This story has been updated with responses from the VTA.
One of the four unions that represents Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority employees has posted a statement complaining that some transit workers are being unfairly pushed to return to VTA offices.
“We are demanding that managers continue to keep as many employees as possible working from home,” said a letter published on the website of the Service Employees International Union 521, directed at the VTA.
"VTA employees have been under an enormous amount of pressure and unanticipated challenges since the beginning of the COVID pandemic," the VTA said in an email response to San Jose Inside. "Add to that environment a hard-hitting cyber-attack only to be followed by the horrendous tragedy at our Guadalupe Light Rail Yard that will influence everything we do moving forward."
"The allegations brought forward in the recent petition presented to the VTA Board of Directors is being independently and thoroughly investigated by a third party," said VTA spokesperson Stacey Handler Ross.
VTA light-rail service continues to be suspended, as the mass transit agency is still reeling from the murders of nine VTA employees May 26 by a co-worker who shot and killed himself.
TA offices have officially been open for employees to return to work since July 6. Handler Ross said, "many employees are back to work at the River Oaks headquarters since the County Health Department lifted the Stay at Home order earlier this summer."
She said VTA employees have been working from home for the past year and a half because of the pandemic and the subsequent Stay at Home order from the Public Health Department, "and had nothing to do with the event of May 26."
"VTA employees who have been home since that event are Guadalupe Division employees who were given administrative leave after the shooting," she said in an email. "They are currently being brought back to work in phases."
At a VTA board meeting last week, SEIU 521 also presented VTA with a petition from information technology workers complaining about poor treatment from transit management since the mass shooting.
The SEIU statement cited these “ongoing issues” affecting VTA workers that are unresolved:
- “County orders recommending that staff work from home have not been changed. Why has VTA management's position changed? What is the business reason that supersedes the county health orders to continue keeping VTA employees working from home?
- “Managers are making arbitrary decisions about bringing staff back to the office without discussing it with our union and its union members who need to re-arrange care for their children.
- “What has prompted VTA to increase the number of days working in the office, arbitrarily? Our VTA employees were fully working from home for months and bringing them back to the office will not only demoralize us during these times but will affect our productivity as well.
- “As people are being brought back, this is suddenly creating issues amongst employees and supervisors. We believe it is most effective to continue with the work-from-home plan in place for most VTA employees.
- “Staff may start becoming very comfortable around each other at work. This can start the spread of the COVID-19 virus when/if staff stops paying attention, such as wearing masks and social distancing.
- “The use of the common areas is increased once you have everyone back to work. This will definitely increase the possibility of the spread of the COVID-19 virus at the office.
- “Schools have not re-opened and kids are distance-learning from home. Many parents have been able to continue working from home and be there physically for their kids. And some parents have been able to rotate with a spouse or partner the days they are working from home so that someone is always home helping the children learn.”