to combat climate change.
“We chose Rosa Parks’ birthday, February 4, because she is an iconic figure among many of the civil rights era who chose the tactic of refusing to give up her seat on the bus,” Michael Leon Guerrero, Labor Network for Sustainability Executive Director says. “ATU Local 1005’s action honors the tradition of Ms. Parks and generations of others who have stood up to racial oppression and violence.”
Basav Sen, Climate Policy Director at the Institute for Policy Studies, says, “Public transit is a public good, meant to serve the transportation needs of all community members at an affordable price while reducing automobile congestion, pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. If police and local governments want to use transit as a tool to enable racist oppression, transit workers have the right to refuse to collaborate with that agenda.”
Since the release of both statements by ATU International and Local 1005, Transport Workers Union (TWU), another essential labor partner in the Transit Equity Day Coalition, retweeted from their Local 100, “TWU Local 100 Bus Operators do not work for the NYPD. We transport the working families of NYC , all TWU Operators should refuse to transport arrested protestors.” TWU International President John Samuelsen retweeted this video that went viral, where one bus operator stepped off of a bus refusing to transport arrested protesters in Brooklyn.
In its May 28 statement, ATU Local 1005 echoed the union’s motto: “NOT ONE MORE,” which is used to condemn assaults on drivers that have too often led to death on the job. The Local laments that “NOT ONE MORE” now has a new meaning: “‘NOT ONE MORE’ execution of a black life by the hands of the police.”
Pittsburghers for Public Transit states, “The outrage at a white supremacist system that is fueling protests across the country must be kept at the forefront of our work for transit equity. We are in the same fight: for a world where all people have the freedom to move, to be in public space without fear or threat. Together we must shift public funds away from harmful over-policing of black and brown communities and towards social investments that build racial equity and climate resilience.”
Sherry B. Williams, Public Policy Coordinator for Georgia Stand-Up, offers an important reminder that amidst the heinous systemic crime against George Floyd, to remain focused on a global pandemic that is mostly affecting black and brown communities, physically and economically; this includes essential workers such as those in transit. She says:
“Georgia Stand-Up is always in support of worker safety, especially for frontline public transit workers during COVID19. We hope Minneapolis drivers’ rights are upheld, they get needed PPEs, they are more valued and respected as they continue to work tirelessly to transport citizens despite the high risks to their own personal safety.”
About Labor Network for Sustainability
Founded in 2009, the Labor Network for Sustainability engages workers and communities to build a transition to a society that is ecologically sustainable and economically just. LNS convened the Transit Equity Day team in 2018 upon request by leaders of the Amalgamated Transit Union. The mission of Transit Equity Day is to promote public transit as civil rights and as a strategy to combat climate change—held on February 4, Rosa Parks’ birthday, each year. Involvement in Transit Equity Day grew exponentially since its first year, resulting in nearly 40 actions nationwide with impacts on thousands of transit workers and riders in 17 states. Learn more about the Transit Equity Group.