What came together was a first petition, where we connected as transit workers to other city agencies (libraries, parking ramp, streets, sanitation, water, and so forth). We specifically sought solidarity with other city workers beyond our own union and tried to articulate class-wide demands. We demanded:
- safety at work;
- additional paid leave in line with the CDC quarantine period;
- no discipline for workers who are absent to take care of themselves or their families;
- any agencies that are closed must guarantee full pay and benefits to workers without drawing from personal leave; and
- any worker with a confirmed case must be paid for the duration of the condition.
We put that together and then decided to organize a meeting where we demanded upper management attend that Monday morning, March 16. We packed the driver lounge with as many as we could, and management came immediately after being summoned. We asked our questions and raised our demands but were told that they would make no commitments and that they would “do their best.” We responded that we wanted an answer by 3 pm. They replied that this would not be possible.
Anticipating such a response, we released the petition to the mayor and all alders in conjunction with a press release that we sent to all local news outlets. A friendly reporter put together a great article within hours that boosted the story. By 7pm that evening, the City announced that they were making changes in line with nearly all of our demands. (They of course painted it as if it were their own idea.) Management is freaking out since local news outlets have framed the narrative clearly in terms of transit workers versus the mayor. They’re under sustained pressure, and they want to stop any more public scrutiny.
Management said they would come back every day at 9 am to give updates for better communication. Our business agent from Local 695 said he would start coming as well, where we had heard literally nothing from the local by this point. Our assessment was that both the city and the union were embarrassed that they were outflanked and wanted to regain the upper hand. Management continued to make no further promises on safety – only that they would do their best. While we won many of the leave demands, the safety issues were all swept under the rug, so we kept pushing.