PITTSBURGH — Port Authority employees are calling off just before the agency’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate goes into effect. Over the weekend and again on Monday, dozens of routes were canceled, including those during the morning and evening rush.
The Port Authority is asking riders to consider another method of transportation, but for some, it’s not that easy.
“I have to go to work,” Nichole Smith tells Channel 11. “You figure I leave the house around 6:30 in the morning, so, if there’s not a bus at that time, what am I supposed to do to get to work?”
The agency says 500 employees aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19 despite a mandate going into effect Tuesday. Employees who do not comply will be held off with pay until disciplinary meetings later in the week.
“I depend on the Port Authority for my transportation,” Trish West says. “We’re going on two years of this now, and I think we all need to step up and take care of each other by having ourselves vaccinated.”
The Port Authority says the courts ruled on their side of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, and workers have until tomorrow to get their first dose, but the union president says they just wanted a seat at the bargaining table.
“Human resources is telling them not to report to work,” ATU Local 85 president Ross Nicotero says. “So, we have people who want to come to work, and they’re being told to go home.”
Without drivers, riders who rely on public transportation are left behind. Some point out that not everyone has another method of transportation.
“The school kids, people that work, people have doctor’s appointments, the elderly, everybody,” Smith adds.
Soaring gas prices are making it even more difficult for those who do have access to a car.
“More people will want to ride Port Authority because gas prices are so high,” Smith says. “They need to come to some agreement on what’s going on so everyone can get to where they’re going.”
The union says they don’t condone a work stoppage, especially since employees worked through the entire pandemic.
The Port Authority says they expect disruptions for the next several weeks.
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