Transportation workers struggle to deal with an unruly public during pandemic

Since January, the aviation industry alone has had over 4,000 unruly passenger reports, 3,000 mask related incidents and 750 investigated events, according to Greg Regan, President of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO.

Regan joined America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss how transportation workers are struggling to deal with an increasingly unruly public in the middle of a pandemic. He also discussed why pandemic supply chain shortages are largely due to corporate greed and the industry’s insistence on running bare bones operations in an effort to squeeze profits.

Transportation workers struggle to enforce order

During the first half of 2021, roughly 85 percent of flight attendants dealt with an unruly passenger, Regan stated. Improper passenger behavior is getting increasingly out of hand, he warned.

Masks continue to be required on all federal transportation, which includes flights as well as public transit such as buses, trains and subways. The Federal Rail Administration (FRA) does not have the ability to administer civil penalties but the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does.

Impolite and uncivil passengers have always been an issue, but the problem has gotten worse during the pandemic, especially once masks became political, he said. People argue they should have the freedom to not wear a mask, but other people’s freedom to travel safely with a lower risk disease is ultimately much more important, he stated.

Supply chain issues caused by bare bones staffing approach

Regan also discussed supply chain issues during the pandemic. Yes, there are supply issues but not due to the reasons people are talking about in the media, he said. The biggest problem is maintaining connectivity between the railroads and the ports. Before COVID-19, about 30 percent of the railway workforce was reduced as a cost cutting measure. Now when there is a surge of demand for supplies and materials, the workforce is not there to meet it, Regan explained.

Supply chain problems ultimately come down to industries carving out every bit of profit they can — leaving a workforce too strapped and ill equipped to handle the increased responsibility, Regan stated. If workers need to be quarantined due to an outbreak, there are no replacement staff because levels are already bareboned, he said.


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