As the COVID-19 pandemic raged across the nation, nearly all intercity passenger transportation ceased almost overnight. In 2020, air carriers ferried their fewest passengers in three decades, registering months with as much as 96% fewer boardings compared to the prior year. Amtrak saw its ridership decrease 97% as business travel along the profitable Northeast Corridor evaporated. As many as 800 motorcoach companies shuttered, and cruise lines ceased all operations in compliance with CDC orders. While the federal government has taken important steps to mitigate the devastation caused to transportation services, employees, and communities, in many corners of the nation these effects have been catastrophic. As we emerge from the pandemic, it is imperative that we begin flying, riding, and traveling again—and that we do so safely. Our national economic recovery, and the livelihoods of millions of transportation workers, depends on it.
The 2018 FIFA Men’s World Cup attracted almost 3.6 billion viewers—more than half the world’s population—with the final game alone drawing an audience of 1.12 billion viewers worldwide. The Men’s World Cup routinely attracts more than 3 million attendees to stadiums in their host countries, and in total, attracted more than 5 million tourists to host cities across Russia in the most recent 2018 World Cup. If these numbers seem staggering, so too are the profits involved. In 2018, FIFA generated more than $6.4 billion in revenue, with a significant portion of that coming from the World Cup.
The Executive Committee of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, condemns the efforts by a predatory organization, the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AFMA) to raid the American Airlines mechanics the are jointly represented by two TTD affiliates, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) and the Transport Workers Union (TWU).
Over the past three weeks, while the country has been engrossed in a national election, the COVID-19 pandemic has been worsening. Just last week the U.S. crested 180,000 daily new infections for the first time, after surpassing 100,000 barely a week prior. Hospitalization rates are spiking as well, rising to over 67,000 in the past few days. These numbers dwarf those from March and April of this year, when the first COVID-19 spike reached its peak. On March 27th, for instance, there were 17,330 new cases reported.
America’s ports and harbors are a core driver of domestic and international trade, generating $5.6 trillion dollars in economic activity — approximately a quarter of the entire U.S. economy. The operation of ports and the vessels that call at them directly generate thousands of jobs in the longshore, maritime, dredging, shipbuilding and freight transportation industries, and an untold number of jobs indirectly throughout the supply chain. Despite this, ports and harbors are frequently left out of the infrastructure conversation, and have been historically underserved by federal initiatives.
The technological achievements that enable modern transportation are often stunning in scope and vision. High-speed trains, electric buses, and intricate transit systems give Americans mobility options that would have been unthinkable just a few generations before. Of course, nothing has shrunk the world as dramatically as modern air travel. Yet, even if we stop to marvel at our collective ability to board a metal tube and fly off to the farthest corners of the earth in mere hours, we too often take for granted some of the more basic advancements that allow for commercial air travel.
On June 5th of this year, we will celebrate the centennial of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, commonly referred to as the Jones Act. Principally, the Act ensures that domestic waterborne commerce is conducted by U.S. built ships crewed with qualified U.S mariners. It is rare that any piece of legislation stands as the bedrock of an industry for so long – the Jones Act was passed just a few months after Prohibition, and 15 years before the creation of Social Security. Yet its continued endurance is a testimony to its unparalleled importance to the domestic sectors it supports. Today, it has never been clearer why the Jones Act is necessary and why policy makers’ long-held support for it must not waver.
Whether moving freight across America’s heartland or safely transporting people on intercity passenger or commuter rail, the skilled workers who operate and maintain our national rail system have played a vital role in moving our nation’s economy for decades. Throughout the 20th century, the federal government enacted a series of laws that recognize the importance of rail to our country and addressed the unique needs of a workforce that performs difficult and often dangerous jobs. One such law, enacted in 1937, created the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), which specifically addressed the post-career needs of railroad workers after decades of a haphazard private pension system. Wholly funded by railroad workers and the nation’s railroads, RRB benefits play an important role in the lives of current and retired railroad workers and their families. Today, however, the agency is facing a crisis, as staffing shortages and insufficient resources have severely degraded service at a time when rail workers and their families need it most.
Over six years ago this Executive Committee called upon Congress and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to grant full federal employee rights to the 45,000 Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) who keep our nation’s airways, mass transit systems and large public gatherings safe and secure. Unfortunately, our call to action has gone unheeded and the intervening years have strengthened our resolve to give these workers the rights they deserve. With the longest ever government shutdown, massive turnover, and the lowest employee morale in the federal workforce, policy makers are letting TSOs down. Now is the time to correct the injustice against the workers who play such a vital role protecting travelers and transportation workers alike.
Approximately 400,000 Americans work in the public transportation sector. Of those, 90 percent serve in frontline occupations that include bus and rail transit operators, station employees, mechanics, and other non-management positions. Yet, federal policy has failed to support the training needs of the frontline transit workforce, risking major workforce shortages and skill gaps in the coming years.