On Saturday, August 19th, the Battle of Homestead Foundation hosted a panel of organizations and individuals working on improving public transit in Pittsburgh. PPT director Molly Nichols and Garfield resident and leader Debra Short both spoke at the panel, as well as Kathryn Schlesinger from the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group and Gerry Strutt, bus driver and member of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 85.
The panel took place at the historic Pump House, the location of the Battle of Homestead Strike in 1892. Union workers at the steel mill bravely attempted to hold back hundreds of Pinkerton guards hired by Frick and Carnegie to break up the strike. After a bloody fight in which seven workers were killed, the National Guard was called in, quelling the protests. This critical moment helped galvanize the Labor Movement in Pittsburgh and nationally.
Transit is deeply connected with many struggles today–labor, environmental, racial, economic, and it was moving to hear this presentation in a building with such a powerful history.
The event began with a video introduction created by Dean Mougianis. which showed the work and successes of PPT’s campaigns over the past year. It highlighted the ways community involvement and activism created direct change and improved the lives of residents. Molly talked about current transit in the region and how it affects low income and especially black and immigrant families. She discussed the importance of having affordable housing near transit lines, laying the framework for the event: access to transit as a human rights and equity issue.
Debra shared her experiences working to mobilize Garfield residents on this issue. She talked about the overwhelmingly positive community response and how quickly people came together. She shared how the efforts of the community paid off, ending encouragingly by saying, “we can do this everywhere.” Gerry added his perspective as a driver, highlighting the intersections between labor and transit, and pointing to the need for interconnected campaigns. Kathryn tied the pieces together and provided a policy and research perspective on the issue with emphasis on creating better connections to current transit service on the busway and the T.
Many members of the audience expressed their support of the work PPT does and shared the importance of accountability in public processes–pointing to the urgent need for increased transit and access to affordable housing in the city.
Please visit Battle of Homestead Foundation for more info: http://battleofhomestead.org/battle.php
PPT video introduction (created by Dean Mougianis):