Where Ohio Needs to Go from TWU International on Vimeo.
Inside the atrium of the Ohio state capitol in Columbus on June 1, workers, transit riders, community advocates and civil rights leaders gathered for a townhall style discussion about how transportation policy can foster equity, justice and economic opportunity in Ohio and across the country.
Reliable and affordable transportation is critical for connecting people to work, school and basic services and is an issue of equity and civil rights said speakers and audience members at the event, Where Ohio Needs to Go: A Statewide Conversation on Transportation Equity & Federal Policy. TWU International leaders along with civil rights activists, elected leaders and policy experts gave presentations while Ohioans gave testimony about the importance of public transportation in their lives and the need for equitable federal and state policy.
Andrew Jordan, President of TWU Local 208 in Columbus, OH, introduced a video message from TWU International President James C. Little who connected the struggle in Ohio with the rest of the country and voiced TWU’s commitment to fighting against transit cuts and the wider threats to worker and civil rights.
“Transportation is about more than getting from place to place. It is about opportunity. It is about being connected to jobs, schools, housing, healthcare and the community,” said Little. “But the sad truth is that for too many people public transportation options are unaffordable, unreliable or non-existent. There is an important opportunity ahead for us to address these issues of transportation equity as Congress considers the next Surface Transportation bill.”
TWU Director of Legislative and Political Affairs Portia Reddick White provided a national level perspective in her presentation on equity and jobs. She argued that investments in public transportation make sense for the economy and the public and that politicians need to support transit safety, operations assistance and funding. “We have to let them know that transportation should not and will not be on the table for cuts,” said White.
Lexer Quamie from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights led a panel discussion on equity, civil rights and accountability and Jason Reece of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity led the discussion on equity and access.
April Cruse, a bus operator and ATU Local 627 member, testified that she sees firsthand how important public transit is to communities and that further service cuts will leave riders stranded and even cost people their jobs. “How will people get home from the late night shift? How will our seniors get to the pharmacy or the grocery store?” said Cruse. “Cuts in public transportation are not the answer for fixing the budget.”
Several witnesses testified to the importance of public transit for people with disabilities for whom transit is a vital lifeline and the only affordable connection to the community and to employment. Donna Prease, a grassroots advocate with Linking Employment, Abilities & Potential (LEAP), said that people with disabilities are empowered by public transportation and are able to be connected when transit options are affordable and accessible.
The event was organized by TWU and a coalition of 14 other groups representing labor, disabled people, environmentalists, civil rights and communities, which included All Aboard Ohio, Amalgamated Transit Union, The Amos Project, The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Ohio BlueGreen Alliance, The Ohio Commission on African-American Males, Ohio Environmental Council, Ohio Higher Education Rail Network Institute, Ohio Olmstead Taskforce, Ohio Statewide Independent Living Council, PolicyLink, Policy Matters Ohio, and ProgressOhio.