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This Transit Driver Appreciation Day, Transit Union Calls for Protection for Transit Workers as the Coronavirus Pandemic Escalates

Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) International President John A. Costa issued the following statement today, March 18, 2020, celebrated annually as Transit Worker Appreciation Day, to address the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on North American transit workers:

“As the grip of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic tightens on cities around the world, as millions move indoors to socially distance, transit workers remain on the front lines of this first-of-its-kind crisis. We cannot let this day pass as another where we merely ‘appreciate’ them.

“For the federal, provincial, state, and local governments of the U.S. and Canada, today is a day to protect transit workers, to equip them, to pay them, to grant them leave.

“For our Union, today is a day to stand together, to show solidarity with our fellow frontline workers in hospitals, airports, grocery stores, and supply chains and the hundreds of thousands of workers laid off in industries devastated by this pandemic.

“Let’s be clear -- many of our members have already been exposed to this virus. Like the general population, most will barely experience symptoms. Those who do will likely experience mild ones. But there will be losses.

“We will not let a single member die in vain.  Instead, we will do what we do best as union members and transit workers. We will organize on the job for the protections we need to work safely and for the right to keep ourselves, our families and our communities safe.

“We will mobilize to advance the emergency legislation needed to feed, house, test, and treat everyone in our communities. We will work to ensure that the transit service other workers need to get to and from the front lines of this crisis are reliable.

“To that end, on this Transit Worker Appreciation Day, ATU is demanding our employers:

    • Provide each front-line transit worker protective gloves, N95 fitted facemasks, a 2 oz bottle of at least 60% alcohol-based sanitizing gel, sterilizing wipes for wiping down work surfaces
    • Provide each maintenance worker with protective gloves, N95 fitted facemasks, protective goggles, and other needed equipment
    • Clean, sanitize, and disinfect buses, rail cars, stations, garages, and other high-contact surfaces on at least a daily basis
    • Implement pandemic leave policy that includes at least 15 new days of paid leave for anyone showing symptoms, exposed to someone showing symptoms, anyone with family or childcare obligations as a result of shutdowns, with no requirement for a doctor’s note
    • Provide free testing and treatment for all employees

 “From our governments, we demand they:

    • Ensure transit agencies are reimbursed for increased operating costs and lost revenue during the crisis
    • Ensure that all available funds for transit agencies can be flexed and applied to urgent service needs, workforce protection, and long-term workforce retention
    • Prioritize distribution of protective equipment to health care workers, transit workers and other employees
    • Extend unemployment insurance to cover all laid off or terminated workers, including independent contractors or others not traditionally eligible
    • Implement a form of universal basic income to ensure every American and Canadian has liquidity to cover costs during this emergency
    • Freeze all mortgage, rent, student loan, and other payments to prevent mass eviction, and bankruptcy of the working class

“Our countries may be moving into isolation, but transit workers are moving forward with solidarity. In this time of grave uncertainty, there is one thing we know to be absolutely true: if Together We Fight, then Together We Win.”