Miami Herald: Miami-Dade transit union launches ad campaign branding buses a danger from COVID-19

Miami-Dade’s transit union on Tuesday escalated its demand for more protective gear and vehicle cleaning by having billboard trucks trail buses with the message: “Enter At Your Own Risk.”

The Transportation Workers Union is targeting transit director Alice Bravo in the campaign as well. Nearly two weeks ago it named her in a lawsuit that asks a Circuit Court judge to order Miami-Dade to increase sanitizing of buses and trains and provide operators the same protective gear issued to police officers and paramedics.

In a statement, Bravo said: “The safety of our operators and riders has always been our number priority both as a department and for myself as director. Since this global pandemic began, we amped up our safety measures, including cleaning of vehicles and implementing service changes, matching or exceeding what other metro areas have done…. It is unfortunate that the union appears to be spending workers’ dues on a publicity stunt that asks for more equipment when this and many other safety measures were implemented weeks ago.”

Miami-Dade has been rationing cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) for drivers, with some bus operators issued one Clorox wipe per day to clean their wheel and seat.

A county emergency order requires passengers to wear masks, and Miami-Dade suspended fares in March to allow buses to close off front doors and mandate boarding from the rear, away from drivers. The county has also closed off every other seat to promote social distancing.

Union leaders said operators are issued masks, but not the N95 masks that are the best protection against COVID-19 infection. Union president Jeffery Mitchell said transit employees were told to make one mask last a week.

“We have operators that are sick in the hospital right now with this virus,” Mitchell said at a press conference last week.

The ads running on billboard trucks are designed to accompany a county bus in the other lane. One reads “Are these buses COVID-19 sanitized? Enter at your own risk.” They carry the hashtag “#ridenotdie.” Another has a photo of Bravo, challenging her to work a bus operator’s shift. It accuses the county of not enforcing social-distancing rules, and points out the buses aren’t sanitized between stops.

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