Rockford Mass Transit District workers demand safer working conditions during COVID-19
The RMTD workers are asking for better protections and services as the pandemic continues.
ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - As deaths and infections continue to rise, the Rockford Mass Transit District continues to provide transportation, but many employees say they fear for their own safety, and the health of the elderly riders they transport.
At a Rockford City Council meeting, workers at the Rockford Mass Transit District demanded better protection and safe services as they continue to be essential workers. The RMTD workers are asking for better protections and services as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
“The hard-working men and women of RMTD have been providing critical transportation services getting essential workers to their jobs since the COVID-19 pandemic began,” said Jodi Williams, President of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1333, representing RMTD workers. “The fear for our safety and our riders' safety has finally reached a tipping point. Nine members have tested positive for coronavirus. Many of our riders are elderly and at-risk. We have riders who refuse to keep their masks on. City bus drivers need safety and smaller passenger limits. We need help because we are not getting it. We are asking the Council to please help transit to be safe. We have families to go home to.”
After the City Council meeting, the Local 1333 gained the support of 9th Ward Alderperson Bill Rose, who emailed the entire Council asking RMTD implement safety measures for the transit system.
“I am asking that RMTD work with the Local union and the health department to develop aggressive health interventions to keep our bus drivers healthy and safe,” Alderperson Rose’s email read. “It is in the greatest public interest that RMTD ensure that bus driver safety be priority number one. No worker should be exposed to this virus unnecessarily and it is our duty as government officials to keep the safety of those most in need under scrutiny to ensure safe outcomes.”
ATU played a key role in helping RMTD secure $9.3 million in emergency transit funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The Act is intended for transit agencies to use the funds to purchase N-95 masks, gloves, other personal protective equipment (PPE) for transit workers, and additional cleaning and sanitizing supplies. In addition, RMTD can use the funds to pay workers and keep service running during the pandemic.
“Since the coronavirus pandemic began, our Rockford members have been risking their lives each day on the frontlines of this pandemic,” said ATU International President John Costa. “But we are essential, not expendable. It’s time for RMTD to step up and come up with real solutions to protect us and our riders today, not tomorrow.”
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