What do bus drivers and supermarket workers have in common? They are essential workers and they joined together at the newly remodeled Tops Market in North Buffalo to pitch a continuation of heroes pay.
There are a lot of people out there who can't work from home in these COVID-19 times and who have to deal with the public. Tops has spent millions of dollars on personal protective equipment and in temporary bonuses to workers in contact with the public. However, unions were out at the Tops Markets, protesting the end to special pandemic pay for workers and because the company doesn't require shoppers to wear masks.
In the protest was Jeffrey Richardson, the president of Division 1342 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, the union representing Metro Bus and Metro Rail drivers and mechanics. Richardson said he understands the attitude of the Tops workers.
"We are essential workers. We're out there every day. Same thing with the grocery workers here at Tops. So our thing is we deserve hazardous pay. We deserve fair contracts. We deserve all the PPE's we need, which is personal protective equipment to make sure we stay safe," Richardson said. "If you are out here every day and you're working, you deserve some type of harzardous pay for doing the job that you're doing."
Richardson said 15 members of his union have been ill with COVID-19 and returned to work. Nationally, he said 82 members of his union have died and 3,000 have been infected. The union president said one clue to his membership's attitude about the situation is that more than 30 members have retired in June and July out of concern with the virus.
What happens when a coughing rider boards his bus?
"It makes you go into a panic, because you don't know what they have," Richardson said. "You don't want to judge people, but when somebody sneezes or coughs you get scared. You get scared. Our operators, our mechanics, our whole union, they're doing a wonderful job along with the parking lot we're sitting in right now with the Tops workers. We're all essential workers, across the United States and Canada. We just want to be treated fairly."