Stand with transit workers this Wednesday and assert their right to say that Black Lives Matter.
On July 22nd Port Authority amended its dress code and began punishing local transit workers for wearing buttons and masks that read, “Black Lives Matter”. At least two workers have been sent home and disciplined for wearing “Black Lives Matter” messages. The workers organized with their union and were able to overturn the disciplinary action. However, Port Authority continues to insist that “Black Lives Matter” has no place in the transit agency.
If you stand with transit workers and their right to stand up for Black Lives, join them at their protest: 4pm this Wednesday (9/2) at 345 Sixth Ave.
“Black Lives Matter is not a social or a political protest. It’s a movement. It’s how I live my life every day as a Black man in America.” – Sascha Craig, Port Authority Worker, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85.
Support for public transit, and support for public transit workers, is critical in the Movement for Black lives. It has long been recognized that the public transit industry has played a vital role in elevating Black Americans to the middle class, particularly Black Women. And public transit systems are essential tools to economic justice for Black riders too.
Port Authority released this statement in response to the workers who organized this protest, saying “Port Authority unequivocally believes that Black lives matter.” But riders and workers who are fighting for transit as a human right need more than words and niceties. To draw on a blog that we released in June, our struggle for transit justice and “Black Lives Matter” must mean we:
- Fight for a low-income fare program at a time when riders are disproportionately Black and Brown and low-income. These communities are also more harmed by the economic fallout of this health crisis, and more likely to be taking transit to work to get to work and to access essential services.
- Use equity metrics and analyze ridership data during COVID-19 to redistribute transit service, to prevent overcrowding or rider pass-ups on lines. Bus overcrowding is a public health hazard for riders and transit workers during a global pandemic.
- Ensure that transit workers receive PPE and hazard pay, as they are disproportionately getting infected and dying from COVID-19. Transit jobs are also disproportionately held by Black workers and particularly Black women.
- Ensure that we have dedicated and sustainable funding for transit at a time when cities and states are pushing a narrative of austerity; funding robust public transit is one of the most effective pathways for cities to achieve racial equity. In Pennsylvania, state police have been siphoning more than $850 million dollars a year of dedicated transportation funding from the Motor License Fund. Defund the police and ensure public investments go towards uplifting our most marginalized residents.
- Weigh into #cancelrent and #cancelmortgages, and pass policies that effectively tie affordable housing and transit land use. The forthcoming wave of evictions triggered by COVID-19 will lead to a transit/mobility crisis, particularly for Black and Brown communities, and will accelerate the harm we’ve seen from displacement and gentrification.
- Decriminalize transit. For black and brown community members, policing is a threat. In this time, Black transit riders have found themselves subject to police violence for both wearing a mask or not wearing a mask.
- Ensure that riders’ voices- particularly Black riders’ voices- and data around equity are governing decision-making around public resources.