Honoring our Transportation Workers

Much of the transportation industry has reason to be concerned, namely, the hard-working men and women risking their lives to make travel possible. The coronavirus is continuing to ravage the U.S. in certain industries. A Philadelphia-based American Airlines flight attendant recently died due to COVID-19. “This does spread more fear among our ranks”, said Lori Bassani, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants.[1] In New York, a Metropolitan Transit Authority transit conductor, and a bus operator, died from the coronavirus.[2] All of the workers were longtime members. Transportation workers must typically be in the presence of many people, some of whom stay for many hours. They congregate into one secluded area, where airborne pathogens can roam and enter people’s respiratory systems. Rideshare companies, for example, use independent contractors, waiving any legal requirement to offer sick leave. An Uber driver can at least open the windows in their vehicle, while this cannot be done aboard a flight. Many don’t have a choice but to come to work.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Labor Union has requested that Congress provide relief to aerospace workers, to which Congress responded by passing a stimulus bill allocating billions of dollars to the airline industry.[3] This is necessary. OSHA describes an elevated exposure risk to COVID-19 for workers in the healthcare, death care, airline, border protection, and solid waste and wastewater management industries, including those working in laboratories.[4] Airline workers are not public safety workers, but often their operations are crucial to public health and safety. Under the stimulus bill, “the Transportation Department can require air carriers to continue service on [unpopular] routes…to maintain well-functioning health care and pharmaceutical supply chains, including for medical devices and supplies”.[5] Often we thank the medical professionals who put their lives on the line to treat ill patients. Transportation workers make daily commutes possible for those who must travel, or for critical supplies requiring transport. It’s not everyday we recognize the heroism that comes with being a bus driver, or a flight attendant, but that is what we are seeing every day.

[1] Vaidyanathan, Vaishnavi. “Coronavirus US Update: Philadelphia-Based American Airlines Flight Attendant Dies, Spreading Fears In Industry.” International Business Times, 2020 IB Times LLC, 27 Mar. 2020, www.ibtimes.com/coronavirus-us-update-philadelphia-based-american-airlines-flight-attendant-dies-2947721.

[2] Guse, Clayton. “MTA Bus Operator Dies from Coronavirus, Second NYC Transit Worker Killed by Disease.” Nydailynews.com, New York Daily News, 26 Mar. 2020, www.nydailynews.com/coronavirus/ny-coronavirus-mta-bus-operator-oliver-cyrus-20200327-jfmuuanyk5fvzjuxx6envvddoi-story.html.

[3] “IAM Action Alerts.” International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, IAMAW, www.goiam.org/departments/headquarters/politics-and-legislation/iam-action-alerts/#/138.

[4] “Safety and Health Topics | COVID-19 | Occupational Safety and Health Administration.” OSHA, United States Department of Labor, www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/.

[5] CNN Staff. “What’s in the $2 Trillion Coronavirus Stimulus Bill.” CNN, Cable News Network, 26 Mar. 2020, www.cnn.com/2020/03/25/politics/stimulus-package-details-coronavirus/index.html.

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