Olivia Alperstein, Institute for Policy Studies

[email protected]
Judy Asman, Labor Network for Sustainability
[email protected]

WASHINGTON, D.C. (APRIL 23, 2020) —The Labor Network for Sustainability and Institute for Policy Studies have organized more than 70 unions, civil rights groups, transit organizations, and coalitions in the labor and environmental justice movements to urge Congress to provide more funding for transit agencies.

In a joint letter to Democratic and Republican Congressional leaders sent on April 21, the organizers say that transit agencies are a lifeline to communities during this pandemic, yet the health of transit workers’ has become disproportionately affected due to America’s racial and socioeconomic disparities. As data disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender and socioeconomic status become more available, the organizers urge for equitable solutions to keep the transit community safeguarded.

“Public transit is essential for getting me to my shift at a Pittsburgh grocery store but as a response to COVID-19, our transit agency cut back on the number of buses that run routes. That means it’s harder for me to get to work and that the buses are more crowded. It’s stressful to get onto a packed bus after spending so much effort distancing the rest of the day. As someone who’s also being called an ‘essential worker,’ I can relate. We’re risking our lives, but we’re workers, not martyrs. It’s critical that our employers and public transit agencies give us the compensation and protection we deserve,” said an unnamed grocery store employee, also member of Pittsburghers for Public Transit. The grocery store employee is one of the many essential workers that rely on public transit and yet are afraid to speak publicly out of concern for retaliation.

Unions, civil rights groups, grassroots organizations, and coalitions for labor equity and environmental justice call on Congress to provide additional funding to transit agencies in the next stimulus for:

  • On-site test and/or treatment at work locations with medical workers who can immediately issue and submit quarantine and reasonable accommodation orders;
  • hazard pay for all frontline workers;
  • personal protective equipment (PPE) for the duration of the pandemic;
  • full pay for transit workers to care for their children whose schools are closed;
  • safe operation of essential transit services to prevent overcrowding, including paratransit for seniors;
  • and extended free service to scale the increase of unemployment.

“In the good times and the hard times, MARTA is essential in moving millions of metro Atlanta workers, students, and families from place to place,” adds Saba Long, Board member, MARTA Army in Atlanta, Georgia. “The federal government must ensure transit agencies across the country have the financial resources to keep buses and trains running, keep workers employed, and keep people moving.”

To learn more about the latest on rights of workers in transit during COVID-19, visit the Labor Network for Sustainability resource page.

Download the Transit Equity Letter to Congress Action Toolkit here.

Visit the Amalgamated Transit Union’s memorial page, “Remember our Fallen”


About Labor Network for Sustainability

Founded in 2009, the Labor Network for Sustainability engages workers and communities to build a transition to a society that is ecologically sustainable and economically just. LNS convened the Transit Equity Day team in 2018 upon request by leaders of the Amalgamated Transit Union. The mission of Transit Equity Day is to promote public transit as civil rights and as a strategy to combat climate change—held on February 4, Rosa Parks’ birthday, each year. Involvement in Transit Equity Day grew exponentially since its first year, resulting in nearly 40 actions nationwide with impacts on thousands of transit workers and riders in 17 states. Learn more about Transit Equity Day.