‘Protect your workers’: Lynchburg bus drivers, transit employees protest with safety concerns

Union representatives say employees don't feel safe, want hazard pay

LYNCHBURG, Va. – Some Lynchburg city bus drivers and their union representatives are upset and concerned for their safety as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

“Practice what you preach. You’re saying safety is your priority. Why not practice it?” said Percival Patterson, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1493.

More than a dozen bus drivers with Greater Lynchburg Transit Company (GLTC) have concerns about working during the pandemic.

“They have not received hazard pay or any time of bonus of any recognition of what they’re doing,” said Clifford Headrick, executive board member of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1493.

The group said there isn’t enough being done to protect employees.

The Greater Lynchburg Transit Company is dealing with a staff shortage because its employees say they don't feel safe at work.
The Greater Lynchburg Transit Company is dealing with a staff shortage because its employees say they don't feel safe at work. (Copyright 2020 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

“And when someone tests positive, at least do us the justice and let us know,” Patterson said.

GLTC posted on Facebook Wednesday morning that fixed routes were canceled because of a staff shortage.

“When we got on the bus, we found out due to illness they were seriously shorthanded and didn’t have anyone driving this morning,” said bus rider Alison Stefan.

Union reps said their protest on Wednesday was coincidental and had nothing to do with the shortage.

“The union does not condone strikes nor neither do we encourage anyone to stay out. But the people do that for their own safety, their own protection. If the company does not protect them where do you leave them? Protect your workers,” Patterson said.

In a statement, officials with GLTC told 10 News, “GLTC is unaware of the concerns being cited by ATU Local 1493 and has proactively taken all reasonable measures to protect our passengers and staff from the transmission and spread of COVID-19.”

GLTC director Brian Booth was not available for an interview but provided a statement below. 10 News also asked a series of questions and at the time this article was published, they had not been answered.

“GLTC is committed to the safety of our staff, passengers, and community. At the start of this pandemic, GLTC took swift action putting safeguards in place. GLTC instituted rear door entry and fare elimination to support social distancing. In addition, passenger capacity has been limited and cloth masks are available at the Transfer Station for passengers who do not have access to a mask. PPE is provided to all drivers and staff, including gloves, face coverings, face shields, and hand sanitizer. Daily vehicle sanitization is conducted with focus on high contact surfaces. As we continue to monitor the situation, we will follow the direction of the CDC and partner with local/state health authorities as we do in all matters of public health.”