Demetrios Vatistas, secretary and treasurer for SMART Transportation Division Local 281 (Milwaukee, Wis.), discussed working as a Metra conductor during the coronavirus pandemic with a Chicago-area newspaper.
Vatistas has been S&T for his local since February 2019 and a TD member since 1997.
“I’ve been doing this for 24 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Vatistas told Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill., reporter Marni Pyke. “It is extremely weird. We’re so used to working hand-in-hand, side-by-side. This is our family away from home.”
But there is a sense of anxiety when reporting for and performing service these days, especially when boarding what can only be described as ghost trains, Vatistas said.
Metra ridership has fallen a staggering 97% since a stay-at-home order was enacted by Illinois’ governor in March, but Vatistas said that new bonds are being formed, albeit at a safe social distance.
“I see concern, but I also see compassion,” Vatistas told Pyke.