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Transportation labor unions outline issues, priorities with LaHood and Oberstar


At their recent annual winter meeting, transportation labor union leaders discussed their top priorities for the coming year with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Leaders from the 32 unions that comprise the Transportation Trades Department (TTD), AFL-CIO — which represent rail, transit, aviation, trucking and other transportation workers — touched on transportation investment, safety and security issues, and outlined changes they hope to see later this year when three major transportation bills are up for reauthorization, including the surface transportation bill.

TTD union officials believe the current funding model is "unsustainable," since the gas tax has not been increased in 16 years, and during that time, the tax has lost one-third of its purchasing power. Meanwhile, the American Society of Civil engineers estimates it will cost $2.2 trillion over five years to bring infrastructure to "good" condition, TTD said.

The next surface transportation bill must include: significantly increased transit, highway and intermodal transportation investment by raising the federal gas tax and considering other revenue-increasing measures; reformed mass transit funding so it can be used for operating purposes; protected rights and jobs of workers with regard to public-private partnerships and other financing methods; increased worker training to improve on-the-job safety and job security; and new safety measures that protect workers and the public, such as increasing the penalty or assaulting transit operators, TTD said.

"We are on the threshold of a transformational era in transportation," Oberstar said at the meeting, according to a TTD statement. "We must craft a bold new programmatic and financing structure that will strengthen our economy and sustain our quality of life. Transportation workers will be ... on the front lines of this transformation."

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More News from 3/3/2009