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ATU names new training center in honor of Rosa Parks and Tommy Douglas – ATU Dispatch December 18, 2014

Iesah James | photo from Chicago Police
The ATU General Executive Board has approved International President Larry Hanley’s recommendation to name the former labor college and new ATU training center after Rosa Parks and Tommy Douglas, heroes ATU members honor as two of North America’s most courageous leaders.

A woman who risked her personal safety and perhaps her life for the freedom of all Americans, Rosa Parks (February 4, 1913 – October 24, 2005) took bold action by refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery, AL, bus in 1955.

Her action came to be regarded as a watershed moment in the history of the civil rights movement.

“Rosa Parks was the most effective transit passenger organizer in the history of our nation,” Hanley said. “America is a better place today because of the singular stand she took on a bus against segregation. But the struggle is far from over, and we call upon all Americans to demonstrate the same determination Rosa Parks did in fighting injustice today.

Dedicating the building to her memory where we train new leaders will be constant reminders of the faith, courage, and commitment she exemplified – essential qualities of any activist leader,” Hanley said.

The man who led the fight in Canada to provide health insurance for all, Thomas Clement “Tommy” Douglas, (October 20, 1904 – February 24 1986) was often called “the greatest Canadian.”

A Baptist minister and champion boxer, he left the pulpit for a political platform. A powerful orator and tireless activist, he was elected to serve as a Member of Saskatchewan’s parliament, and later, premier of the province – an office he held for 17 years. He introduced the continent’s first single-payer, universal health care program; a program that would eventually be adopted across Canada.

After setting up the Saskatchewan Medicare program, Douglas was elected as the first leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP), formed in 1935, to advance the cause of Labour. He was a strong advocate of the Canada Pension Plan and was considered the “conscience” of Parliament on matters of civil liberties.

“A staunch supporter of public transit, Douglas believed in the crucial role of civil rights and the great potential of cooperation for the common good,” said Hanley. “He is a role model for the next generation of progressive leaders.

“The Parks/Douglas Center will open its doors to train many generations in the tradition of these two leaders,” Hanley continued. “Future generations of organizers will draw from the brilliance, strength and courage of these two models of community action and leadership and we will forever celebrate the generosity of their spirits and legacies. They will live in us.” Read more

Originally published Saturday, November 22, 2014 at 3:22 PM
King County Metro Transit must pay a $3,500 fine for failing to provide bus drivers enough places — or time — to use the restroom.

The nation’s seventh-largest public bus agency “did not provide transit operators with unrestricted access to bathroom facilities when needed to relieve themselves,” said the citation, issued Friday by the state Department of Labor and Industries.

Transit operators and their union have long griped about inadequate bathroom breaks and the lack of access to toilets. Drivers often resort to the “potty dance” to keep their composure, which causes traffic hazards, as well as long-term threats to the kidneys and digestive system, Paul Bachtel, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587, has said in past interviews.

Growing traffic congestion has only made the problem worse, as bus drivers work harder to stay on schedule. Some have resorted to adult diapers or urinating in a bottle, activist bus drivers have said.

The citation notes that:

• Metro’s porta-potty at Othello Station has lacked paper towels, soap and running water for six years.

• Some of the drivers’ designated restrooms aren’t open all the hours that buses run.

• Some routes don’t have any restrooms within short walking distance.

• At times, when transit operators have had to search for a restroom, they have been disciplined for running late.

In addition, the news website Crosscut last week reported that maintenance crews replace 60 driver seats per year that have been soaked by urine, according to Local 587 Vice President Neal Safrin.

Metro has until Dec. 22 to pay the fine and submit an improvement plan to Labor and Industries. The department called the violation a serious breach of worker protection laws.

Next year, the problem may ease when a new $60 car-tab fee goes into effect within Seattle. Much of that cash will go toward adding buses to routes that are chronically behind schedule or crowded. Logically speaking, that ought to reduce the pressure on bus drivers to shorten layovers between trips, said Kevin Desmond, Metro’s general manager.

Desmond warned years ago about the risk of shortening driver breaks between bus trips, when a 2009 audit suggested tightening the schedules by 200,000 service hours to save $20 million a year. The County Council settled for 120,000 fewer hours, but problems immediately followed, and Metro restored 40,000 of them, he said.

“We care about our operators,” Desmond said.

Management and the union agreed on contract language this year to protect break times, but the broader contract, featuring a pair of wage freezes, was overwhelmingly rejected by the rank and file — triggering future arbitration.

Desmond said one Metro employee will be chosen as the person responsible for restroom issues. Metro will also look for new free or low-cost arrangements under which drivers will be able to use facilities in restaurants, cafes or retail shops. Porta-potties won’t necessarily be increased, he said, and Metro does not expect to build permanent restrooms.

The problem is hardest to tackle in residential neighborhoods, he said.

Long-term routes might be adjusted to bring the endpoints closer to a restroom, he said. In the suburbs, there’s no extra money to loosen the schedules by adding buses or allowing longer schedule times, he said.

Asked if he or the management team mishandled the restroom issue, Desmond said the Labor and Industries fine is a wake-up call. “I would not characterize this as a program failure or a management failure. We learn as people help us see issues we’re challenged with.”

Desmond said he’ll re-emphasize that the driver rule book allows restroom breaks even when buses are behind schedule.

But he also acknowledges there is self-imposed pressure among transit operators to skip restroom breaks so they avoid being late and upsetting passengers. Beyond that, many drivers feel loyalty to their regular customers and want to make sure they get to work on time.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or On Twitter @mikelindblom

A woman has been charged with aggravated battery and ordered held on a $25,000 bond after she allegedly used a stun gun on a CTA bus driver Friday night in the Austin neighborhood on the West Side.

Iesah James | photo from Chicago Police
Iesah James | photo from Chicago Police

Iesah James, 30, of the 3100 block of West Arthington, faces two felony counts of aggravated battery to a transit employee, according to a statement from Chicago Police.

Shortly after 11 p.m., James threw a rock at the 49-year-old man driving the bus in the 700 block of North Austin, police said. The rock hit the man in the shoulder and she then used a Taser on the bus driver, striking him under the arm causing “redness and soreness.”

The bus driver refused medical attention, a police source said.

James “became enraged” when the bus passed her stop, according to a police report.

On Sunday, James was ordered held on a $25,000 bond, according to the Cook County Sheriff’s office. She is next scheduled to appear in court Friday.


Pursuant to International Constitution and General Laws, Section 12.5, Discipline: LU Members, a hearing will be held in charges against the following Members and former Members of Local 241: Michael Barron, Mary Beard, Michael Fairchild, Carlos A. Harris, Vern Hodges, Reuben Johnson, Cedric Jones, Ernest Jones, III, Venita Jones, Ruth Latson, Fredrick McClure, Kevin Mitchell, Herman Reyes, Dwayne Savage, Nathanial Scurlock, Michael Seaton, Gus Stevens, Michael E. Taylor, Lonnie Walker, Michael Wallace, and Michael A. Williams.

The charges allege that the above-named parties engaged in serious misconduct while serving as Executive Board Members of Local 241 in violation of the International Constitution, Local 241’s Bylaws, the policies of the ATU and generally accepted practices. At the hearing the charged parties will have the full opportunity to present evidence and examine and cross examine witnesses.

The hearing will commence on Monday, September 8, 2014, at 9:30 a.m. in the Conference Room on the 14th Floor of 20 South Clark Street in Chicago, Illinois. The hearings will be open to Local 241 members as space permits.

July 3, 2014 Supreme Court Ruling on Health Insurance Benefits

On July 3, 2014, the Illinois Supreme Court decided appeals in a group of cases with the heading Kanerva et al. v. Weems et al. This decision was not a decision on the pending case involving the CTA Retirement Plan and Retiree Health Care Trust, which is entitled Matthews et al. v. Retirement Plan for Chicago Transit Employees et al.

In the Matthews case, all of the parties have asked the Supreme Court of Illinois to change some aspect of the opinion of the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court has not yet decided whether to hear these appeals.

There is currently no ruling that requires the CTA Retirement Plan or Retiree Health Care Trust to make any changes to the current health care benefits of CTA retirees.


It’s not too Late to sign up for Supplemental Insurance Click here


Click this text for link to Court Order



Many ATU members have decided to be ‘IN’ this year and have played a major role in getting the vote out to protect public transportation.

Our fight is not over… WILL YOU BE ‘IN’?