This weekend Americans proudly celebrate our independence and ability to self-govern. We must also acknowledge that not every American is able to enjoy our freedoms equally. Our country has come a long way since 1776, but there is clearly much work to be done before everyone in this country truly has the same protections and freedom regardless of how they look, what they believe, or who they love.

We cannot forget that with our freedom comes great responsibility, both collectively and individually. While we have tremendous freedoms, there are limits. For example, we do not have the freedom to hurt innocent people. More specifically, we do not have the right to infect others with a deadly disease. When something as simple as wearing a mask over our mouth and nose and respecting social distancing guidelines becomes a political statement, we are not acting responsibly. We are acting selfishly.

Science shows that if everyone wears masks in public and adheres to social distance guidelines the spread of this disease will be dramatically reduced. It will save lives. Failure to act responsibly, however, has allowed this virus to explode to record numbers in the United States. Though much of the world is containing the COVID virus and is gradually returning to normal, we are the global example of how NOT to handle a pandemic.

The United States still does not have a uniform nationwide response to the COVID crisis, and the world has noticed. The European Union is reopening its borders, but not to Americans because we are not properly defending ourselves against the COVID virus. We are considered a threat, and Europe does not want our failure to spread to their continent. We are also not permitted to travel to Canada, and within our own borders some states require people travelling from other states to quarantine. The lack of an effective pandemic response is hampering the industry’s recovery and will lead directly to the loss of air and rail industry jobs.

The COVID-19 virus has already cost millions of jobs around the country, but if we cannot contain it we will lose countless more. We are all responsible for our own safety and the safety of those we work with.

Never before has how we behave in our personal lives affected our job security so much.
We know how to restart the economy and resurrect the transportation industry. If we choose to ignore science and politicize safe, responsible actions, we are hurting our chances for a quick economic recovery. While we wait for a vaccine, the immediate
response is simple:
  • Wear a mask, or shut down the economy again;
  • Wear a mask, or ground the airlines and suspend rail service;
  • Wear a mask, or keep local businesses closed;
  • Wear a mask, or continue spreading the virus and killing others;

Those who refuse to wear a mask are stating publicly that they do not care if they infect others with a deadly disease. That type of self-serving action undermines the free, responsible society that we celebrate this weekend. That level of selfishness is killing people.

As we commemorate our independence we must always honor the brave women and men in our armed forces who fought, and continue to fight, to keep us safe. Considering all the heroes lives that have been sacrificed over the last 244 years so that we can enjoy our freedom today, it really isn’t too much of a personal sacrifice to wear a piece of cloth on our face when we are out in public for the next few months.
I hope you and your families enjoy your Independence Day celebration, stay safe and, just as important, keep others safe.

In solidarity,

Sito Pantoja

General Vice President IAMAW Transportation Department


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