Miakeya Rolle has not been able to return to work after the incident. Sadly, her case is one of many.
In shocking news, a passenger on a bus spat at the bus driver when she asked her to wear a mask. The incident took place in Miami-Dade County, Florida, on the afternoon of April 19. According to a police report, a homeless woman boarded Miakeya Rolle's bus and began coughing on fellow passengers. When Rolle informed the passenger she would have to wear a mask, the woman spat on her and immediately fled the bus. As she waited for the police, Rolle cleaned herself off. Though her job is the only way to feed her family, she has found it difficult to return to work, CNN reports.
The ATU is demanding hazard pay for all #transit workers during the #COVID19 pandemic. Get involved by visiting https://t.co/SwcKJqTZn8 and go to the #SafeServiceNow section. #1u #Labour pic.twitter.com/fKQ99VVAyK— ATU, Transit Union (@ATUComm) May 6, 2020
In Miami, local authorities have enforced strict guidelines for those who choose to use public transport. Like many transit systems, the Miami-Dade Transit requires all passengers to wear masks as a result of the ongoing public health crisis. Rolle was simply doing her job when she requested the passenger to put on a mask. Following the terrible incident, the bus driver used Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer to clean herself up as she waited for police officials to arrive. Later on, she went to the hospital in order to get tested for the novel Coronavirus. Thankfully, she tested negative. As soon as she returned home, Rolle undressed outside and threw her uniform in the garbage.
The head of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 508 says the changes — combined with fewer operators available to accommodate them — have brought “unprecedented” stress and distraction to drivers.https://t.co/oqNEkKglz2— ATU Canada (@atu_canada) May 5, 2020
Sadly, she is yet to return to work. "That's how I feed my family. But as of right now, I can't do it," she said. "I've never had anything like that happen to me. I'm about to lose my mind." This is unfortunately not the first time a bus driver has undergone such an experience. Across the United States, bus drivers are facing new challenges while trying to protect their passengers from spreading the virus. At least 135 transit workers have already passed as a result. Transit union leaders believe there is a serious gap in the kind of protection we afford our country's transit employees. At present, these leaders are pushing to make high-quality masks available to drivers. They also want drivers to get help with their new duties, such as managing overcrowding and enforcing mask requirements.
“The transit agency confirmed the case Wednesday afternoon, two days after dozens of employees called out sick after union leaders demanded hazard pay for essential employees working in public during the pandemic.” @RTDNEWS https://t.co/BIE4wkCANR— Chelsea Higgs Wise (@ChelseaWiseRVA) April 29, 2020
As per John A. Costa, the International President of the Amalgamated Transit Union, fewer than half of the local unions he oversees in both the United States and Canada have proper personal protective equipment. This means transit workers are at a higher risk of contracting the disease, a problem which many of their colleagues who operate trains or perform maintenance do not have to worry about. As they come in close contact with passengers with little to no barrier between them, we have seen an unusual spike in driver deaths. International President of the Transport Workers Union John Samuelsen told CNN, "I wake up every morning and if I don't have a report of a fatality it's like a good morning. That's how crazy this is."
Frontline #transit workers are working day in & day out to keep the U.S. and Canada moving, transit agencies and private companies need to make sure that their needs are met. Take action for Safe Service Now for transit workers now at https://t.co/rXtqMgfoi8 #1u #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/CEjGCb6TRt— ATU, Transit Union (@ATUComm) May 4, 2020
At present, unions are encouraging transit agencies to establish policies regarding facial coverings so as to reduce the risk of spread. Transit systems are built to house dozens of people in a tighter space, which makes it difficult to follow rules for social distancing. Nonetheless, several agencies have limited the number of passengers who can board buses and trains. A bigger problem is the fact that some passengers simply do not want to follow rules. "For the majority of folks in Southern Ohio, they just seem to think [the virus] really isn't a thing," Donna Schinkle, transit director of Chillicothe, Ohio, said. "We have more of a struggle of trying to make them abide by the rules." If we want to save our drivers, we need to change our behavior.
“Because there are now neighborhoods that are served by only one bus route, or none at all, there are now people riding the routes still running who otherwise wouldn’t be. If you ran more of the routes, the buses running now wouldn’t be as crowded.” https://t.co/qaUuSeesJb— Philly Transit Riders Union (@phillyTRU) May 2, 2020