Workers and Riders Protest 20% Cut in MBTA Maintenance Workforce
New Data Reveals Link between Baker Cuts and MBTA Safety Crisis
Invest Now Coalition Launches New Information Campaign Decrying Maintenance Cuts, Calling for Investments in Safety
Watch TV Ad Here: http://safetransitnow.org
Boston, MA – New data has revealed that Governor Baker cut the MBTA’s front-line maintenance workforce by 20% during his first five years in office. During that same time, train derailments and safety problems have soared, putting the MBTA in a state of crisis.
The shocking revelation stems from a union information request, following workers’ growing concerns about insufficient staffing to meet the MBTA’s maintenance needs.
News of the 20% cut is prompting protests from workers and riders, the first of which took place Monday outside an MBTA board meeting.
“Let me be clear: the MBTA has become less safe on Governor Baker’s watch,” said Brian Doherty, Secretary-Treasurer / General Agent, Building and Construction Trades Council of the Metropolitan District (MetroBTC). “At a time when Governor Baker should be investing in safe, reliable, affordable public transportation, he’s instead slashing the MBTA’s maintenance workforce – and now it has one of the worst safety records in the nation,” said Doherty.
Doherty is part of the Invest Now coalition, which was first formed in 2016 to fend off a privatization scheme that would have hurt bus safety and reliability. The coalition is reforming to launch the Safe Transit Now campaign, calling for the restoration of maintenance jobs and further investments in safety.
The group announced that it would begin a sweeping advertising campaign hitting airwaves this week. Ads will air during prime-time and daytime television on top-rated television stations including CNN, MSNBC History, and CNBC. The campaign will also be featured on digital platforms, including Facebook and YouTube. They’ll be coupled with direct voter contact and MBTA rider engagement.
Watch the TV ad here: http://safetransitnow.org
The news of Baker’s maintenance cuts comes on the heels of a series of explosive reports showing that the MBTA’s derailment record is “among the nation’s worst” and that “safety is not the priority at the MBTA.”
Advocates say launching the information campaign now because they’re worried that the Governor will continue to spend taxpayer money on high-priced consultants and MBTA executive management, rather than the trained, front-line workers who fix the switches, repair the tracks, perform critically important maintenance and inspections, and keep the system reliable and safe.
“Rather than wasting taxpayer money on expensive consultants and executive management, it’s time for Governor Baker to focus on fixing the safety crisis he created, starting with investing in the trained, frontline workforce that keeps the trains running safely on the tracks,” said Darlene Lombos, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Greater Boston Labor Council (GBLC).
The MBTA is now among the nation’s worst for train derailments. Federal records show that there’s been 50 derailments since Governor Baker took office – the second-highest total of any metro transit system in the country.
The MBTA’s derailment history, experts say, isn’t normal. As railway safety expert Keith Millhouse told reporters in June, derailments “shouldn’t be happening with that frequency.” He went on to say that they’re a sign of a “real lax safety culture at the MBTA — and that culture emanates from the top.”
The string of high-profile derailments prompted the MBTA to tap outside experts to conduct an internal review. In December the panel released its scathing report. Among its explosive findings: “safety is not the priority at the MBTA.”
The report noted that workforce cuts prevented “required maintenance and inspections,” and “hampered efforts to keep the MBTA functional.” MBTA workers have been raising safety concerns for months. Those concerns, they say, have been ignored.
“How may more trains have to derail before Governor Baker will start listening?” asked MBTA WORKER. “How many more experts, workers, riders, advocates, and blue-ribbon panels have to raise the red flag before Governor Baker starts taking MBTA safety seriously?”
The Invest Now coalition, comprised of MBTA workers, advocates and riders, said that it needed to launch the Safe Transit Now campaign because of the Governor’s repeated refusal to address the MBTA’s unsafe maintenance staffing levels.
Advocates said they feared that if they didn’t speak up, the Governor would continue increasing fares on riders and cutting system maintenance as part of his failed scheme to privatize the MBTA.
On Monday, the group urged the Governor to immediately take action to invest in MBTA safety, starting with increasing the number of trained, frontline workers who fix the switches, repair the tracks, perform critically important maintenance and inspections, and keep the system reliable and safe.
“Hundreds of thousands of riders rely on the MBTA every day,” said Lee Matsueda, Executive Director of Community Labor United, and a member of the Invest Now coalition. “We count on the train to get to work, to run errands, to go to doctors’ appointments, and to get our kids to school. The MBTA is a public good, and the Governor owes it to each and every one of us to make sure we get home safe to our families every night.”
For more information on the campaign, please visit www.SafeTransitNow.org.