Markey, Pressley, Lynch and more speak out against MBTA board plans

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, December 14, 2020

For information, contact on behalf of Public Transit Public Good Coalition:
Orianna Tate, orianna@617mediagroup.com, 617-895-6783

 

BOSTON, MA — On the heels of mounting criticism and opposition, elected officials, transit advocates, and workers spoke out Monday against the potential of MBTA service and job cuts. The press conference was held at the State Transportation Building, and online. Click here to watch the recording of the press conference. 

Hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents rely on the MBTA daily to get to work, school, medical appointments, and other important destinations. Many essential workers, who are crucial to our healthcare and economic functioning during the coronavirus pandemic, rely on public transit. The MBTA presented a modified set of proposed cuts at the Fiscal Management and Control Board meeting this afternoon, with some previously proposed cuts rolled back, but the proposal still including cuts to commuter rail, bus and ferry service, as well as longer scheduling windows on The RIDE. The MBTA is now suggesting changes be implemented beginning January, with a full slate of changes implemented pending equity and environmental review. 

“To deny community access to consistent, affordable and accessible transit services, in the midst of this crisis, will be nothing but catastrophic, and would contribute to the public health crisis, while we are in the middle of a second surge, further destabilizing families and wrecking greater hardship and havoc,” said U.S. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) who joined the press conference via a live stream. “This unprecedented crisis does require us to be bold in our policies, as well as in our investments so that we can continue to build towards a more just and equitable long-term economic recovery in the Commonwealth and our nation as a whole.”

“I would ask the MBTA to take another look at the current cuts,” said U.S. Congressman Stephen Lynch (D-MA) who attended the event in person. “I’m blessed to have 3 VA hospitals in my district, Jamaica Plains, Brockton, and West Roxbury. The cuts that they are proposing would cut off the lifeline of our veterans to those very same hospitals in Jamaica Plain, in Brockton and in West Roxbury. So I’m asking Steve Poftack, and the Governor, and the MBTA board to take a closer look at this. We have time, the will of Congress is there to get transit funding to the MBTA and other transit systems throughout the country.”

“I call on the MBTA to civilly prioritize workers, including its own employees and frontline workers, using this system and any response to COVID-19. If we are to protect transportation as a public good we must invest in essential services and a strong workforce moving forward,” said U.S. Senator Ed Markey in a statement read by Jim Cantwell, Senator Markey’s State Director. 

“I am proud to stand with union members, the workers of the MBTA here today, and I am proud to stand with my elected colleagues in elected government, community groups, and the people that we all represent in saying let’s get through this together, let us beat this challenge, let us eliminate the cuts and let us find the dollars to ensure that what we believe this service will be today is going to be enhanced and benefit tomorrow,” said Mayor Thomas McGee, City of Lynn, who attended the event in person.

“I am opposed to these cuts and elimination,” Mayor Robert Sullivan, City of Brockton, through a pre-record video message that was played at the event and online. “They will have a profound detrimental, negative impact on Brockton and surrounding communities.”

Speakers warned that the proposed cuts would negatively impact families and communities throughout the state who rely on public transit. Public Transit Public Good,  a broad coalition of transit workers and riders, organized today’s press conference.

“The MBTA has heard loud and clear that these cuts are not acceptable,” said Lee Matsueda, Executive Director, Community Labor United. “Together, we are bringing light to a vision for a system that we all need and deserve as a critical piece of our recovery from this pandemic.”

“Cuts will strand riders, harm essential workers, and lead to hundreds of lost jobs at the MBTA,” said Collique Williams, Organizer, Community Labor United. “It will hurt our health, and environment, and slow our return to economic prosperity. Today, we anticipate the MBTA executives will put a new proposal for cuts in front of the board members. The public has had no opportunity to review this proposal. The Fiscal Management and Control Board has not had enough time to review the proposal or consider public comments. There is much we do not know about the MBTA’s plan, but we do know that deep service cuts are bad for riders, bad for workers, and bad for Massachusetts.” 

Critics of the cuts demanded that the agency’s Fiscal and Management Control Board vote “no” on the cuts, noting that what riders and workers deserve is a fully funded, accessible, and safe public transit system. 

Earlier versions of the proposed cuts would have potentially wiped out 800 jobs — jobs of frontline MBTA workers who show up every day to make our MBTA and our communities safer. As of Monday morning, the MBTA was still sitting on details of a revised package of cuts. 

“We are here today because we oppose service cuts to the MBTA,” said Jim Evers, President/Business Agent, Boston Carmen’s Union Local 589. “We are not alone — over the past months, people from all over the Commonwealth — riders, workers, business leaders and elected officials — have stood together against these cuts, knowing that these cuts are bad for our mobility, health and prosperity.”

“This is a difficult and dangerous time for us,” said Mike Vartabedian, Assistant Directing Business Representative, IAM District 15. “We are asking the Fiscal Management and Control Board to not make it more difficult on people who have already suffered a great loss during this pandemic. We are asking them to reconsider these cuts and to make sure we protect the people who have protected us during this pandemic.” 

“I know for most of the community members, the MBTA is a lifeline,” said Ed Corra, Boston Carmen’s Union Local 589 member and an MBTA driver. “Even through all these difficult months, they go out each day to provide food, clean buildings and provide healthcare to our community. We cannot let them down now.”

“The possibility of losing our jobs and being unable to provide for our families is truly crushing,“ said Michael Fusco, IAM Local 264 member. “We are already short-handed at the MBTA and any further service cuts will be devastating to the public and to the employees.”

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About Public Transit Public Good Coalition: 

Public Transit Public Good is a partnership of transit workers and riders throughout Massachusetts fighting for the future of public transit. Community Labor United convenes PTPG. Visit publictransitpublicgood.org to learn more.