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Transit operators need stronger protections

As of March 30, six CTA bus and train operators have tested positive for COVID-19. A Pace bus driver has also tested positive for COVID-19.

There are likely many more who have the virus, and we expect to hear more confirmations of operators testing positive in the coming days and weeks.

These diagnoses beg the question of what steps are being done to contain and mitigate the spread of the virus among essential workers operating buses and trains. And what’s being done after an operator tests positive?

We must protect transit workers who are on the front lines of this crisis to save lives and keep our trains and buses running.

As more transit operators test positive for COVID-19, it’s clear that not enough is being done to prioritize the health and safety of these essential workers.

In support of the demands of the transit operator unions ATU International, ATU241, and ATU 308, we call on the Mayor Lightfoot and CTA to do the following:

  • Immediately start compensating bus and train operators with hazard pay, meaning pay and a half for those who have been working through the beginning of the pandemic until now and moving forward.
  • Inspect the air filtration system on trains and buses with public health professionals to ensure the virus is not spreading through the air filter system.
  • Share how frequently CTA buses and trains are being cleaned and what cleaning products are being used.
  • Ensure the public receives updates on how many operators are testing positive for COVID-19.
  • Provide masks for all operators to wear.
  • Allow back door boarding on all CTA and Pace buses. Even buses that do not allow for the operator to open the back door, riders should still be entering through the back door even if they have to open it themselves, with exception of riders with disabilities.
  • Provide free fares to allow for social distancing for bus operators.
  • Maintain levels of service to prevent crowding on trains and buses, and keep riders and operators safe by ensuring social distancing.

These are the concerns of the transit operators who are still on the front lines of this crisis. It’s because of their sacrifice — and putting themselves in danger — that allows essential workers to get to their jobs and homes safely.

We must take their demands and concerns seriously and support them as they make sacrifices for the greater good.


Photo Credit: Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune