Chris Garlock, communications director for the Metropolitan Washington [D.C.] Council, AFL-CIO, sends us this report.
Cheerfully bobbing balloons and smiling transit workers greeted commuters Tuesday morning as they emerged from the Farragut West and Farragut North Metro stations in downtown Washington, D.C.
A horse and buggy clip-clopped down the city streets nearby, symbolizing a past the transit workers warn may become the future, thanks to cuts in funding for mass transit across the country, from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s proposed fare increases in metro D.C. to reduced routes, 25 percent fare increases and layoffs in Detroit.
“Good morning, good morning, let’s keep the trains rolling!” Louisiana bus driver Stan Grant repeated hundreds of times as he passed out fliers from the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), which organized the event.
Nearby, Steve Brooks, a bus driver and member of ATU Local 704 in Little Rock, Ark., chanted “Stop taxing working people,” while his colleague Larry Patin, a 31-year ATU Local 1546 bus driver in Baton Rouge, La., enthusiastically passed out fliers.
ATU President Larry Hanley told a rally of ATU members in town for a union legislative conference and supporters:
We’re fed up with watching transit get cut while billionaires get tax cuts.
“It’s time to flip the script,” Metro Council President Jos Williams said, pointing out that mass transit, which had delivered him to the rally site, “is good for your health and good for the environment.”
Maryland/DC Alliance for Retired Americans President Frank Stella said mass transit is a critical lifeline for seniors across the country. Said ATU Local 689 President Jackie Jeter:
This is a righteous cause and we’re here to ensure that public transit remains public and is fully funded. This isn’t just about D.C.; it’s a nationwide problem.
The ATU announced that it is endorsing and fully supporting the nationwide April 4 Occupy National Day of Action for Public Transportation, and Occupy activists spoke out in support of the right to affordable public transit.