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Workers and Riders Rally for a Safe Transit System

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Massive, socially-distanced rolling rally to the State Transportation Building demanded that the FMCB not cut MBTA service and jobs

BOSTON — Transit riders, workers, and community leaders came together Thursday to oppose significant service and job cuts proposed for the MBTA. The rolling demonstration through downtown Boston ended with a rally at the State Transportation Building, and emotional testimonials from speakers about the pain these cuts will inflict on families and communities throughout the state.

Communities that rely on public transit have been shaken by recent proposals from MBTA executives to enact devastating cuts to the agency, slashing commuter rail, bus,  subway, and ferry service. Public Transit Public Good, a broad coalition of transit workers and riders, organized the rally in advance of an MBTA hearing that evening. 

“The state has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. People need support, not a rollback in essential services,” said Lee Matsueda, Executive Director of Community Labor United, which convenes the Public Transit Public Good coalition. “Now more than ever, we need a safe, affordable, and accessible transit system that works for all.”

“Transit justice is social justice,” said Jim Evers, President, Boston Carmen’s Union, Local 589. “Public transit is a public good, and we’re in this fight for the long haul.”

“There are many neighborhoods that could become inaccessible without adequate public transportation, limiting the ability of people to access critical health services,” said Susan Backstrom, Member, GreenRoots. “The MBTA and our elected officials need to consider the needs of the people in these neighborhoods before just cutting them off from the services they desperately need.”

The rally-goers urged the FMCB to rethink these deep and long-term cuts and instead seek new revenues. President-Elect Biden has pledged hundreds of millions in infrastructure investments. Here in Massachusetts, progressive revenues could be generated by raising the corporate income tax rate and other measures. It is foolish to make drastic, long-lasting cuts when new resources could become available. Most of the proposed cuts would take place beginning in July 2021. 

“Even as COVID-19 has reshaped our daily lives, bus and train service remains critical to countless riders, especially to the frontline essential workers who have kept our communities running during the pandemic,” said Chrissy Lynch, Chief of Staff, Massachusetts AFL-CIO. “We deserve a safe and reliable transit system. Instead of cutting service, the FMCB should make long-overdue investments in public transit.”

“We are encouraged by the turnout today, on foot, by car and bike, and online,” said Darlene Lombos, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Greater Boston Labor Council. “It is so moving to see transit riders and transit workers coming together with one voice to send a clear message that public transit must be protected. Massachusetts should be investing more in public transportation, not less. We should be increasing access to the communities most in need, not cutting them off from their jobs and schools.”

Riders throughout the MBTA system still take hundreds of thousands of trips a day to get to work, school, medical appointments, and other important destinations. The essential workers we rely on during the pandemic need reliable and uncrowded public transportation to get to and from work safely. 

Hundreds of jobs will be lost if the MBTA’s Fiscal Management and Control Board votes to approve proposed cuts. Sweeping layoffs across the system would further destabilize Massachusetts families and communities and leave the MBTA unable to quickly restart cut services as demand for public transit rebounds.  

“The people being hurt by these cuts are the people who have risked and suffered the most during this terrible pandemic,” said Mike Vartabedian, Assistant Directing Business Representative of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), District 15. “It is unfair for the MBTA and our elected officials to ask these people to suffer an even greater loss.”

“We’re the ones keeping this system running,” said Karen Maxwell, Assistant Secretary, Boston Carmen’s Union, Local 589. “Cuts are not acceptable.”

The pandemic‐induced drop in fare revenue has exacerbated the MBTA’s chronic underfunding and our Commonwealth’s public transit system. Instead of cuts, the coalition asks the FMCB to focus instead on capturing sustainable, progressive, and equitable new revenue.

“Now is the time to invest in an equitable, safe, and reliable public transit system that serves everyone, especially those in communities that have been under-resourced for decades,” said Marie-Frances Rivera, President, MassBudget. “The proposed service cuts to address the T’s revenue shortfall could threaten the safety of riders and shift more people back into cars further harming our environment.”

In its effort to make transit safe for our communities, the coalition announced that it would begin a sweeping advertising campaign hitting airwaves next week. Ads will air during prime-time and daytime television on top-rated television stations, including CNN, MSNBC History, and CNBC. The campaign will also be featured on digital platforms.

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