Mass Transit Cuts Leave Passengers Stranded

Big wheels unmoved

Meanwhile, top officials of his own union remained aloof. "Our union president went to Australia to make a speech, but he never went to Detroit when we were getting hammered," said Hanley. When local union leaders asked him if he had any ideas, Hanley decided it was time to launch a movement. In late February, he invited leaders of transit unions around the country to meet in New York to try and hatch a plan going forward.

"There was a blizzard, 18 inches of snow, I thought it would be a bust. But 60 people showed up, most of them on just three days' notice," Hanley said. The strongest support came from John Samuelsen, the new president of Transport Workers Union Local 100, which has been under siege by MTA cutbacks. The result of the day-long session was a new national organization. Dubbed the Coalition to Keep America Moving, it hooked up with consumer groups like Transportation for America, which has been mapping the crisis. The plan was to kick-start federal support for mass-transit operating funds. Hanley reached out to his friend Bill Lynch, the lobbyist and former organizer who managed Jackson's presidential campaigns in New York back in 1984 and 1988, to contact Jackson. "Jesse understood exactly what was going on. He got it," said Hanley.

With Jackson as the keynote speaker, the coalition held its first major rally in Washington last month with 3,000 people. A major part of the pitch is aimed at the White House. "We are waiting to hear from Obama on this," said Hanley. "He's been painfully silent. There's money to buy new buses and trains, but no funds to pay anyone to drive them."

For his part, Hanley has decided to run for president of his own international union. "Enough is enough," he said. "The bankers had a party, and the bus drivers are having to pay for it."

trobbins@villagevoice.com

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