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The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I) yesterday held a hearing on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on transportation workers.
In his opening statement, T&I Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) noted that few industries have been hit harder by the pandemic than transportation.
"Providing an essential service, transportation workers have continued to show up to work driving buses and trains, caring for passengers on airplanes, moving freight and repairing roads and bridges," DeFazio said.
He lamented that federal agencies, including those in the U.S. Department of Transportation, have "refused to issue mandatory guidance protecting workers and the general public, instead relying on voluntary recommendations that offer little practical guidance other than suggesting that agencies develop rules to keep their employees safe without even collecting best practices from different sectors."
Many transit workers have continued to do their jobs without the necessary personal protective equipment, DeFazio noted.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), the committee's ranking member, said in his opening statement that it's important to understand how the pandemic has affected frontline transportation workers.
"Just like the overall economy, different sectors of the transportation economy have been impacted in different ways by the coronavirus, but many of the essential workers in this sector are still doing their jobs," Graves said, according to a press release summarizing his opening remarks.
"Moving forward to recovery, we must make smart, safe and calculated decisions to get our workforce going and businesses hiring again," Graves added. "This will affect our ability to restart and reconnect supply chains that are key to economic recovery."
Witnesses testifying at the hearing included Tom Shaw, transit operator at the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, who spoke on behalf of the Transportation Workers Union.