Graham Kilmer

Transit Union Blasts MCTS Mask Policy

Transit system leadership is wary of trying to enforce a mask requirement for riding buses.

By - May 29th, 2020 05:50 pm
Essential trips only on MCTS buses. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Essential trips only on MCTS buses. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The union representing employees of the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) is challenging the transit system over its mask policy.

Right now, all MCTS employees, as well as all Milwaukee County employees, must wear a face mask when they are coming in contact with the public. MCTS policy states that bus operators must wear them any time they are within six feet of the public. But passengers on MCTS buses are not required to wear a face mask to ride.

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998 wants this to change.

“Bus operators believe bus riders should be forced to wear a mask/face covering as well as the bus drivers,” it said in a Friday afternoon press release.

At a meeting Wednesday of the Milwaukee County Board’s committee on Transportation, Public Works and Transit, MCTS manager director Dan Boehm defended the current mask policy for passengers, saying enforcement of the policy posed too many challenges.

Chiefly, Boehm said transit system officials were concerned about the potential for violence that enforcement poses. He said he doesn’t want to turn on the news and “see transit security officers dragging somebody out the back door of a bus because they weren’t wearing a mask,” as has happened elsewhere in the country during the pandemic.

In its statement, the union noted that the CDC recommends everyone to wear a mask in situations where it is difficult to socially distance. MCTS agrees he said.

Boehm told the committee Wednesday that wearing face coverings was important to reduce the spread of COVID-19. However, he and transit system officials were concerned about access to masks or face coverings, and leery about enforcing such a rule. Mainly because of the fear that enforcing a mask requirement could turn into a point of conflict with the public.

“I think there’s some benefits to requesting, not requiring,” Boehm said. He added that if there is a directive from the county to require face coverings, they will follow the directive.

ATU 998 said in its statement that having a mask requirement for drivers but not for passengers is an unfair labor practice and are prepared to file charges with the National Labor Relations Board.

If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits, all detailed here.

More about the Coronavirus Pandemic

Read more about Coronavirus Pandemic here

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us