No one who works for a living should have to put themselves in a compromising situation just to put food on the table. Yet, every year, thousands of working people, including frontline transportation workers, are hurt or killed on the job.
It’s true that decades of struggle by working people and their unions have improved working conditions and made jobs and workplaces safer. But this Workers Memorial Day, we are reminded that more must be done to ensure working people make it home to their families at the end of each day.
This is especially true in the transportation sector where working on, in, or around heavy machinery, operating vehicles, and functioning in confined spaces is the norm. In many cases, frontline transportation workers are tasked with prioritizing their own safety, as well as the safety of others. These unique conditions and the multimodal nature of our national transportation network mean the federal government has a responsibility to ensure a safe and secure transportation system.
Broadly speaking, improving safety for frontline transportation workers starts with ensuring our transportation system, its workforce, and the infrastructure it relies on are fully funded. Staffing shortages, old and outdated equipment, patchwork maintenance programs, and crumbling infrastructure are all safety hazards that can be prevented with long-term, robust federal funding.
Government officials must also recognize that when it comes to transportation safety, regulation is not a four-letter word. A careful examination of federal regulations is not necessarily a bad thing, but gutting important safety rules to satisfy a political talking point is simply not acceptable. We know that safety problems confronting our transportation system need to be addressed through new or modified federal rules.
Improving safety also means improving working conditions. Unpredictable work schedules, minimum rest requirements that are entirely too lax, and loopholes in overtime protections all contribute to an epidemic of fatigue that plagues our transportation workforce. More must also be done to mitigate assaults of frontline transportation workers, including airport customer service agents, passenger rail workers, and transit drivers.
Finally, lawmakers must recognize and support the rights of workers in all modes of transportation — and in all sectors of the economy — to form and join unions. Through strong union contracts, working people are able to secure the training, equipment, and safety protocols they need to ensure their workplaces are as safe as possible.
Safe jobs are every worker’s right. But TTD and our affiliated unions also know that safe workplaces don’t just happen — they are fought for. That’s why, this Workers Memorial Day — and every day — we remember and honor our sisters and brothers who have been injured or killed on the job, and renew our commitment to advance commonsense policies that prioritize workplace and transportation safety.