Since March 2020, 110 members of Transport Workers Union Local 100 have died of COVID-19. This past Thursday, union members, family, and friends remembered the deceased with a memorial mural unveiling at the union’s headquarters on Montague Street.
“I remember when I first got a call that one of our workers had died,” said TWU secretary treasurer Earl Phillips. “There were tears streaming down my face. It was the first time I had ever cried on the job.”
During the ceremony, union members read the names of their fallen coworkers. They also spoke of the sacrifices made by New York City’s transit workers, who continued to report to their jobs at the height of the pandemic.
“When the city was divided into essential and nonessential workers, we told those who can stay home and remotely do their jobs, yet we asked others to continue going to work,” Adams said. “We can’t bring them back, but we can dedicate a permanent memorial to acknowledge their existence.”
Attorney General Letitia Adams struck a spiritual chord with her remarks.
“When you hear the roaring of the train, you’re thinking of your loved ones,” she said. “When you see that bus coming down your block, you’re thinking of your loved ones. When you see the men and women of the TWU in their uniforms, you are thinking of your loved ones.”
James also spoke about the recent heroics of transit workers during Hurricane Ida.
“When people were drowning, when the water was coming up, it was the buses that said come on in,” she said. “Let’s also not forget about the three TWU workers who died cleaning up after 9/11, and those who died later from 9/11-related illnesses. They are all heroes, and we should never forget the sacrifice that this union has made.”
The memorial, painted by Brooklyn-based artist Taha Clayton, depicts transit workers standing hand in hand.
“It was important for me to represent the family and unity within Local 100,” Clayton said. “I truly realized how vital their sacrifice and dedication was in order for the people of New York and the city in itself to keep moving, figuratively and literally.”