Transit unions are calling for greater protections for their employees, as coronavirus has taken a heavy toll on bus drivers and train operators working on the frontlines.
In New York City, a total of 2,000 transit union members have tested positive and 40 have died, according to John A. Costa, international president of the Amalgamated Transit Union.
"It's obvious that we are being overexposed on buses and trains, different from the other first-responders or essential workers," Acosta told Cheddar.
Unlike health care professionals, transit workers have not gotten first dibs on personal protective equipment being doled out by state and federal officials. The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority did secure 75,000 masks, however, earlier this month.
"Unfortunately, we're not first-responders," he said. "They're recognizing us as essential employees, so we're not even on the list for the proper PPEs.
The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and Transport Workers Union of America (TWU), which collectively represent 330,000 transit workers across the country, have teamed up to ensure greater protections for their employees.
They are calling for additional masks, gloves, and the regular disinfecting of buses. They also want to see it required that passengers wear masks before stepping onto a bus or train.
"There's too much overcrowding, and we believe that riders should be wearing masks before they come on the buses, and if they don't have a mask they don't ride," Acosta said.
He also noted that the reduction of services, like New York cutting buses, has led to overcrowding. The union president is pushing for the state to restore service to normal levels to take the pressure off of the remaining buses.
"The stimulus money that came in has doubled their funding," Acosta said. "So they have the money for the proactive equipment. They have the money to keep the service going."