I hope you are all well and following the guidelines that are in place to remain that way. These are unprecedented times we are in right now due to COVID-19 outbreak also known as the “Coronavirus”. The measures we are taking in order to protect ourselves and our families is also unprecedented. Rest assured that as your Business Agent, I have been working very closely with every employer in my assign to ensure that the response to this pandemic is measured, and structured around your safety above all else. Many of the Municipalities in my barn assignment have sent employees deemed “nonessential” home with full pay, and I have worked hard to ensure that the remaining “essential” employees that are able to work from home are afforded that opportunity. Further, I have fought hard to ensure that of the essential employees that are considered “high risk” to succumb to this novel and deadly virus are afforded all of the protections contained in the new law recently passed by congress known as “The Families First Coronavirus Response Act” (or “FFCRA”). This law requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for specific reasons related to COVID-19. The FFCRA is effective on April 1, 2020, and continues in full force and effect until December 31, 2020 and covers employees that are quarantined or isolated per the state or federal government, have been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine, is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking a medical diagnosis, is caring for an individual subject to a state or healthcare provider mandated quarantine, is caring for a child whose school or child care provider is closed due to COVID-19 related reasons or is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
If you, or any of your fellow Teamsters or co-workers are in a situation that is described above, contact your steward or a co-worker to act as a witness, and together contact your HR department to request a leave of absence per the FFCRA. If you run into any issues at all, immediately send me an email at nickwilliamsL251@gmail.com. Please feel free to send me an email if you have any questions about the FFCRA, or your specific situation if it is not described in the act.
Lastly, the hardest hit of my members are my School Bus Drivers. Due to the necessary order from the Governor to close all Schools, every single bus driver that I represent has been essentially laid off due to a lack of work, and is forced to collect unemployment at a rate of 40-60% of their usual pay. This is not acceptable for a number of reasons. The first reason is that the municipalities and school departments that these bus drivers work for have already earmarked funds in their budgets for the transportation of students. If that money is not spent, it represents a savings to the school department. It is abhorrent to think that a government entity is capitalizing on this pandemic, while the bus drivers and other contracted workers are forced onto an unemployment system that has taken on a record number new claims due to this pandemic.
Another reason it is unacceptable to force bus drivers onto the overloaded unemployment rolls during this pandemic relates to another industry wide crisis, the bus driver shortage. It is not hard to understand why a bus driver would opt out of receiving only 40 to 60% of their normal pay in order to get a job at one of the businesses that are overwhelmed in these pandemic times. Due to this lock down, many businesses that have never offered delivery service are left with little choice than to hire drivers and begin delivering their good and services just to stay in business.
There is an avenue to address these issues, and that is in the Federal stimulus legislation passed by Congress. Secretary-Treasurer Matt Taibi, Legislation Director Paul MacDonald and all the school bus BA’s are working hard on a favorable solution. We’ll report more when we have results.
Thank you, Brothers and Sisters. Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones and stay as safe as possible.