Drivers for MBTA’s ‘The RIDE’ on strike over healthcare benefits amid COVID-19 pandemic

WATERTOWN, MASS. (WHDH) - Drivers for Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s ‘The RIDE’ program have gone on strike over health insurance.

Roughly 350 members of Teamsters Local 25 employed at Veterans Transportation providing paratransit for ‘The RIDE’ decided to go on strike after unanimously voting to reject the company’s final contract offer in which the company reportedly demanded significant health insurance increases.

“Major speaking point is our healthcare benefits,” Union Shop Steward Raymond Domkowski said. “These guys have been out here morning, noon, and night during the pandemic, really supporting the residents of Boston and in negotiations, the company wants to take away some of our benefits and make us pay more for it.”

‘The RIDE’ is designed to help the elderly and passengers with special needs.

“Their mobility is limited but disability goes beyond just the mere wheelchair, so they are dependent upon us to take them from point to point,” Domkowski said, “and they need to lead a normal life and we’re here to help as best we can.”

The MBTA says they hope 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 company said in a statement. “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.”

Domkowski added that he hopes the MBTA realizes this isn’t the time for healthcare cuts.

“I think we’ve had a good working relationship with the company but for whatever reason, we’re at this assembly,” he said. “I hope, I pray that it will be resolved soon and I’m sure our passengers, our customers will be looking forward to it.”

The drivers say they plan on striking 24/7 until they can find a solution.

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