MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Amid an ongoing dispute, The Transport Workers Union of America is asking the Miami-Dade County transit director to participate in the #RideNotDie challenge during the coronavirus pandemic.
Jeffery Mitchell, the president of the TWU’s Local 291, said bus drivers and passengers are risking their lives every day in the Miami-Dade public transit system, as the cases of the contagious respiratory illness continue to increase.
“If I was the director of a department, I would actually get in and see how my employees are making out on a day-to-day basis,” Mitchell said.
Alice Bravo, the director of Miami-Dade Transit, implied that if she was in Mitchell’s position, she would not have launched the #RideNotDie campaign.
To promote, the #RideNotDie challenge, the union had two trucks with flashing billboards following public buses on the 11 and 77 routes to the Government Center in downtown Miami.
The trucks with the #RideNotDie billboards parked outside of Bravo’s office before following the buses again during the afternoon routes.
“We need far better protections than what’s being offered now,” Mitchell said. “We need a physical barrier between the passengers and the operators.”
“Maybe their union dues would be better spent in some other way," Bravo said.
Mitchell said there is no better way for the union to spend members dues than on an effort to help save lives during the pandemic.
The department reported displaying new social distancing signs. Bus riders use the rear doors and the front doors remain closed, Bravo said. Bus drivers are also allowed to limit rider capacity.
“As soon as we got N95 masks, we sent them to the workers,” Bravo said. “We have gotten plastic shields. We’re disinfecting the vehicles several times a day. The safety of our employees and our passengers have been our top priority the minute this broke.”
Mitchell disagrees. In a lawsuit the union filed against Bravo earlier this month, the union’s attorney alleged bus drivers are working without “adequate access to face masks, no social distancing enforcement, no sanitation between stops and no antibacterial products."
Despite the reduced ridership, the county’s public transit system still has a monthly ridership of 1.3 million passengers, the union alleged in the lawsuit also claiming transit operators are coming into close contact with tens of thousands of passengers a day.
The union also wants an “investigation into how the county distributes its inventory of PPE to employees, including by job description, race and ethnicity” and the appointing of a “safety inspector general with scientific training to monitor compliance and to publicly report on non-compliance on a daily basis.”