Press Release

Transit Workers Need Better Protection From COVID-19

April 22, 2020
Transit Alliance Joins National Alliance To Tell White House and Local Leaders: Transit Workers Need Better Protection From COVID-19

Transit Alliance and a broad alliance of labor, business, and community advocates demand White House and CDC supply better protective equipment and guidance to safeguard the transit workforce who ensure other essential workers can provide medical care, food, and basic necessities.

On Wednesday, April 22nd, Transit Alliance joined dozens of unions, business groups, economic justice organizations, and local transit advocates from across the nation requesting Vice President Mike Pence and Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, strengthen federal coordination to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for transit workers.

Earlier this month, Transit Alliance released its latest campaign “Coronavirus & Mobility.” One of the pillars of the campaign is to keep Miami moving safely by prioritizing the health of operators and riders. We are calling on our County to ensure that our operators are adequately equipped with masks, gloves, and other protective gear.

On Friday, April 17, the Union representing bus drivers in Miami-Dade County filed a lawsuit against Director of Miami-Dade Transit Alice Bravo, claiming buses and trains aren’t being sterilized enough, vital masks and hand sanitizer are either rationed or unavailable, and Miami-Dade isn’t enforcing anti-crowding rules on vehicles.

With Miami-Dade currently securing N95 masks for their police and fire departments, we need to ensure the same resources are procured for our transit operators who are on the frontlines putting their lives at risk to keep our County moving during this crisis.

As of this week, the coronavirus has claimed the lives of nearly 100 transit workers in the United States. Nationwide, the federal government can and must take stronger steps to protect our operators and prevent the loss of life.

Bus and train operators, maintenance workers, and cleaning staff at transit agencies in Miami-Dade County are putting their lives on the line as they enable essential travel and ensure the continued provision of food, medical care, and other basic goods and services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Without strong federal coordination to procure PPE for transit workers, they face needless risks on the job.

Based on guidance from infectious disease experts, Transit Alliance demands the consistent provision of N95 masks and other protective gear for frontline transit workers whose duties put them in close proximity to passengers or require exposure to hazardous disinfectants. Transit Alliance also urges the CDC to issue stronger guidance for the Department of Transportation and Public works and other transit agencies, including recommendations on how to ventilate transit vehicles to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

These measures must be put in place to protect the transit workforce, which in turn will strengthen the overall effort to control the pandemic and minimize the spread of COVID-19. Nearly 3 million Americans classified as essential workers typically commute on transit, according to a TransitCenter analysis of U.S. Census data. On a normal day, essential workers account for 36 percent of transit commuters in Miami.

Protective gear for transit workers will have a strong multiplier effect, since reducing risk will increase the availability of the transit workforce, leading to greater provision of transit service, less crowding on transit vehicles, and lower rates of transmission among transit riders and thus the general population.

The alliance signing on to the letter reflects the broad public interest in protecting transit workers, encompassing labor, business, transportation, economic justice, environmental, and community-based organizations from dozens of states.

Supply chain issues affect every industry seeking protective gear. However, the need for transit workers is so urgent, and the consequences of further delay so dire, that federal action must be pursued as soon as possible. These protections will save the lives of transit workers, as well as the lives of nurses, doctors, food distribution workers, and other essential workers who rely on transit.

The full letter, including a list of recommendations and signatories, is attached.

Read the letter