Miami-Dade officials are pushing back against criticism from a transportation workers union argument that bus drivers and passengers are being endangered by COVID-19.
On Monday, the Transport Workers Union of America (TWUA) sent a letter to Mayors of dozens of municipalities within Miami-Dade arguing the transit system has inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE).
“The most effective inventory of PPE seems to also only be going to other workers (whom of course need the supplies as well),” the union members wrote.
“Further, the transit train and bus vehicles are not receiving the deep sanitization that is required. On top of this, no genuine or effective enforcement of masking and social distancing protocols is being maintained. The list of serious safety threats is growing daily.”
The letter asked those Mayors to push the county government — which oversees the transit system — to ramp up safety measures. That letter followed an April 17 lawsuit demanding changes.
The union also hammered Miami-Dade County Transit Director Alice Bravo arguing she has “failed to adequately address this safety crisis.”
The TWUA followed up Monday’s letter with a mobile billboard challenging Bravo to the #RideNotDie challenge. That billboard mockingly encouraged Bravo to ride a full shift on a bus with no masks, social distancing or sanitation measures.
Now, Bravo and other county officials are pushing back against those critiques and accusing the union of seeking publicity.
“The safety of our operators and riders has always been our number one priority both as a department and for myself as director,” Bravo said in a statement Tuesday.
“Since this global pandemic began, we amped up our safety measures, including cleaning of vehicles and implementing service changes, matching or exceeding what other metro areas have done. It’s unfortunate that the Transport Workers Union appears to be spending workers’ dues on a publicity stunt that asks for more equipment when this and many other safety measures were implemented weeks ago.”
Miami-Dade County Mayor — and current congressional candidate — Carlos Giménez echoed those remarks.
“Now is the time for everyone in our community to work together toward a common goal — to stop the spread of COVID-19 and start moving to a new normal,” Giménez said.
“My administration and I — with guidance from the Florida Department of Health, the CDC and medical experts at Jackson Health System, U-Health and the medical schools at the University of Miami and Florida International University — have been dedicating our full time and resources to battling this pandemic and keeping our community safe.”
Derrick Gordon, the county’s Assistant Director over Metrobus Operations, supported Bravo’s handling of the outbreak.
“It’s no easy task to manage and operate a transit department like Miami-Dade’s,” Gordon said.
“Director Bravo has remained steadfast in keeping all of her employees safe during this unprecedented state of emergency, while also providing an essential service to the community. She has ensured no stone is left unturned and that we take and have taken all viable steps to keep everyone safe. Safety has always been our number one priority.”
That letter prompted pushback from the TWUA.
State officials have voiced optimism that social distancing efforts have helped flatten the curve of the outbreak. But Miami-Dade remains the epicenter, with nearly 36% of the total confirmed cases in the state as of Wednesday.