For the first time, a newly-agreed upon contract between CT Transit management and the union representing hundreds of local bus drivers includes specific language dealing with the lack of accessible restrooms on the drivers' routes. It's an issue that NBC Connecticut Investigates has been following for more than a year.
"We have a victory," said Veronica Chavers, who has been a CT Transit bus operator for 27 years. "We did it," she said.
Chavers is also president and business agent of the Amalgamated Transit Union (Local 443) in Stamford, one of the local union groups that has worked to address the restroom issue over the last several months. "I'm so proud of that," Chavers said. "I'm glad that the company saw what we meant, because we meant business."
Longtime CT Transit operator Mike Wendus was the first driver to speak out publicly. Wendus told NBC Connecticut Investigates in June 2018 about the embarrassing “accident” he had while behind the wheel.
"Mother nature came calling and rather quickly," Wendus recounted.
Some drivers had even resorted to wearing adult diapers on the job, the union said.
"You're just humiliated and embarrassed and it never should have come to this," said Wendus.
More drivers went public and even organized rallies which lead to the formation of “bathroom committees” in the Hartford, New Haven and Stamford regions. The committees were established to help identify safe, clean and accessible restrooms - often in businesses or in public buildings.
The new contract was ratified on Sunday June 9, according to union officials.
A copy of the contract provided to NBC Connecticut shows that CT Transit management would agree “to identify and ensure that there are safe, clean, accessible on all routes.” If a restroom does not exist, management would agree to make efforts to purchase, install and maintain “a secure, portable restroom.”
Any restroom-related incidents including drivers soiling themselves, restroom access denials, or any unsatisfactory conditions of bathrooms shall be documented, according to the copy of the contract provided to NBC Connecticut.
The new contract will remain in effect for the next three years, according to union officials.
“CT Transit is pleased to have worked collaboratively with the union on a new contract that addresses the concerns of our staff along with the needs of our customers," said Cole Pouliot, CT Transit general manager. CT Transit, which also operates under the name H.N.S. Management Company, Inc., is overseen by the Connecticut Department of Transportation.
"We look forward to continuing to provide the highest level of service and support to our customers in the future," said Pouliot.