Unions fight for bus drivers, postal workers and other essential workers to be classified as 'first responders'

Cate Cauguiran Image
Tuesday, March 24, 2020
The 'other' first reponders of the COVID-19 pandemic
Transit workers, mail carriers and food service workers are the "other" first responders on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As our medical professionals work to test and treat this virus, there are others working a different frontline making sure the rest of us get what we need and where we need to go.

Train and bus operators help keep the city moving, even during a state-wide stay-at-home order.

"They have come to work in support of people who need to around by the transit system," said Keith Hill, President & Business Agent at Amalgamated Transit Union Local 241.

Workers are also keeping grocery shelves stocked and lines moving.

"They are making untold sacrifices to keep these stores open and operated," said Bob O'Toole from the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1546.

Mail carriers are also still reporting to duty, even with personal risk.

"Each individual feels their personal safety could be jeopardized and that of their family," Mack Julion, President of the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 11.

Their concerns, the same as others on the battleground of this pandemic: access to personal protective equipment and safety.

ATU Local 241 represents thousands of bus drivers, operators and mechanics in the city. They are now pushing for riders to enter through the rear of the bus, their best attempt to keep social distancing in a tight environment.

"There is no such thing as social distancing that our members can practice," Hill said.

The unions representing these essential workers now want to make it official, to be recognized as true first responders to give them access to what they need.

"Getting them classified as first responders gives them protection and hopefully some priority for additional personal protective equipment," O'Toole said.

"We do the duties as first responders," Hill said "Treat us that way and respect us and acknowledge us in that light."

The Chicago Federation of Labor, in addition other union leaders, have for your PPE donations as well as for compassion as these workers continue to report every single day to make sure we are taken care of.