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With hundreds of transit workers dead and thousands infected, ATU calls on governors to prioritize transit workers as essential in vaccine distribution

Union offers to play critical role in transportation logistics
for administration of the vaccine 

Silver Spring, MD – With hundreds of transit workers killed, including 94 ATU members, from COVID-19, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) has called on governors across the United States to prioritize frontline transit workers in the first rounds of COVID-19 vaccin­­e distributions.

ATU International President John Costa wrote a letter to every governor to inform them of the request and offer logistical support in vaccine distribution.

“The recent promising news of multiple quality vaccines for the coronavirus has lifted the spirits of all Americans, including the hundreds of thousands of transportation workers who have been on the front lines working through this very dark period in our nation’s history,” Costa wrote in the letter to governors. “On behalf of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), the labor organization representing the majority of these brave workers, we urge you to provide early vaccine access and availability for our members in the transit and school bus industries.”

The request comes after the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which is advising the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concurred that essential workers should be a priority after healthcare workers when distributing the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

The letter goes on to outline the effect the virus has had on transit and school bus workers. Because transit workers are exposed to large crowds of transit-dependent riders at close range, often without protective equipment, they are at greater risk of contracting the virus.

Similarly, school bus workers have been exposed to the virus with school starting back up in certain areas. Because of the high risk of infection, many school bus drivers are fearful of returning to work, causing route cancellations, due to the time it takes to train new drivers.

Costa also told governors the ATU and members can play a critical role in logistics for administration of the vaccine. The ATU could work with local governments and transit systems to transport masses of people to medical facilities or other staging areas for vaccinations or to transport medical personnel, equipment, and the vaccines to the population at large.

“The least we can do as a nation is to recognize the sacrifices that these workers and their families have made during this health crisis by providing them with early access to the coronavirus vaccine and to make it available to them,” Costa wrote. “It is the right thing to do for the workers and it’s in the best interest of the millions of people -- big and small --- who rely on their services.”