Larisa Manescu, email@example.com
In Remembrance of Rosa Parks on Her Birthday, Actions Throughout Country Call on Public Officials and Transit Agencies to Invest in Public Transit Service and Workforce
NATIONWIDE–Feb. 4, 2022– For the fifth year, grassroots transit rider groups, environmental, climate justice, civil rights, disability, and faith organizations, and transit workers unions, will organize actions across the country to recognize transit equity as a civil right. The groups are demanding investments in safe, reliable and affordable public transit service, including improved wages, benefits, training, and health and safety protocols to expand and retain the workforce. These efforts are part of the nationally recognized Transit Equity Day, held annually on Rosa Parks’ birthday.
This year, actions will be featured via a livestream today at 12 pm ET / 9 am PT: https://www.youtube.com/c/LaborNetworkforSustainability.
From the rural and metropolitan areas of Wisconsin to the urban neighborhoods of Chicago, New York, Atlanta and Washington DC, throughout the suburbs of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Charleston, South Carolina, and Fort Wayne, Indiana to the state house of Rhode Island, the collective message from Transit Equity Day organizers will be bold and clear: greater access to safe, reliable and affordable transit service is the shortest route to an equitable society. As we enter the third year of the pandemic, several actions will be hosted online, centering the voices of those impacted by local transit issues–the challenges as well as their victories.
This year, Transit Equity Day also includes the release of a new report, “Invest in Transit Equity, Invest in Transit Workers,” by the Alliance for a Just Society, the Labor Network for Sustainability, and Transit Center. The report describes how inadequate investments in our public transit workforce have resulted in reduced transit service in cities, towns, and states across the country. The report asserts that equitable transit service depends on adequate staffing levels and a skilled, dedicated, professional and stable workforce. Greater investments in the workforce can boost economic opportunity and promote racial equity in our communities. The report calls on transit agencies to work with their employees – through their democratically elected union representatives–to address staffing issues, including pay, benefits, health and safety protections and training.
Here are examples of Transit Equity Day activities that will take place on February 4:
In Washington, DC, on February 2, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), Local 689, the Washington Interfaith Network (WIN), and Greater Greater Washington held a listening session to hear directly from transit workers about the issues facing them. Highlights from the session will be announced on Transit Equity Day, February 4.
In Boston, the NAACP, Boston Transit Riders Union, and Labor Network for Sustainability are partnering to show “The Rosa Parks Story,” a biopic that stars Oscar winner Angela Bassett, to educate young riders about the Montgomery Bus Boycott that led to the transformative Supreme Court ruling on Dec. 21, 1956, declaring segregation on public transit unconstitutional. “This is also an opportunity for us to uplift the election of our new Mayor, Michelle Wu, who is a transit rider and advocate herself, and who is taking action to expand fare-free bus service throughout the city,” said Nancy Smith of the Massachusetts State Conference, NAACP Transit Environment Climate Justice Committee.
In San Bernardino, California the county’s five local bus systems have declared that all who use public transit on Feb. 4 will get to ride free. This includes communities throughout suburban and rural areas. Participating agencies include Omnitrans, Victor Valley Transit Authority, Mountain Transit, Morongo Basin Transit Authority, Needles Area Transit, and City of Needles Dial-a-Ride.
“In addition to celebrating Parks’ memory, Transit Equity Day gives the opportunity to focus on how public transit systems make our communities more connected and accessible for everyone,” San Bernardino County Transit Authority Board President Supervisor Curt Hagman says in the County’s Jan. 6 announcement.
"All across the Midwest, people are mobilizing for better public transit,” said Gail Francis, REAMP Network. “Whether it's because of the good jobs or the freedom it offers to people who can't or don't want to drive, or because we want to reduce pollution and climate change, Midwesterners deserve better public transportation. That's why community leaders in Iowa are getting towns to issue proclamations that Feb. 4 is Transit Equity Day, and why the governors of the states of Wisconsin and Minnesota have done the same. It’s why labor and civil rights and disability activists are handing out buttons or placing roses on the front seat of buses or educating the public in Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. We want to get where we need to go without having to drive everywhere."
Michael Leon Guerrero, Executive Director of the Labor Network for Sustainability, says “Transit Equity Day provides us the opportunity to celebrate and show the links between workers’ rights, civil rights and environmental justice . We are especially pleased that we are releasing the report, ‘Invest in Transit Equity, Invest in Transit Workers’ on February 4. The report demonstrates how investments in transit workers is an investment in transit equity. Workers’ rights, civil rights, and climate justice are all advanced by promoting policies that improve job quality, safety and security. As we write in the Report, we urge transit agencies to engage in discussions with their unions about how to identify and address staffing concerns. And, we’re excited that so many transit rider groups across the country will lift up the report and its conclusion that workers’ rights are an issue of equity on Transit Equity Day.”
“Accessible public transit is critical for helping low-income communities of color access opportunities,” said Lakisha Watson-Moore, Digital Engagement Manager at Dream Corps Green For All. “What often gets overlooked is that public transit is also the key to tackling the climate crisis, which disproportionately impacts transit-dependent communities. Dream Corps Green For All advances common ground solutions from across the aisle that address poverty and pollution, including investing in reliable, affordable transit for all communities. Transit equity is fundamental to ensuring our communities can breathe cleaner air, commute to schools and jobs, and prevent the worst impacts of climate change.”
“Investing in labor ensures that our transit systems can keep running for years to come. We’re now facing a harsh reality with COVID, the lack of benefits to retain talent, and then the continued backwards practices that have led to the Great Resignation, even in our transit systems. We must demand change to prepare for a better working environment for those operators, which will in turn yield a more pleasant environment for transit riders now and forever on,” said Labor Network for Sustainability Transit Organizer Bakari Height.
“Safe, accessible, affordable, and zero-emission public transit is a win for climate, for economic justice, and for workers. With the right investment, a strong transit system is a key component of the transition to a clean energy economy powered by unionized workers,” said Ramón Cruz, President of the Sierra Club. “The communities that are suffering most from the impacts of climate disasters — Black and Brown and low-income communities — are the same communities underserved by transit options across the nation. Entering the third year of the Covid-19 pandemic, this inequity is more evident than ever for both transit riders and workers. All decision-makers, from local transit agencies to legislators in Washington DC, must work to get transit back on track by funding it as the social good and climate change solution it is.”
**Speakers from the Transit Equity Day livestream are available for media interviews***
About the Transit Equity Network
Since 2018, the Transit Equity Network, an alliance of transit/transport unions, community organizations, environmental groups and transit riders, has organized in the interest of saving public transit. Having started with a national day of action on Rosa Parks’ birthday–known as Transit Equity Day to declare public transportation as a civil right–the Network connects Ms. Parks’ act of nonviolent resistance to the rights of all people to high-quality public transportation run on clean/renewable energy. The Network organizes year-round to advocate for adequate funding to support safe, reliable, equitable and environmentally clean transit systems. Learn more at www.labor4sustainability.org/transit-equity-2022.
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.