By Diane Bukowski
Occupy Detroit took to the streets Oct. 28 because people can’t rely on the city’s buses, marching from Gand Circus Park through the Rosa Parks Terminal at Michigan and Cass and then down Woodward to the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, They demanded demand that Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and all government funding sources immediately get buses back on the street. Riders have reported three-hour delays in buses showing up. They are also packed and frequently forced to bypass long lines of waiting riders.
Union presidents Leamon Wilson, representing the bus mechanics of AFSCME Local 312, and Henry Gaffney, representing the bus drivers of ATU Local 26, testified earlier that the delays are due to the city’s refusal to hire new mechanics to replace more than 50 who have retired and others who have left. Over 250 buses are in the yards waiting for repair as a result.
Bing has refused to hire more mechanics, and instead threatened workers with mass suspensions and discharges, while the City Council has joined the fray on his side, unanimously passing a resolution calling for mechanics’ work to be contracted out. Wilson has repeatedly said that contracting out is a big part of the problem because buses are shipped long distances for repair, and when they come back, Local 312 mechanics frequently have to repair them all over again due to the contractors’ incompetence.
Some are calling for regionalization of the bus system as a solution, but in fact SMART buses recently laid off workers and are forcing riders from Detroit to pay surcharges for each ride on monthly DDOT-SMART bus cards that are supposed to cover all rides.
For detailed information from union and community leaders, and bus drivers and mechanics on the crisis, click on http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/09/20/bus-workers-riders-blast-bing/. Also see story below by Keith Hines on the Great Trolley Riot of 1891, where the community came out en masse to support striking workers of the city’s privately owned trolley system. As a result, Mayor Hazen Pingree founded Detroit’s public “Department of Street Railways” (DSR) and numerous other public service institutions, including the Public Lighting Department and Detroit’s public hospital.
For more information on upcoming Occupy Detroit events, go to http://www.occupydetroit.us.