MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Memphis bus riders say they're not going to take it anymore. Tired of things like high fares, overcrowding and inadequate scheduling, disgruntled riders held an organizational meeting Saturday afternoon at AFSCME headquarters on Beale Street.
"We want to say to the city of Memphis now that you are looking at the new established Memphis Bus Riders Union," announced Minister Kenneth Van Buren, Executive Director of Action Inc.
Their list of complaints regarding MATA is long, including "the lack of transportation in mostly black communities after 6 in the evening," said Van Buren. "We want the bus fares to go back down; they raised the bus fares without even appealing to the public."
Van Buren also stated there was a "lack of safe buses on the streets."
Lorenzo Irvin, one of the organizers of the Memphis Bus Riders Union, called the MATA system "an embarrassment to the city of Memphis. It's a disgrace."
Saturday's meeting was billed as private with no cameras inside and no MATA representatives. According to Patsy Whitten, "MATA was invited to the first meeting and I was told they sort of dominated. This was our meeting to begin our organization of union, of rights."
"This is our civil rights were fighting for and we're fighting not just for ourselves, but we're fighting for our kids," added Marguella Scott.
And they're not fighting alone. Irvin said, "There are 50 such unions already in existence around the country, Memphis is just the latest one."
The MBRU will hold another organizational meeting March 3rd at Riverview Community Center, followed by a march the following week.
"On March 7th from the National Civil Rights Museum, we're marching all the way to city hall and we're gonna march on not only the city of Memphis government but Shelby County government as well," said Van Buren.
"If we have to fight these people to do this, we'll fight them to do it. If we can get reason, we'll do that, but we'll take whatever action is necessary to get this done," Irvin said, resulting in cheers from the group.
A spokesperson for the transportation task force said that with 25 percent of Memphians living below the poverty line, it's unconscionable to combine fare increases with reduced bus routes and times.