Due to increases in infections and fatalities caused by the COVID-19 Delta variant, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) is demanding transit agencies and providers across the U.S. and Canada enhance their now relaxed safety precautions.
“The transit industry is better equipped to deal with the pandemic than ever,” said the letter signed by ATU International President John Costa to U.S. transit agencies and the letter co-signed by Costa and ATU Canada President John Di Nino to Canada transit agencies. “We have received billions of dollars in federal funding to address the pandemic, and the INVEST in America Act will be providing more shortly. We have developed technical expertise in transmission and hazard abatement. Supply chain problems for PPE have been worked out. And safe and effective vaccines are now widely available.”
The letter goes on to address concerns about vaccination mandates. The ATU continues to believe that the vaccination of transit workers is vital but warns that mandates may be counterproductive, especially at locations that don’t have comprehensive programs to encourage vaccination. The Union called on the transit agencies to implement vaccination programs and paid leave for those experiencing side effects after being vaccinated.
“Moreover, we are skeptical that transit systems facing driver and mechanic shortages will implement their mandates uniformly and are concerned that abruptly pulling unvaccinated employees from service will exacerbate the widespread driver fatigue problems and hours of service violations which are disturbingly common in our industry,” continued the letter.
The letter laid out specific demands to better protect transit workers, including making personal protective equipment available for all employees and masks for passengers, better air quality, filtration and disinfection of buses, prevention of overcrowding on vehicles, return to rear-door boarding, free and convenient COVID-19 testing, much-deserved hazard pay, and pandemic leave.
“The industry knows what needs to be done to protect transit workers and passengers, and it has the resources necessary to get it done. The transit industry must stop the infections and loss of life which transit workers have suffered during this pandemic,” the letter concluded.