New Year, Same Fights
Recent days have been filled with both amazing victories – wins by President-Elect Joe Biden and both Democratic U.S. Senate candidates in the Georgia runoff election – and major challenges like the failed coup attempt by supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump. It was difficult to watch as insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol and the subsequent loss of life. But we remain united and resolve not to be intimidated by mobs waving confederate flags of hate and oppression. We continue our fight for racial, gender, environmental and economic justice.
The Massachusetts Legislature began the year by approving a range of measures which included major transportation projects, a policing reform bill that became law on New Year’s Eve, and a mandate that insurance carriers cover telehealth services. CLU partner Marie-Frances Rivera, president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, notes that lawmakers did a less than stellar job of addressing some major challenges. “The last-minute scramble, without a comprehensive vision and the money to make the smart investments, just seems to me that you’re spinning your wheels to get nowhere,” she said.
We rallied community organizations, neighborhoods and workers throughout the past year to fight for an investment in a safe, affordable, and reliable public transit system and against a devastating proposal to slash MBTA services and jobs. While we were successful in scaling back the scope of the budget and service cuts, we must continue to be vigilant and offer solutions that expand access to transportation for workers and working class communities.
Public Transit is a Public Good
Early Tuesday morning, the Massachusetts Legislature took action on important transit equity measures long called for by Community Labor United and our allies in the Green Justice Coalition and Public Transit Public Good Coalition.
Passed as part of a $16.5 billion transportation bond bill, the new legislative language would:
- Direct the MBTA to implement a Low-Income Fare Program, a much-needed measure given the high levels of poverty and inequality in our region.
- Open a path for Regional Transit Authorities to implement Low Income Fare or free-fare programs with the support of the Commonwealth, as piloted in Lawrence by the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority.
- Decriminalize failure to pay transit fares, an important move especially because fare enforcement has disproportionately targeted people of color.
This is a huge achievement after years of organizing for transit affordability!
Thank you to all of you who have worked so hard to lift up the need for a Low-Income Fare and decriminalization. We are grateful to the Representatives and Senators – especially the Joint Transportation Committee leadership – who listened to the community and took action in ensuring this much-needed language made it into the last-minute bill.
The win is not locked in, however: the Bond Bill is now on the desk of Governor Charlie Baker, who we urge to sign the bill as received.
In other good news, the legislature approved an amendment to the FY21 Budget signed last month, which directs the MBTA to prioritize the use of any new revenues, including federal funds, to add back service cut or capital projects stalled as a result of the T’s “Forging Ahead” initiative. In December, despite deep public opposition, the Fiscal and Management Control Board approved a set of much-criticized cuts, including the elimination of 20 bus routes, nighttime and some weekend service, some ferry service, and frequency reductions of 5 to 20% system-wide. The cuts are slated to begin this month, and could cost hundreds of jobs and make transit less accessible for hundreds of thousands of riders. By passing this amendment to the FY21 Budget, legislators made it clear they agree with riders and workers that cuts are bad for Massachusetts and should not be implemented.
Town Hall: Child Care Workers are on the Frontlines of the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Virus has Taken its Toll
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health Data shows that there are currently 312 clusters of COVID-19 cases in child care settings, affecting hundreds of child care workers and children. Join a host of community and labor organizations on January 19 for a town hall to learn more about health and safety precautions, and hear from experts on benefits you may be entitled to if exposed to COVID-19.
National Day of Resistance – Demand Safe Schools
Join the Boston Teachers Union on January 12, as communities on the frontlines of the U.S. public school system will join forces to demand investment in a racially just and fully funded approach to reopening schools. Demands include:
Safety and Equity in Schools
- PPE, testing and vaccines for all students, families and staff
- Staff up for the pandemic: Hire more social workers, counselors, nurses, restorative justice coordinators, mental health clinics, etc.
- Fully fund IDEA and Title I to address economic and racial inequity
- Police free schools
Safety and Equity in Communities
- Cancel rent and foreclosures
- Unemployment benefits for all
- Economic support for states and cities
- State and local aid to stop budget cuts
Massachusetts legislators just passed a crucial bill to fight climate change in Massachusetts – and it includes the strongest-ever protections for Environmental Justice communities in our state. It’s not perfect, but it’s a huge step forward by providing a legal definition of the Black, Brown, immigrant, and low-income communities that have been historically overburdened with trash burning, highway construction, and power plants.
Organizations like Neighbor to Neighbor, GreenRoots, Coalition for Social Justice, Clean Water Action, and members of the Massachusetts Environmental Justice Legislative Table have been fighting for this for a VERY long time, but now we’re just one step away – making sure Governor Baker signs it without delay. Unfortunately, that’s not a done deal, so we need to spread the word and show a huge outcry for this law to be signed, now.
We’ve got to act fast before he makes up his mind. Governor Baker NEEDS to hear how important this is. Add your name: tell Governor Baker to sign the Climate Bill without delay.
Thank you for reading and taking action!
Community Labor United