Yolanda Woodberry, a bus driver at the Frankfort Depot who has been working for SEPTA for 17 years died after testing positive for COVID-19. Her death was confirmed by the Transportation Workers Union Local 234.
Woodberry is the 5th employee for the transit agency to die from the novel coronavirus. The four other employees include three maintenance workers and a Regional Rail conductor.
The Transportation Workers Union (TWU), which represents hundreds of agency employees who have been working on buses, trolleys and trains during the coronavirus pandemic, has publicly denounced unsafe conditions of these workers.
Woodberry’s death comes less than a week after TWU threatened to take “job action,” saying SEPTA was not doing enough to protect workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Ultimately, the union agreed not to call for a work stoppage after Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney intervened. Kenney called union president Willie Brown to ask the union not to call for a work stoppage because a potential stoppage would have jeopardized lives as health care workers and essential employees rely on SEPTA to get to work.
“SEPTA’s top priority remains the health and safety of our customers and employees. We will continue working closely with our workforce and union leaders to provide the safest possible environment for essential travel during the COVID-19 crisis,” SEPTA said in a statement.
Among a set of demands listed on the union’s website, members want SEPTA to take employees’ temperatures, test air quality on vehicles and limit the number of riders to 15 onboard SEPTA vehicles.
SEPTA changed its boarding policy for buses, requiring passengers board through rear doors and suspended on-board payments amid the pandemic.