MTA bus grads

WON'T CHANGE WITHOUT PRESSURE?: While these recent Bus Operator hires were among the last of the new hires by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority who were not required to be vaccinated as a condition of employment, the agency's vaccine-or-be-tested protocol doesn't appear to be having much impact on more-senior employees who have resisted inoculation, and the agency reportedly hasn't done much to enforce it since it took effect Oct. 4.

Almost two weeks after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Oct. 4 mandate requiring that all of its 66,000 employees submit proof of being vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to weekly testing, the agency is not yet enforcing it, according to the Daily News and Gothamist.

To date, 173 MTA employees have died from COVID, including more than 100 members Transport Workers Union Local 100 and 13 from the Subway/Surface Supervisors Association.

'Roll-Out Will Pick Up'

“The rollout seems to be slow, but it is going to pick up,” said TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano. “We are advocating that people get tested for their health, the health of their co-workers and families as well as the broader community. The more people tested the better.”

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The News reported that the MTA policy, issued two months ago, was a toothless mandate. Talk of a state mandate this summer helped the agency’s vaccination compliance rate jump by close to 20 points, from under 50 percent as of July 31.

“But instead of verifying so many tests per week, MTA officials are instead collecting ‘statistically significant samples’ of workers’ test results, said a source with knowledge of the program,” according to the article. “Thousands of unvaccinated workers are able to skate by without showing proof of a weekly negative test.”

“All MTA employees are required to either be fully vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID testing as of October 4, and compliance is subject to audit,” the MTA said in a statement. “Employees found to be out of compliance as part of the audit will be subject to appropriate follow-up from their supervisors.”

Worker: Not Really Enforced 

By press-time, the agency had not responded to follow-up questions about penalties or if any employees had been cited up for non-compliance.

“They haven’t really enforced it,” Sarah Cadet, an MTA Property Protection Agent, told Gothamist.

“Cadet said she’s not vaccinated but does get tested on her own every Sunday at an urgent-care clinic,” the news outlet reported. “Still, she said no one at the MTA has ever asked for proof of a negative result."

The MTA confirmed that 68.3 percent of its tens of thousands of employees have been vaccinated. The level of compliance varies greatly in units of the authority, with Construction and Development topping the list with 91.6 percent of its staff inoculated.

MTA’s Headquarters workforce is at 79.1 percent followed by Metro-North at 71.2 percent, and NYC Transit and Bridges & Tunnels both at 64.7 percent. The LIRR has 64 percent of its employees vaccinated.

Lags Behind Public Here

The overall number lags behind the 84 percent of the city's adult population which had received at least one shot as of Oct. 13, according to city health officials.

The MTA results compare even less favorably to those reported by the city Department of Education and NYC Health + Hospitals, which imposed stricter vaccine mandates that have survived repeated court challenges. Both those agencies also negotiated with their unions procedures for applying for religious and medical exemptions. 

As of Oct. 4, “all employees” in the city's public schools were vaccinated, according to Mayor de Blasio. Three days earlier, he told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer that 92 percent of the employees in the city’s hospital network and 70 clinics were vaccinated, a number that is now 94 percent.

Like the MTA, the Fire and Police departments lag considerably behind the vaccination rate for the general adult population as well as DOE and NYC H+Hamong the workforces at the city’s public education and municipal hospital systems.

While both Police Commissioner Dermot Shea and Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro have endorsed a vaccine mandate, Mayor de Blasio has repeatedly said the issue is under review. 


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