MTA To Pay Death Benefits For COVID-19 Transit Victims

By Lauren Berg
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Law360 (April 14, 2020, 11:16 PM EDT) -- New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority has reached an agreement with the Transport Workers Union of America and Transport Workers Union Local 100 to pay $500,000 to the families of union workers who died after becoming infected by the novel coronavirus, the union said Tuesday.

Under the agreement, the MTA will pay a $500,000 lump sum to the spouse, beneficiary or estate of each deceased union member who worked on or after Feb. 1, 2020. The agreement extends the COVID-19 death benefit to members of TWU Locals 100, 106, 2001 and 2055, which are all in the tri-state area.

"We can't bring back our heroic co-workers but we can make sure their families are taken care of," Local 100 President Tony Utano said in a statement Tuesday. "We will continue to fight in Albany for additional benefits to help the families left behind and to further honor our lost heroes' great sacrifice to this city and state."

TWU first called for the $500,000 benefit — instead of the $50,000 "active duty" benefit — on March 26 after transit conductor Peter Petrassi died as a result of the virus.

Following Petrassi's death, the MTA called for the federal government to provide funding for transit workers, which the union called a "cold and callous" response.

Since then, at least three other transit workers have died as a result of the virus, according to the Local 100 website, including 60-year-old East New York bus operator Emmanuel Jacob, 58-year-old East New York subway tower operator Darryl K. Sweeney, and Foster Moore, who worked at the Cortlandt Street subway station.

"New York wouldn't have a fighting chance against this virus if transit workers weren't getting the blue collar heroes of this pandemic — nurses, paramedics, food service workers — to the front lines of the battle all across the metropolitan region," TWU International President John Samuelsen said in a statement Tuesday. "This COVID-19 death benefit is a recognition of the incredible contributions and sacrifices our workforce has made."

As of Tuesday, there have been 579,005 cases of COVID-19 and 22,252 deaths from the virus in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most states have issued some kind of state-at-home order for residents and have closed schools and nonessential businesses.

--Editing by Breda Lund.

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