When it comes to dealing with vaccine mandates, both unionized staff and management at the TTC have to find a better way.
If anything, what happened Monday night at the Main Street subway station provided proof the status quo is not working.
Screaming, swearing, rude sexual comments, veiled physical threats, and intimidation was on full display during the supper hour as some protesters took over the foyer near the bus platforms and shouted down TTC CEO Rick Leary and Councillor Brad Bradford.
“Unfortunately, the conversations we intended to have with our customers were hijacked by an anti-vaccine mandate protest,” said Bradford, who added unruly demonstrators were “intimidating staff and customers, yelling profanity, shutting down bus service, and making it impossible to connect with anyone.”
Billed a Talking Transit Meet and Greet, it ended up being crashed by an angry mob of dozens of protesters who carried signs, proclaiming “No vaccine mandates,” or “We are OK to ride the TTC but not OK 2 drive for the TTC.”
About 1,100 TTC staff are on unpaid leave after contravening the TTC’s vaccine mandate. The transit agency is encouraging them to get their shots or face termination.
On hand in “solidarity” was Carlos Santos, the president of Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 113, which represents around 12,000 TTC workers.
“Given his leadership position, I was disappointed he didn’t call out some of the vulgarity, and confrontational behaviour being practised by some of the protestors — especially given how many TTC customers, families and children were in the station,” said Bradford. “If you’re not going to call it out, are you condoning it?”
Santos, in a statement, said “Toronto’s public transit workers are angry and have had enough of TTC CEO Rick Leary’s mismanagement.”
He added Leary “has failed his workers throughout the pandemic by moving slowly on allowing workers to wear face masks and PPE on the job, denying common sense changes on TTC vehicles to protect workers’ health and now implementing a punitive policy, without any compromise, which could send more than 1,000 hardworking employees to the unemployment line.”
He contended transit workers “have lost confidence in Rick Leary’s leadership. He must resign.”
But how they acted was unacceptable. One troubling video showed people following and vulgarly heckling Leary to a parked car. It looked like he was being chased out of the subway station.
What happened there was wrong. But it is also wrong to fire people in a free country for not deciding to take a vaccine when testing for COVID-19 is available.
While the majority in power have the hammer, it does not mean they need to use it. It would be unprecedented to introduce a vaccine in the early part of a year and terminate people later in the year for not taking it.
My suggestion to Bradford, Leary, and Mayor John Tory is to delay such extreme action until next spring to see what new treatments are available.
With Santos, they should sit down and explore reasonable alternatives.
Keeping cool and looking for solutions is The Better Way.