As we draft this post, it’s the middle of April, and the temperature here in Detroit is already pushing 80 degrees. It’s a disturbing reminder of where the global climate is headed: one more reason why we need to escalate our fight for more public transit that meets the needs of riders.
This summer, TRUST is piloting a new approach to member capacity-building we’re calling the Program to Build Rider Power (PBRP). Open to any TRUST member organization, its goal is to help local transit rider unions take their work to the next level, whatever that might mean for them.
As the protests sparked by George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police spread across the country, protesters noticed that public transit buses were being used to transport police, and in some cases protesters to jail or detention.
On June 12, transit rider organizations across the country, including the Philly Transit Riders Union, Pittsburghers for Public Transit, the Seattle Transit Riders Union, Detroit’s Motor City Freedom Riders, and Ohio’s Columbus Association for Transit issued a joint statement condemning this misuse of public transit and calling on agencies to make clear statements that this practice would be discontinued.
Transit workers are on the front lines of the Covid-19 pandemic. We need them to keep service running, to provide the essential connections that keep us all alive and fighting. That job is dangerous, as they are trapped in a bus with passengers, breathing the same air and potentially becoming exposed. We don’t yet know, and may never know, the full count of transit workers lost to the pandemic, but we already know the numbers are too high. In the words of labor activist Mother Jones, we will “pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living.”
We met May 1st to discuss ways to support our transit union locals, including showing up during their contract fights and giving them the mic and platform to elevate their concerns. You can find a summary of that conversation on the resources page. We know standing shoulder to shoulder with the bus and subway drivers helps riders, and is our best defense against the austerity narratives that try to pit riders against drivers in a zero-sum game.