Over the past several days, police have responded to protesters with violence across the United States as people rise up to demand justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and other Black people killed by police. But as cops attempt to arrest large numbers of demonstrators, they have run into an obstacle – the transit workers they had asked to transport people to jail are instead standing in solidarity with the protesters.
Veteran labor reporter Mike Elk spoke with Adam Burch, a Minneapolis bus driver who refused to transport protesters, for Payday Report. “As a transit worker and union member, I refuse to transport my class and radical youth,” Burch told Payday. “An injury to one is an injury to all. The police murdered George Floyd and the protest against is completely justified and should continue until their demands are met.”
Burch followed up his refusal with a petition passed amongst his colleagues, the New York Daily News reports, while a statement from his Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 expressed horror at the police killing of George Floyd.
“ATU members face racism daily. Our members live in and work in the neighborhoods where actions like this happen, and where this took place, now watched in horror across the globe.”
ATU’s national also responded, echoing the outrage and backing drivers who refused to cart protesters off to prison:
“Furthermore, as our members – bus drivers – have the right to refuse work they consider dangerous or unsafe during the pandemic, so too Minneapolis bus drivers – our members – have the right to refuse the dangerous duty of transporting police to protests and arrested demonstrators away from these communities where many of these drivers live. This is a misuse of public transit.”
As protests spread across the country, so too did the number of transit workers refusing to cooperate with police. The Transport Workers Union, which represents workers in cities with protests, including New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco, also told workers that cops couldn’t require them to serve as jail transport.
Transit workers are already at high risk thanks to coronavirus, and while police arrive at protests with any variety of tactical gear, they’ve been slow to provide crucial protections like masks to drivers, The Guardian reports.
This latest action can be seen as a continuation of their demands for a just and equitable transit system, one that protects workers as well as its users, rather than obeys the whims of police during a brutal crackdown on demonstrators.
Transit justice groups, like members of the coalition behind Transit Equity Day, echoed that call.
“The outrage at a white supremacist system that is fueling protests across the country must be kept at the forefront of our work for transit equity,” Pittsburghers for Public Transit signed on with their support. “We are in the same fight: for a world where all people have the freedom to move, to be in public space without fear or threat.”