TWU, ATU join forces to up transit worker protections

April 6, 2020
The unions want all representative transit workers to have access to masks and gloves, among other safety focused demands.

The Transport Workers Union of America (TWU) and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) have entered an agreement to work collectively to ensure the safety of their members who are continuing to work as essential employees at transit agencies throughout the U.S.  

The two unions represent more than 330,000 transit workers who operate and maintain many of America’s transit systems including those in New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Atlanta, Miami, Houston, Dallas, Columbus, Ohio, and Detroit.

One of the unions’ top provisions is that members be provided masks and gloves, as well as the enforcement of other mitigation steps, some of which have already been taken by agencies, such as the enforcement of rear door boarding. Among the demands, the unions want agencies to urge riders to cover their faces while riding mass transit.

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed its guidance and is recommending everyone voluntarily wear a cloth face mask when out in public. CDC explained the face covering recommendation is not for the N95 face masks, which are being prioritized for healthcare workers and other medical first responders.

Last week, New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) said it secured N95 face masks for its frontline transit workers. On April 4, MTA had distributed 159,000 masks to New York City Transit, more than 40,000 masks to Long Island Rail Road, more than 36,300 masks to Metro-North and more than 12,400 masks to its Bridges and Tunnels workers. MTA says it has distributed 240,000 masks and 3.2 million gloves since March 1. 

In addition to the above, TWU and ATU said agencies should:

  • Regularly disinfect buses, trains, streetcars and worker facilities, including crew rooms;
  • Suspend use of any timekeeping systems that require multiple workers to touch the same digital screen, keyboard or fingerprint-scanning device;
  • Begin systematically cleaning and sanitizing equipment and facilities;
  • Mandate social distancing among transit riders using their systems, as well as workers in crew rooms and other worker facilities;
  • Provide in the line of duty death benefits for employees; and
  • Agree to ‘pandemic leave’ policies that ensure no one potentially exposed to Covid-19 is compelled to report to work to retain employment.

The unions say their members are reporting overcrowded buses and work locations, which violate social distancing guidelines and have vowed to take “aggressive action” if their concerns are not resolved.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.