Risks is the TUC's weekly newsletter for safety reps and others, sponsored by Thompsons Solicitors.
The Covid-19-linked deaths of dozens of Transport Workers Union Local 100 members who worked for New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) have been linked to their working conditions. As of 13 April, more than 30 members of Local 100 and 11 transit supervisors were among 50-plus MTA deaths. John Samuelsen, president of the Transport Workers Union International, asserted that the most important factor responsible is the serious occupational issues related to workplace air quality for transit workers that make them especially vulnerable to the infection. “We breathe in diesel [fumes] every day,” he said. “We breathe in steel dust every single day. We breathe in manganese from all the welding that goes on in the subway.” He continued: “We breathe in creosote that they soak the railroad ties in to preserve them. These are carcinogens and they directly affect the lungs, and this is why so many transit workers die of lung disorders. And Covid-19 attacks the lungs. It is more the work environment than it has to do with any demographics of the workforce." The union leader said that the Covid-19 death toll for transit workers raised the question of whether the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's workforce should have been wearing masks even before the crisis. Both the union and management officials believe the “new normal” must include a heightened awareness of the risks essential workers take every day. Sarah Feinberg, the interim president of New York City Transit, said: “The goal has to be keeping workers safe. That includes now, in the short term, in the long term, and for the rest of their lives.” She added: “Any potential risk factor that impacts our workforce is worth exploring and understanding to the fullest.”
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