Statement from TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano on the MTA’s Report of Positive Tests Among Transit Workers

March 19, 2020, 4:45pm – The MTA has just released its first comprehensive report on the number of MTA employees from across all of its operating authorities who have tested positive for COVID-19.

The number of positive tests includes 19 from NYCT and MTA Bus, combined.  Of that number, 12 are Local 100 members.  These numbers are of great concern and are sure to grow.

President Utano released a separate statement to the media. You can read it here.

The MTA, at the highest level, has assured us that once it learns a worker has been quarantined, tested positive, or is awaiting test results, it is following an intense cleaning protocol and identifying co-workers for evaluation who may have had contact with that person. Our task is to keep pushing the MTA to do more to protect our members while providing essential bus and subway service, particularly to the hospital workers, nursing home staff, first responders and others who absolutely must get to their jobs because lives depend on it.

This news also highlights why Local 100 demanded that MTA arrange for expedited testing for transit workers. Symptomatic transit workers should not have to wait days upon days for test results or be denied testing for any reason. We have always been essential to the economy of New York City and to the day-to-day lives of millions of riders. It’s become strikingly clear during this crisis that we also are vitally important to the health and wellbeing of those riders – not only now, but after we pull through this crisis.

As transit workers, we understand that our bus and subway system is essential to the economy of the entire region. We have always risen to the occasion in past crises, including most recently, Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Here we are again, with the Coronavirus pandemic. In some ways this crisis is no different than previous ones, but in many ways, it is much worse, and all of New York is looking to us to keep the heart and soul of New York, our transit system, running.

We must take every precaution, but we must not panic. Experts say 80% of people who contract the virus will be able to recover at home and not require hospitalization. If you have a pre-existing condition, consult your medical provider and ask if you should stay at home. If you believe you were in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus, call your medical provider and ask what you should do. Follow the recommendations of the Centers For Disease Control and other health experts, including washing your hands regularly for 20 seconds and keeping your distance when possible from others.

On March 17th, the Local 100 Executive Committee met at the union hall to discuss all matters related to this crisis. We are calling on the MTA to give more direction on how to keep safe distances from co-workers in the work environment. We previously demanded that the MTA immediately establish a dedicated phone number for NYC Transit workers with health questions and concerns to call and get answers from trained medical staff. The MTA agreed and established this hotline. As of today, you can call it at 646-252-1010. If you have difficulty getting someone on the line, the MTA advises you try your HR representative at 347-643-8466 (NYC Transit) or 718-696-3643 (MTA Bus).

With the closure of New York City schools, transit workers may be facing real challenges for childcare.  The City of New York is opening school facilities beginning March 23, 2020 to provide child care for the children of essential workers, including transit workers, police officers, firefighters and paramedics. We are pressing the MTA to confirm the details and requirements, such as what types of identification will be required.