Foothill Transit Refuses to Reinstate Driver in Treatment for Breast Cancer Who Was Fired for Enforcing Mask Mandate; 13 Bus Drivers Now Infected With COVID-19
|LOS ANGELES, CA – On Sept. 17, 2020, a Foothill Transit bus driver in treatment for breast cancer was fired by Foothill’s contractor, Keolis Transit, for demanding that a passenger put on a mask before boarding the bus and for complaining about the company’s failure to outfit the buses with plastic partitions or to supply drivers with adequate PPE. The company has thus far refused to reinstate the driver or change their policies and now at least thirteen Foothill Transit drivers employed by Keolis are infected with COVID-19.
“I’m still under a doctor’s care,” said Kessel Davis, who returned to work in May following breast cancer surgery. “I have to be really careful for my health. I don’t sleep at night since I was fired. They’re asking us to risk our lives to drive passengers.” Kessel, who had worked for the agency for the past three years, said the company told her, ‘We don’t pay you to enforce the rules, just drive the bus.’
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that people of color are significantly more likely to contract and die of COVID-19 than other populations. U.S. African-Americans are 2.6x more likely to become infected, and 2.1x more likely to die than the average. U.S. Latinos are 2.8x more likely to become infected and 1.1x more likely to die.
Eric Tate, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 848, which represents Davis and 290 other drivers, says that Keolis is behaving recklessly and hypocritically. “Keolis won’t even allow anyone to come into their headquarters without a mask but they’re asking bus drivers to pick up belligerent passengers who aren’t cooperating. That’s just wrong and the disregard for workers’ lives, the majority of whom are people of color, is absolutely shocking.”
Los Angeles County mandates the wearing of masks in public and Foothill Transit states clearly on their website that passengers must wear masks.
Keolis’ position – and Foothill’s unwillingness to intervene to enforce their own policies – is surprising as the company has sought publicity for donating masks in communities across America that they serve. Nevertheless, in September, bus drivers employed by Keolis in Reno and Sparks, NV, sued the company for failure to enforce mask mandates on buses and thereby endangering the lives of drivers and other passengers.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, November 12, 2020
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