Under new leadership, Amalgamated Transit Union Hosts Meeting of GLI’s Transportation Policy Working Group
February 11, 2011
On Friday, February 11, 2011, newly elected Amalgamated Transit Union International President, Larry Hanley, and Director of Government Affairs, Jeff Rosenberg, welcomed 30 members of Cornell GLI’s Transportation Policy Working Group to a half day discussion on labor’s 2030 vision for sustainable transportation. Discussions specifically focused on how to align the 2030 vision with a joint strategy by labor and policy organizations to resist current attacks on transportation spending and public transit and pass an effective Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act in 2011.
President Hanley (pictured at right) opened the meeting by describing ATU’s ambitious plan to defend public transit from nationwide attacks by building a broad coalition of transit workers, environmentalists and transit riders and advocates. “We’re not going to invest a lot (into combating these attacks and building a broad coalition of labor, environmentalists and transit advocates to support public transportation), we’re putting everything into this,” Hanley said. “Mass transit is being dismantled at a time when some of us believe there are problems with our environment, that there is global warming, at a time when transit ridership levels are surging - they are higher now than they’ve been in decades. Yet, we’re seeing record layoffs, more layoffs in transit operating since we had in World War II.” Hanley emphasized that public transportation has an important role to play in providing good jobs, reducing carbon emissions and providing Americans with greater mobility options.
Hanley’s remarks were bolstered by the release of President Obama’s 2012 budget on February 14, in which the Administration has called for a significant increase in transportation spending to act as a second stimulus plan. A recent study by Smart Growth America “Recent Lessons from the Stimulus: Transportation Funding and Job Creation”, found that public transit investments create 33% more jobs per dollar than new construction of roads and bridges. Neha Bhatt, Deputy Director of Policy and Research, summarized the report’s findings at the Transportation Policy Working Group meeting. In contrast to Obama’s proposed 2012 budget, the House Republican’s proposed Continuing Resolution budget, introduced February 11, 2011, massively cuts spending to high-speed rail and public transportation.
In addition to Hanley, International Vice-President of the Transport Workers Union, Roger Toussaint and other high-level representatives from the Laborer’s Union, Operating Engineers, Teamsters, SEIU, Utility Workers, AFSCME, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Sierra Club, Good Jobs First, Smart Growth America and Transportation for America also spoke to the challenges and opportunities of building a more equitable, low-carbon and sustainable U.S. transportation system that also creates good, union jobs. Many of the speakers cited the need to build on the work of GLI’s Transportation Policy Working Group to create long-lasting, durable coalitions of labor and transportation policy advocates that can jointly develop and advocate for effective transportation policy.
GLI will organize several meetings of the Transportation Policy Working Group over the coming months when the six-year Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act is expected to be debated in the House and Senate this spring. Major challenges exist around how to fund future transportation infrastructure investments (the federal gas tax hasn’t been increased since 1993) and how to allocate spending in a way that creates the greatest number of good jobs, reduces emissions and other environmental impacts from transportation and provides greater mobility to Americans, especially as transit ridership levels have reached unprecedented levels.