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With 40 transit worker deaths and 1,500 confirmed cases, ATU demands the Federal Transit Administration provide protection for frontline transit workers

Media Contact: David Roscow, 202-487-4990

Silver Spring, MD – With more than 40 transit workers, including 13 Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) members, dying after contracting COVID-19, the ATU is demanding that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) immediately provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for all transit workers on America’s transit systems.

“Industry-wide, thousands of transit workers have already tested positive for Coronavirus, and too many have died,” ATU International President John Costa wrote in a letter to the FTA. “Our members are getting infected at a rate that is higher than the general population, because we are continuously exposed to dozens of riders at close range without adequate PPE to keep us safe. It’s time for the FTA to secure PPE immediately and distribute the equipment directly to transit agencies at a reasonable cost.”

The ATU is calling for every worker who operates or maintains a transit vehicle should, at a minimum, be equipped with an N95 disposable respirator, gloves, and other critical gear. Despite federal funding, some agencies are citing cost and refusing. Others are making an effort but cannot identify sellers.

The Union pointed to the new CDC April 3rd recommendations that the public wear cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

Meanwhile the FTA’s website states “…PPE is not recommended at this time”. 

The scene depicted in the photo here, taken last week on a bus in Grand Rapids, MI, is all too common. The passengers are crowding in clear violation of CDC guidelines. Few have masks. The driver of the bus has no PPE. It is as if no public health crisis exists at all. 

The ATU says the only way to address the equipment shortage and price gouging is for the federal government (FTA) to secure such PPE immediately and distribute the equipment directly to its grantees at reasonable cost. 

“It is unconscionable and immoral to send transit employees to work without PPE during this health crisis,” said Costa. “Our members provide essential public services, making sure that people can get to the doctor, the pharmacy, and the grocery store. But they cannot be expected to keep doing it while putting their lives in danger.”