Transit workers are amongst some of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. These are workers who have clocked in everyday, interacted with the public and done their job of getting people from destination to destination.
Amalgamated Transit Union International President John Costa joined AWF Union Podcast to discuss how they have dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic, funding for the transit industry and upcoming contract negotiations.
Dealing with the pandemic in the transit industry
Costa began by remembering the 142 ATU members who have lost their life to COVID-19. These workers ranged in age, dying from doing their jobs. Costa said they should have been better protected.
While these workers passed, Costa said the ATU never gave up fighting for protections. The previous administration was unkind to workers by giving information that ended up being false and then not providing guidelines or protections to workers.
However, he said that help is on the way. The Biden administration has been a quality partner, who listens and takes action. The American Rescue Plan alone provides $30 million in funding to stop layoffs, provide proper personal protective equipment and more.
Working on contracts
Coming out of the pandemic, Costa said transit workers need to be treated better. While they have been called heroes for the past year, it will be interesting to see if their contracts reflect the new tag. Funding is handed out for wars without thinking twice, Costa would like to know why it is not the same for transit workers.
He said the contract will be important, as the union has worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic. If the ATU had not fought for these crucial protections, Costa believes many more workers and riders would have died.
While agency heads lead departments via internet call, he challenged them to come ride a bus and see the conditions firsthand.