The Takeaway

Workers Organize Largest Union Strike Since 1980s

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

In what's being called the biggest strike since 1980, union workers at U.S. oil refineries & chemical plants across the country have walked out over disagreements on working conditions.

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New Jersey News

Paterson Silk Strike Remembered in Sleepy NJ Suburb

Wednesday, February 06, 2013


Hidden away in the quiet New Jersey suburb of Haledon, N.J., a stately Victorian home is the epicenter of a movement to remember a big labor victory in the Paterson Silk Strike of 1913.

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On The Media

The Great Newspaper Strike of 1962-63

Friday, December 21, 2012

Fifty years ago this month, 17,000 New York City newspaper workers went on strike, shuttering the city's seven daily papers for 114 days. Rooted in fears about new "cold type" printing technology, the strike ended up devastating the city's newspaper culture and launching the careers of a new generation of writers including Tom Wolfe, Gay Talese, and Nora Ephron. Vanity Fair contributor Scott Sherman talks with Bob about the strike and its legacy.

Amon Tobin - Stoney Street

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We're Fighting For the Same Thing: Better Schools

Friday, September 21, 2012

The father of two boys attending public school struggles to reconcile his support for a Queens charter school with the sympathy he felt for Chicago's teachers when they went on strike.

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Transportation Nation

Detroit Bus Strike Slows City, Wins Safety Promises from Mayor

Friday, November 04, 2011

A Detroit bus stop. (By Flickr user JSmith Photo)

About 100 Detroit city bus drivers refused to work this morning to demand safer working conditions after a driver was beaten by a group of teens on Thursday afternoon at the city's main transit terminal.

Riders were stranded across the city until after lunch--more than 100,000 people use the transit system daily. Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, who has been criticized for not paying enough attention to transit, reacted quickly by promising new measures to improve safety for drivers and riders alike. Buses were rolling again by 1:30pm, according to Mayor Bing.

WDET reporter Quinn Klinefelter tells Transportation Nation the strike comes after months of mounting frustration. For the past six months the city and the union representing bus mechanics have been sparring, resulting in what the city calls a slowdown. "So there should be 300 or so buses on the road but there have been only 200 buses," Klinefelter says. That's led to hour-long delays and an increasingly dissatisfied ridership, some of whom have been taking it out on drivers.

Kleinfelter says that on Thursday, "a driver got off and got beaten up by teenagers" at the Rosa Parks Transit Station in downtown Detroit. The number of teens and exact circumstances are still unclear. The Detroit Free Press reports the teenagers were angered that the driver refused to wait for their friend. It took police 30 minutes to arrive even though headquarters is only blocks away.

In response to the attack and slow police response, this morning 100 drivers showed up to work but refused to get on the buses and drive, saying they didn't feel safe behind the wheel.

Mayor Bing, finding himself confronted by a second transit union, scrambled to react and get buses rolling again. He told a press gathering this afternoon that he had met with drivers, DDOT officials and Detroit Police about driver safety today. He said they reached "an understanding."

"The city is committed to providing security to both bus drivers and passengers alike," Bing said. "There will be zero tolerance for unacceptable behavior toward our bus drivers." He said the Detroit Police Department will institute random stops of buses to inspect them for safety and additional officers will be stationed at the Rosa Parks Transit Station. He also announced a $1,000 reward for tips leading to arrests of the attackers.

WDET's Klinefelter said Henry Gaffney, the head of Amalgamated Transit Workers' Union Local 26 representing the drivers, told WDET the city has agreed to put in bullet proof partitions around drivers. The city, however, denied any knowledge of the promise to Klinefelter.

Speaking to WDET earlier in the day, Megan Owens, the Executive Director of Transportation Riders United, explained why this strike was a long time coming. "For a lot of DDOT drivers [the attack] was the straw that broke the camel's back. They've been bearing the brunt of the bus problems for a long time with passengers verbally assaulting drivers pretty frequently, and they say if they can't feel safe going out on the roads, they're not going to drive."

The full conversation with WDET covers systemic needs and root causes behind today's strike in more detail. She argues the full DDOT system has been ignored and underfunded for years and calls for a regional transit authority to be created.

For a sense of the inconvenience the unannounced work action caused, see this video by the Detroit Free Press with stranded riders from earlier this morning.

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Transportation Nation

San Francisco's Taxi Wars Heat Up

Monday, June 27, 2011

(Photo: Casey Miner)

Listen to the radio version of this story at KALW.

(San Francisco) Most people don’t think of taxi cabs when they conjure a public transportation network. Seven thousand taxi drivers make constant pickups around San Francisco, and officials say a proposed series of changes could make life better for them, and attract more people as passengers. But not all the cabbies buy it, and they’ve been making their feelings known.

Last Tuesday more than 100 taxis converged on an MTA board meeting to protest what they say is unfair treatment by the city. They drove around City Hall for two hours, with signs on their cabs saying, “Strike,” and honking pretty much continuously.

Driver Sung Nguyen said. "We’re here to strike the MTA; they [treat] the cab drivers unfairly. About the five percent credit card fee, the electronic waybill," the current record keeping system, which could change under the new rules.

There’s a lot to the San Francisco taxi wars, and it can get confusing pretty fast, so here’s a primer on all the taxi turmoil:

The roughly 7,000 taxi drivers in San Francisco are operated by more than two dozen companies. They aren’t city employees, but the city regulates them just like any other mode of transit. It’s been that way since 2009.

Over the past several months, the MTA has tried to make some changes to the way taxis operate, similar to those imposed in other cities, like New York, also over driver objections. First, the MTA mandated that all drivers accept credit cards. If you’re a passenger, that’s great. But credit cards come with processing fees, and those fees come out of the drivers’ pockets. That’s one of the reasons for the protest.

The MTA also wants to install backseat terminals in all the cabs that would show ads and other information, as well as let passengers swipe their own cards. And they want to start requiring companies to keep electronic records of every pickup and drop off.  Right now, drivers are supposed keep those records on paper – they’re called waybills. Officials say these changes will modernize the industry and make it better for everyone. But some drivers think the city is just out to make money.

Ricardo Silva was one of the protesting taxi drivers at City Hall. He’s been driving for almost 14 years. He gave up a day of work to protest, because, he says the demonstration is more important. He says drivers can’t afford the credit card fees, and that electronic records are too invasive. "It’s like, tracking us, it’s like we are criminals, you know what I mean? Prisoners don’t get that, why do cab drivers have to? They get bracelets but when they are finished they take the bracelets off. But now they are 24 hours tracking us. It’s not fair."

This an example of something the MTA and drivers don’t see eye-to-eye on. Christiane Hayashi is the city’s deputy director of taxi services. She pointed to a stack of paper waybills as evidence of how antiquated the current system is. "These are filled out – sometimes they’re filled out fully, sometimes they’re filled out partially, sometimes there’s just a name on them, sometimes they’re empty. Here’s one that just has two entries; neither of them is legible. These are not reliable business records. They’re not reliable transit records."

The city’s hoping that by switching to electronic records they’ll be able to get a picture of how the taxi industry operates. Things like, where are the busiest areas for taxis? When do most people take them? Why are people taking them? Hayashi says that we know these things about agencies like Muni and BART, but, not taxis. "What data do we have about the taxi industry in one of the world’s most important cities, San Francisco? Nothing! Absolutely nothing."

Hayashi says the city is trying to help cab drivers. If they know more about the business, they can work on getting more people to take cabs. But not all the drivers trust the city. At Tuesday’s meeting, the MTA board was supposed to discuss some of the taxi issues, including a fare increase that would be the drivers’ first raise in eight years. They were also going to consider issuing temporary driver permits that could put more cabs on the street at busy times. But at the last minute, they had to take everything off the agenda. They said they needed to finish a legally required environmental review. The change didn’t stop drivers from packing the meeting room. Joe Marabole spoke for an industry group called the United Taxicab Workers.

"I wanted to thank the MTA for uniting San Francisco’s cab industry with its corrosive policies such as the sale of medallions, the rear seat terminals, has awakened an industry that has long tolerated abuses from the MTA. You should not be ruining our industry. We won’t go away. We will return again and again until our voices are heard."

One issue raised by the drivers was the very relationship between drivers and the MTA. The city makes money from taxis, but the drivers aren’t city employees. So what amount of regulation is fair? MTA’s Christiane Hayashi says, "These are working people, and I trust in that. We’re not interested in being Big Brother."

The Board will take up taxi issues again in August. If you want to know exactly what day, just listen for the honking.


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Transportation Nation

New York Transit Strike's Fifth Anniversary.

Monday, December 20, 2010

NYC Transit Strike, Second Day. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and supporters walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. (Getty Images)

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) It was a colder day than it is today.  I'd hardly slept -- waiting as I was, for word of whether there would be a transit strike. Negotiations went up to midnight, and then beyond.  I was quite sure there wouldn't be a vote to strike. How could there be?  And then there was. The trains and buses -- hundreds and hundreds of miles of them, had stopped. Stations were locked.

My assignment:  cover the Mayor, then, as now, Michael R. Bloomberg.  So sometime before 5 a.m. I was up, and out, pulling on the layers.  I rode my bike on dark streets over to the Brooklyn Bridge, looking to lock it up before crossing the East River into Manhattan. This was pre-PlaNYC, and there were almost no bike paths. No one but messengers and the insanely devoted rode bikes on New York City streets in those days. Especially not when it was 10 degrees Fahrenheit outside.

Before I had to a chance to lock up my bike at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Mayor and his entourage were upon me.  This was no Ed Koch-like stroll, asking New Yorkers how they were doing.   It was a grim, unsmiling forced march.  Between my bike and my recording equipment I could hardly keep up. At one point, my bike toppled over. "Can't you do something about that, miss?" the Mayor snapped.   He was not a happy man. The thermometer as we crossed the bridge hovered in the teens.

NYPD direct traffic at a checkpoint on 96th St. and Lexington Ave. (Getty Images)

As the day wore on, cars, trucks and buses crammed the streets. Passengers negotiated to share cabs, or hitched rides over the bridges, but the traffic hardly moved. Most normal days, we complain about the transit system. On this one, we realized, how, without it, the city would stop. It practically did.

Commuters wait in line to board trains outside Grand Central Terminal during the evening rush of day two. (Getty Images)

The Mayor's fury boiled over at several points during the three-day strike.  He won punishing fines against the Transport Workers Union. The sub-freezing temperatures did not abate. I biked from our offices in Lower Manhattan to downtown Brooklyn, where the court cases were being heard.

By day three I was dreading all the clothing I had to wear, and the 5 a.m. calls from our assignment desk. I was cratering, and so was the city. And then, just when I was sure another day would break me, the strike ended. The transit system -- dirty, crammed with delays, stuffed with people, the source of tsuris every day -- up and running again, seemed like the train from heaven.

After three days, commuters at the Jay Street subway station return to mass transit. (Getty Images)

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Moynihan Station Breaks Ground, ARC Rally Today, and Are Electric Car Subsidies A Good Idea?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Moynihan Station breaks ground; will expand Penn Station and become the railhead for Amtrak and New Jersey Transit. (WNYC)

There's an ARC tunnel rally today in North Bergen (WNYC).  Meanwhile: "I don't want to hear about the jobs it will createIf I don't have the money for the payroll, it will not create the jobs," Governor Christie said yesterday. "This is not a difficult decision for me." (Star Ledger)

The BBC is reporting that because of the strikes against oil refineries, 1,500 French gas stations are either dry or about to run out of gas.

Politicians who railed against the stimulus passionately sought its funding, especially when it came to transportation projects. (Washington Post)

An FAA-funded study says that flight delays cost passengers $16.7 billion in 2007. (AP via NPR)

Marketplace asks: are electric car subsidies a good idea?

Porsche plans a hybrid in every model line and plans to have an electric sports car hit the market in three to four years. (AutoWeek)

And just in time for Halloween: the Detroit Free Press has a primer on how to remove candy stains from car upholstery.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: NYC Taxi Drivers Accused Of Overcharge Scheme, and Virginia's DOT has millions in unspent funds

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dozens of New York City taxi drivers have been arrested on charges that they defrauded customers by doubling fares. (WNYC)

More than a year after Virginia implemented a statewide ban on texting while driving, local police officers say they're unlikely to write a ticket for a violation. (WAMU)

Another round of strikes hobbles transportation in France.  (NPR)

The results of an audit of Virginia's Department of Transportation are expected to reveal that the department has almost $500 million in unspent funds. (Washington Post)

The Bay Area's AC Transit voted to slash weekend and overnight service (San Francisco Chronicle). Meanwhile, BART is considering selling naming rights to stations to raise revenue (Sacramento Bee).

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