Teamsters Local 597
Covering the State of Vermont since 1939
  • June 18, 2021
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  • Teamsters Members of Local 597 on the Front Lines During COVID-19 Crisis
    Updated On: Apr 24, 2020
    Teamster Drivers and Dispatchers at GMT in Burlington with the Local 597 Business Agent.

    Teamster Bus Drivers on the Front Lines

    Ever since the beginning of the pandemic, Teamsters Local 597 members who work for city and rural bus companies have been going the extra mile to keep the public safe. Pushing the companies they work for to enact more stringent safety and sanitation protocols as the dangers of the virus emerge. 

    "Every day the Teamster drivers and mechanics that work at the busing companies around the state would come up with another idea to make the buses more sanitized," said Curtis Clough, Local 597 Business Agent. "The drivers would see something on the news, or happening in the community, or come up with a good idea and everyone would start pushing to get the Vermont bus companies to adopt stricter safety protocols. The bus companies, some of whom were initially resistant, have reacted to pressure from the members to really enhance the safety not just for themselves, but for the public at large."

    Some of the drivers, like Valerie Sevene at GMT Stowe, implemented social distancing on their buses long before the company was able to form coherent policies, keeping passengers separated, cleaning seats after every person that sat in them, and roping off seats on the bus were among the kinds of measures drivers took on their own before even recieving company approval. 

    "It has been stressful out here, but for the most part people have been more than willing to comply to the social distancing I put in place by assigning seats," said Valerie Sevene, Driver at GMT in Stowe. "Many people thanked me and told me it was a great idea."

    It is the drivers themselves whom have taken up most of the responsibility at Tri-Valley Transit companies, Stagecoach and ACTR, and remote GMT locations like Stowe, spending time after each shift to disinfect the entire bus. The drivers give the interior a solid dose of bleach and use disinfecting wipes on all the touch surfaces, as well as strictly enforce temporary safety policies that reduce the risk to the public like social distancing, all while continuing to serve the low income communities that rely upon them. 

    At other GMT locations the maintenance employees, even including some mechanics, turn into an team of disinfecters who swarm the buses to make sure they are safe once they have pulled back into the yard at the end of the day, using fogging devices before they go back on road for the day's service. All this is being supplemented by the drivers themselves who frequently disinfect certain areas of the bus each day. 

    The union recently negotiated a $3/hr temporary pay increase for the members at GMT in recognition of the increased risk associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, similar to the bonus being offered to Teamsters at Tri-Valley in all locations. 

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