WATERTOWN (CBS) — Hundreds of drivers who provide service for the MBTA’s The Ride program voted unanimously to go on strike Sunday. The Veterans Transportation workers will be on the picket-line 24/7 in Watertown and Everett.
The Ride provides needed transportation for the elderly and disabled but the workers said they had to strike after talks stalled. They made the decision because they are getting hammered by health insurance costs.
“The company is trying to cut back on health insurance in the worst possible time, and it’s just unacceptable. We’ve finally reached the end, it was just like hamsters on a merry go round. No progress and we kept talking and talking and trying different scenarios to come up with a solution to the situation and this is where we wind up,” said union shop steward Ray Domkowski.
Approximately 350 drivers are with Teamsters Local 25. They said they have been providing crucial services during the pandemic.
“With everything going on, they want to cut health insurance? When you need it the most? If we get sick with this from out here working? And we’re essential workers, we’re taking the elderly, and disabled to where they need to go,” said another worker.
WBZ-TV reached out to Veterans Transportation on Sunday night but got an answering machine. The message warned customers of possible delays and encouraged them to take only essential trips.
An MBTA spokesman said it urges Teamsters Local 25 and Veterans Transportation to reach an agreement soon.
“The MBTA’s main priority is to provide transportation services for the T’s most at-risk, vulnerable customers, and has developed a plan for RIDE service in the immediate time period,” the spokesman said. “The MBTA will continue to provide transportation services as best it is able and asks riders to postpone non-essential trips this week if possible to ensure service is available for riders with urgent needs.”