September 30, 2021
VTA has a significant number of unvaccinated employees, but the South Bay transport agency is taking no action to demand a COVID-19 vaccine.
As of Tuesday, 1,258 workers are fully vaccinated, while 1,470 are at least partially, or 69.37% of the VTA workforce. The agency has approximately 2,100 employees. Since the transit agency is an independent special district — its workers are not employed by either the city or the county — the workers are not subject to the county mandate. It is conceivable that 30% of the workforce could remain unvaccinated.
Santa Clara County requires workers in all departments to get vaccinated by the end of the month or be approved for a medical or religious exemption, as does the city of San Jose.
“Currently, VTA does not have a vaccination mandate in effect for its employees, although we regularly make efforts to encourage employees to be vaccinated, by periodically making vaccination clinics and testing sites available on the premises. work sites, ”said a spokesperson for VTA in the San José Spotlight.
From December 2020 to the end of June, VTA recorded 113 positive COVID-19 infections among workers who filed workers’ compensation claims.
VTA employees were among the first frontline workers to qualify for vaccinations earlier this year. In March, the agency announced it would work with the county to implement vaccines. Like other local agencies, VTA received complaints when it asked workers to return to the office. About 300 workers teleworked during the pandemic, but the agency previously said 75% of its workforce could not do their work from home.
Monica Mallon, local transportation advocate and founder of Turnout4Transit, said it was likely difficult for VTA to enforce a warrant because the service could potentially be affected if enough workers refuse a COVID vaccine. She is not aware of other transit agencies in the Bay Area with mandates.
“VTA has probably done the most in terms of encouraging vaccination and incentive testing,” she told the San José Spotlight.
VTA follows a mask mandate for employees who work on buses, trains or in its facilities. A VTA employee told the San José Spotlight that the transit agency offers N95 masks to employees who are not vaccinated.
The worker, who requested anonymity to avoid retaliation, said the VTA released a memo in the spring that it wanted workers to be vaccinated and unvaccinated workers tested regularly. But the mass shooting in May that killed nine employees derailed those plans, the worker said.
“I think they’ve taken a more wait-and-see approach to see what other transit agencies are doing in the Bay Area before they make a final directive,” the worker said.
Some employees are adamant about not getting the vaccine, the worker added, also saying there is talk of tampering with vaccination cards if a warrant is issued.
“This concerns me, as it would kind of present a false sense of security for everyone,” the worker said.
John Courtney, president of ATU Local 265, which represents the majority of VTA workers, told the San José Spotlight that if VTA imposed a vaccination mandate, the union would have the opportunity to negotiate the benefits it had obtained earlier this year. San Jose Fire and Police Unions are fighting a plan to make COVID vaccination mandatory for city employees.
“The union did on-site testing on the property and VTA cooperated and compensated us for the time we spent being tested,” he said.
Courtney said he was vaccinated and estimates that around two-thirds of his local members have received the vaccine. But he’s concerned VTA isn’t spending enough time tackling other health and safety risks affecting the workforce.
“When there is something that could harm you in your garden, you worry about protecting employees and people,” he said. “But when our people are assaulted and yelled at, it’s not a priority.”
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