The leadership of the Transport Workers Union of America was invited to participate in a Transportation, Labor and Manufacturers summit held at Casina Pio IV in Vatican City, March 4-5. The summit was sponsored by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) and the Vatican’s Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (PAS). International President John Samuelsen, Secretary-Treasurer Jerome Lafragola, Transit, Universities, Utilities Services Director Curtis Tate and Air Division Director Mike Mayes attended.
President Samuelsen and Secretary-Treasurer Lafragola both gave addresses at the summit, stressing the importance of worker solidarity in the age of new automation. Workers do not have to simply accept that technology will displace them. Instead, they need to organize and take part in their union’s fightback campaigns.
“The speed and complexity of this new technology is incredible,” Lafragola said. Therefore, all politicians must rapidly begin to develop appropriate social structures to deal with potential negative worker impacts. Some elected officials are eager to use this technology to decarbonize our world, but they are not talking at all about the effects on jobs and careers.
“We can still be green and maintain a workforce,” Samuelsen said. “Looking down the barrel of automation: its sole goal isn’t to improve public transit, but to get rid of workers…But workers are at the heart of transportation networks and hopefully they always will be.”
Click here to watch President Samuelsen discuss the effects of automation on the workforce.
“A carbonless economy transport system does not equate to a workerless economy and transport system. Electric buses do not to be driverless,” Samuelsen said. “It’s a primary role of organized labor to defend workers caught up in this new world and to compel elected officials to adapt social structures that are fair and just for working people.”
“Lessons from NAFTA must be learned and not repeated,” he continued. “Democrats and Republicans duped everyone into thinking retraining and repurposing factories would bring back jobs – but they did not. It was this big promise that brought us the Rust Belt and eventually President Trump.
“Failure by the government to create new structures to deal with this new economy will create the greatest wage disparity we have ever seen. All of the positive capital outcomes will go to the super wealthy and all of the associated societal negatives will get chained to everyone else,” Samuelsen explained. “The massive, unprecedented profit that will arise from the elimination of workers is going to have to fund these new, necessary, worker protecting structures.
“It’s ‘now or never’ time very soon. Politicians must show some backbone to ensure a fair and just transition to this new world. If they don’t, there will be a social upheaval in America on a scale which none of us has ever seen,” Samuelsen concluded.
Click here to watch President Samuelsen talk about the need to invest in green, public transportation.
The TWU’s remarks at the summit was covered by The Chief Leader.