Union works with Metro Transit to improve safety for bus operators
during COVID-19 crisis
Metro Transit buses display the “#STAYHOMEMN” hashtag.
Metro Transit photo. Photo credit: Mike Rios-Keating, Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Adapted from the Minneapolis Labor Review, March 27, 2020
By Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review editor
MINNEAPOLIS — Bus operators are among the public employees on the front lines serving their community during the COVID-19 crisis. And all transit workers have been designated as Tier II essential employees.
Sadly, bus operators in other states have contracted the disease —and several have died — reported Ryan Timlin, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005.
Here in the Twin Cities, Timlin said Local 1005 has been working cooperatively with Metro Transit to implement safety measures to protect bus operators. “Right now, the company has been great,” he said. “They haven’t been resistant to trying to work with us, which thankfully has been the case.”
New safety measures include extensive cleaning of buses, trains and shelters and limiting the number of passengers.
In addition, “they’ve closed off the front of the bus and it’s rear-entry only to help reduce the exposure to our members,” Timlin said.
Workers with particular health vulnerabilities are being encouraged to get a doctor’s note and seek a COVID-19 leave. “Management is trying to work with people to protect them,” Timlin said.
With a decrease in ridership due to COVID-19 fears and limitations, Metro Transit has cut the frequency of bus and rail trips.
Despite those cuts, “everybody gets their 40 hours and the part-timers get 30 hours,” Timlin said. “They may have lost overtime but everybody is getting their regular rate of pay.”
“We’ve agreed that the drivers could do other things like cleaning buses and cleaning up things,” he said. “There’s also training going on in case they need to drive routes they’ve never driven before.”
“Our brothers and sisters are out there,” Timlin said. “They’re doing their best to help out… These are essential workers… It doesn’t get recognized until something drastic happens.”
Despite all the new precautions in the face of COVID-19, “because of the exposure, we’re expecting some of our members to catch it,” Timlin said.