Local News

GoRaleigh drivers press city for hazard pay, extra time off

Posted November 5, 2021 7:08 p.m. EDT
Updated November 5, 2021 8:10 p.m. EDT

— The workers who have kept GoRaleigh buses moving throughout the pandemic are now in a drive for incentives from the city for their efforts.

Members of Local 1328 of the Amalgamated Transit Union want Raleigh to use $23 million in federal pandemic relief money to pay time-and-a-half "hazard pay" to GoRaleigh drivers, mechanics and cleaning crews. They also are pressing for an additional 80 hours of sick leave for those workers in case they contract COVID-19 or have mental health issues.

"We need to reward people who kept this city moving during this pandemic," Terrence Dewberry, president of Local 1328, said Friday.

At least 27 members of the union have been infected with coronavirus, Dewberry said.

"To go to work and bring something home that could kill your whole entire family if not contained, that’s not the working conditions we signed up for," he said.

Bus driver Marvin Brooks said he had COVID-19 last winter.

"I got it, [but] I really don’t know where. All I know is I went to work, and I came home with it," Brooks said. "As I go to work every day, I pray. It’s what it is. You’re very terrified."

"I’m still afraid. I don’t want to take nothing home to my family at all," Sherita McCullers agreed, adding that she and other drivers also have to deal with passengers who refuse to wear masks, even though the city requires them.

"We’re on the frontline, and we as drivers are fighting. I think everybody on the frontline deserves it," McCullers said.

An online call to action has received around 600 letters of support sent to the city. Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin said she was unaware of the push for hazard pay and extra sick leave for GoRaleigh workers.

City officials have sent information to City Council members to "clarify" what they say are "inaccurate statements" made by Local 1328 about the situation.

The officials noted several steps taken during the pandemic to keep GoRaleigh workers safe, such as suspending fares, having people board and exit near the rear of the bus and installing plastic partitions behind the drivers' seats. GoRaleigh workers also received hazard pay from March 2020 to December 2020, which was five months longer than other city workers, officials said.

"The health and safety of GoRaleigh employees remains our top priority," officials said.

A GoRaleigh spokesperson told WRAL News that there have been "no grievances submitted" on the issue of hazard pay this year.

The transit system is down about 27 drivers, or 12 percent of its workforce, and Dewberry said the hazard pay and extra sick leave could make the jobs more enticing to people.

"It’s not about just money. It’s trying to instill that our work is valuable and that our working conditions have changed," he said. "A [commercial driver's license] right now is worth its price in gold with the driver shortage. So how, long term, can we keep this transit system moving when there’s such a competitive market?"

Our commenting policy has changed. If you would like to comment, please share on social media using the icons below and comment there.