Democrats condemn transit cuts proposed by Republicans in Congress


Sen. Robert Menendez and Democratic strategist James Devine joined bus drivers, passengers and the Transit Union officials at a Newark Penn Station to urge Americans to derail draconian GOP transportation cuts.

Massive service cuts, serious fare increases, and dangerous traveling conditions for New Jersey transit riders would result from the multi-year transportation re-authorization bill proposed by Republicans in Congress.

Democrat James Devine, of Rahway, on Tuesday joined bus drivers, passengers and other activists at a rally at Newark Penn Station to say it is urgent that Americans derail the draconian cuts proposed by Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla).

Members of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) protesting the misguided bill, which calls for cutting public transportation funding to New Jersey by a staggering $3 billion – 30 percent – over the next six years and eliminate 18,000 jobs in the first year took time to praise Sen. Robert Menendez, who attended the rally, as well as President Barack Obama.

“The New Jersey transit system is already on the ropes and the Mica proposal would be the knockout punch that would mean more massive fare increases, serious cuts in service and put many more New Jerseyans on the unemployment line,” said Larry Hanley, President of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), which represents bus drivers in New Jersey and throughout the U.S. and Canada.

“However with Senator Menendez as head of the Senate Subcommittee on Housing and Transportation, we know we at least have a fighting chance to save essential service that New Jerseyans rely upon to survive,” said Hanley.

ATU supports Obama’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 Department of Transportation (DOT) budget as well as the Democratic administration’s outline for the re-authorization of SAFETEA-LU, which calls for nearly doubling the size of the federal transit program in FY 2012.

Devine explained that the president’s proposal recognizes that the public transportation crisis threatens the economic recovery.

“Mass transit is vital for getting people back to work, protecting the environment and guarding against huge expenses down the road,” said Devine. “Since President Ronald Reagan, Republicans have been digging America into a giant hole, comprised of debt and delayed investments.”

Menendez, chair of the Senate Banking subcommittee with jurisdiction over public transportation, recently led 24 colleagues — including Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) — in a letter to the Senate Finance Committee urging that mass transit receive adequate resources.

The ATU is the largest labor organization representing transit workers in the United States and Canada.

Founded in 1892, the ATU today is comprised of over 190,000 members in 264 local unions spread across 44 states and nine provinces, including 3,000 workers at Greyhound Lines, Inc.

Composed of bus drivers, light rail operators, maintenance and clerical personnel and other transit and municipal employees, the ATU works to promote transit issues and fights for the interests of its hard-working members.

Strong labor unions are vital to expanding the middle class, according to Devine.

“Without collective bargaining and other union benefits, workers are alone against big businesses that would exploit labor,” said Devine. “Solidarity is essential because we are all in this together. United we stand, divided we fail.”

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