New Bangor bus union and Troy Jackson call on Congress to fund public transit

By Ramona du Houx - May 27th, 2014 

Today transit drivers and community members rallied to call on Maine’s Congressional Delegation to fund public transportation in Pickering Square, Bangor. The drivers are members of the newly organized union in Bangor, which is part of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 714. ATU 714 represents approximately 34 drivers in Bangor and also represents bus drivers at the Portland Metro.

“Now that we have a union we have a voice and a place at the table. We are here today to exercise that voice. Please take action and call your elected officials today,” said Susan Warner of Carmel, a Bangor transit driver and union leader of the ATU 714. “Congress should pass SB 2322 to fund public transit now.”

The Bangor drivers voted to organize a year ago and just settled their first contract with the City of Bangor this month.

“Congress needs to quit worrying about how to get Wall Street to work in their BMWs and start worrying about how to get working class to work. Congress- get on the bus and pass SB 2322!,” said State Senator Troy Jackson to the cheers of the crowd.

Jackson was recently endorsed by ATU Local 714 in his bid for U.S. Congress in the June 10th Democratic primary.

“Here in Bangor we depend on federal funding for the Community Connector,” said Warner of Carmel. “Many people in the Bangor area are serviced by the Community Connector and they rely on bus service to get to work, school, the doctor, shopping, and more. Public transit reduces our carbon footprint, drives economic mobility, and makes our air cleaner and our neighborhoods healthier and less congested. Service cuts and fare increases must stop.”

The group handed out fliers and phone numbers for Maine’s Congressional Delegation and asked everyone to call to Senator Susan Collins and Senator Angus King to ask them to vote for SB 2322.

“Affordable public transportation is essential for college students, senior citizens on fixed incomes and working families,” said Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci, who donated his city council salary to the Community Connector bus service to keep it going last year. Baldacci also held a spaghetti dinner in order to save the bus route from city cuts due to Governor LePage’s bad policies.

At the rally drivers were joined by bus riders and community members, including Food AND Medicine (FAM), a community group based in Brewer. Cara Oleksyk, a FAM member from Bangor rides the BAT Community Connector and spoke Tuesday.

“I ride the bus, and it gets me where I need to be safely. I attend University of Maine and it gets me to my classes. More funding would let us have more routes and later service hours which would mean more access to jobs and the community,” said Oleksyk. “I appreciate the bus drivers.”

May 2014 is National Transit Action Month, according to the ATU.