By James Evers
When we honored our nation’s workers this Labor Day, the Boston Carmen’s Union reflected on the phrase, “We’re all in this together!” that we’ve heard so often since our world changed in mid-March.
The phrase has brought our members together for more than a century.
Carmen’s Union members moved the people of Greater Boston through the flu pandemic of 1918 as we have this year. A Boston Globe story from November 1918 details plans to add hours to Carmen’s shifts to better meet the “peak load” of travel as the incidence of flu increased so that cars were less crowded.
Sounds familiar, right?
Our Union was ready to serve then, and I couldn’t be prouder now of the way our members stepped up during the worst days of this global coronavirus pandemic.
Our members were, and still are, on the front lines every day. We’ve taken on the challenge of COVID-19 in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in public safety, health care, and the retail and service industries. We stand with all the essential workers who don’t have the luxury of working from home. We’re proud that we get T riders safely where they need to go, and we’re committed to keep Boston’s economic engine revving.
As we look ahead we know that unless we make riders confident and comfortable the T won’t come back to life– and if the T doesn’t come back to life, we know that Boston’s economy can’t back to life either. Every resident of the Commonwealth needs to be concerned about our common health, and nowhere is that more relevant than aboard the MBTA. Public officials, workers and riders all need to be committed to safety.
For us this means wearing a mask while riding or working near the public or our brothers and sisters. For employers it means considering shifting work schedules to off-peak hours where possible. For riders that means covering your faces and doing your best to maintain distance on vehicles and in stations and treating drivers and train operators with respect.
We’ve worked closely with the MBTA in the past six months to advocate for safety measures to keep our riders and members safe. Some safety measures came easily, and others like back-door boarding took more effort. We continue to encourage the T to employ and expand its innovative use of passenger counting equipment on buses to notify riders about overcrowding. This effort should be expanded to all service modes and the T should deploy work-as-directed buses and trains to run extra trips on high ridership routes.
Just as we were in 1918, the Carmen’s Union is prepared to add time to shifts or add shifts for members in order to get riders where they need to go safely—again, the comfort and confidence of riders is what will bring Boston back to life.
We hope that you all were able to enjoy a safe and happy Labor Day! Let’s all commit to each other that we’ll each do our part going forward. Boston is a transit-first city– we have been for over a century– and we know that our membership is ready to welcome riders back, safely.
We are all in this together.
James Evers is President of the Boston Carmen’s Union, Local 589
Contact info: [email protected], (617) 542-8212