Labor unions representing transportation workers formally asked the U.S. Department of Transportation this week to issue an emergency rule ordering passengers to wear masks on planes, buses and trains or be denied a ride.
Larry Willis, the president of the Transportation Trades Department, a coalition of 33 unions, wrote in the petition that the government needed to go beyond issuing guidance and set clear rules for the use of masks to protect workers and passengers from the novel coronavirus.
“This regulation should require that passengers wear masks covering the nose and mouth while on board buses, trains, airplanes, and passenger vessels, as well as in boarding areas and associated facilities including airports and stations,” Willis wrote to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on Monday.
“The regulation should also make clear that a transportation provider has an obligation to refuse to transport any passenger who is unwilling to comply for reasons unrelated to a disability that would prevent them from doing so.”
The Transportation Department has been willing to waive existing safety rules at the request of industry groups to ease the transportation of freight on trucks, trains and airplanes. But Chao has said she doesn’t generally support the idea of writing new rules in response to the pandemic, saying they could prove difficult to undo once the crisis passes.
Nonetheless, Chao has said she supports guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that passengers on public transportation should wear masks, a position her office reiterated Tuesday. The department has also distributed almost 100 million masks to passengers.
Ah yes, you wouldn’t want the scary evil of REGULATIONS get in the way of the far less evil mass death of workers.
The fact that unions even have to lobby for this–and that they will fail to win it–says everything about what a complete disaster this nation’s response to COVID-19 is. It’s a goddamn mask! This is not hard! This is simplest anti-disease measure possible. And yet, here we are.