A total of 350 essential workers, who have been providing paratransit for veterans throughout the coronavirus pandemic, are on strike amid contract negotiations.
Members of Teamsters Local 25 who work in Veterans Transportation for the MBTA "The Ride," program voted unanimously Sunday to reject the company’s final contract offer and go on strike over health insurance increases.
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Many of New England’s largest Teamsters union, with more than 12,000 members, have been walking the picket lines 24 hours, 7 days a week at Veterans Transportation locations including Airforce Road in Everett and on Pleasant Street in Watertown.
“We’ve had seven weeks of negotiations and there’s been absolutely no progress," shop steward Ray Domokowski said. "We’re just getting hammered on our medical insurance in and given the state of the pandemic nowadays and the company wants us to pay more for less."
They have been on the job during the pandemic providing door-to-door transportation for people who cannot use public transit because of physical, cognitive or mental disabilities.
“Veterans Transportation is a highly profitable company denying its own workers affordable health insurance during a global pandemic,” Teamsters Local 25 President Sean O’Brien said. “These men and women are essential workers who have put themselves and their families at risk providing essential services during this time. Our members at Veterans Transportation can be assured we will fight for them and will not rest until they receive a fair contract.”
The MBTA released a statement Monday urging its customers to only "schedule essential trips" due to the limitation of drivers while also considering alternative transportation options like taxis, Ubers and Lyfts.
"The MBTA strongly urges Teamsters Local 25 and Veterans Transportation to continue negotiating. It is the MBTA’s hope that this situation resolves soon. The MBTA is committed to providing this essential service to our most at-risk, vulnerable customers," read a statement from the MBTA.