At noon, hundreds of TWU members marched arm in arm with our brothers and sisters at the ATU to Upper Senate Park in Washington, D.C., calling on Congress to fund mass transit.
Those assembled—members of TWU and ATU, riders, public officials, advocates and allies—heard from Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Rev. Al Sharpton, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, ATU International President Larry Hanley, TWU International President Harry Lombardo and TWU International Executive Vice President John Samuelsen.
TWU leadership and rank and file members carried the momentum of the march into dozens of meetings with their elected representatives, in a second day of targeted lobbying on Capitol Hill.
Before taking the union’s call for transit funding to the streets, members were joined at the Washington Court Hotel by TWU allies in elected office: Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX), who discussed his fight to protect voting rights in Texas; Roberta Reardon, former President of SAG-AFTRA; Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR); and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ).
Sen. Menendez told TWU members, “[TWU Founder] Mike Quill fought against the robber barons. We’re fighting against the anti-worker, anti-investment barons. We’ve allowed our transit infrastructure to crumble and deteriorate.
“We need robust investment from Congress in our transportation systems. And we must oppose the idea that undermining our workers will support American prosperity and competitiveness.”
Why did TWU rally alongside hundreds of our allies for Congress to fund transit? We are approaching a dangerous budgetary shortfall—what some are calling the “Transportation Cliff.” The Highway Trust Fund, which finances our nation’s highway and transit programs, will go bankrupt this summer.
Congress has dragged its feet on authorizing the funding that would restore the Highway Trust Fund. Come August, the Fund will start bouncing checks.
If it the budget shortfall continues, it will delay more than 112,000 ongoing transportation projects. But it’s not only infrastructure projects—and the safety and reliability of our transit systems—that will fall victim to the funding crisis. 700,000 working men and women stand to lose their jobs if Congress does not act.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has said: “This may be the most dire moment the American transportation system has faced in decades.”
TWU supports the UPDATE Act (H.R. 3636), which would increase the federal gas tax over three years from 18.4 cents to 33.4 cents per gallon while indexing the gas tax to inflation.
In a speech today before TWU members, the bill’s sponsor Rep. Blumenauer said, “Congress needs to follow the leadership of labor, local governments and environmentalists in supporting transit funding. We can’t wait!
“Workers are not the problem. It’s the lack of investment by our Congress that’s the problem. It’s time for us in Congress to step up and meet the bar set by you, transit workers.”
At the close of her remarks, former President of SAG-AFTRA Reardon took out her cell phone and called Congress to voice her support for the UPDATE Act—along with the hundreds of TWU members assembled in the meeting hall. The volume of calls jammed Congress’ lines.
“I am calling to tell my elected representatives to increase the gas tax and index it for inflation, in order to fund public transit,” said Reardon. “It matters to me because I’m a mass transit rider.
“It also matters to me because I know that failing to fund transit starves our communities and working families. They rely on public transit every day.”