General chairperson quits NJT coronavirus task force, says carrier wasn’t doing enough to protect workers, public
In protest of what he said was gross misrepresentation by New Jersey Transit (NJT) of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, SMART Transportation Division General Chairperson Jerome Johnson has resigned from NJT’s coronavirus safety task force.
Johnson, also president of Local 60 (Newark, N.J.), sent a letter April 6 to the carrier, saying that NJT had been unresponsive to concerns about the cleanliness of trains and that they were not being cleaned as frequently as NJT stated they would.
“I provided NJ Transit with pictures and train numbers, especially on weekends, train cleanings are just not being done properly,” Johnson told NJ.com reporter Larry Higgs. “Protocols are not being followed. Equipment being clean every 24 hour is false. I have pictures, videos and complaints.”
Johnson also said that the carrier did not provide personal protective equipment (PPE) in a timely manner and that the carrier’s coronavirus safety task force did not convene for a two-week period with labor representatives present.
The first active SMART-TD member reported to have died from the coronavirus was Brother Joseph Hansen, a member of Johnson’s local who was an NJT conductor.
“I’m not a union official who doesn’t want NJ Transit to succeed. When they succeed, we succeed,” Johnson told Higgs. “The protocols in place aren’t being followed. My resignation should speak volumes.”
Since late March, SMART-TD continues to field hundreds of reports from the labor workforce in all sectors it represents of carriers not following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.
Members are encouraged to continue to report these conditions, which place workers, their families and public alike all at risk, especially as federal agencies have issued safety advisories rather than enforceable regulations during the pandemic.