Atlantic Cities:Does your city need a Transit Riders Union?
Emily Badger of Atlantic Cities examines the growth of Transit Unions, starting with examining the model of the Bus Riders Union in Los Angeles.
It's ironic that unions are catching on with transit riders as the model is dwindling in power in the workplace. But these two ideas were closely related when the L.A. group first got started in 1992. "We see the bus as a factory on wheels," Francisca Porchas, an organizer with the Bus Riders Union says, particularly in the post-industrial economy where fewer workers are meeting on factory and shop floors. "This is the place where we felt we found the multi-racial working class."
The bus has in a way become the logical next organizing venue. In Porchas' mind, there is a kind of continuity to the fact that the civil rights movement had its roots in bus organizing. These modern-day challenges of transit access and fares are social (and now environmental) justice issues, too.
"Every major city in the nation was facing operational deficits," Francisca Porchas says of calls that started coming in 2009. "And it was pretty clear they were going to be raising fares or cutting service. I think that was a huge, huge motivation for a lot of organizations to start." Riders wanted to get organized in Memphis, Tennessee, and Birmingham, Alabama, and Detroit and Colorado and New Mexico.
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