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Demonstrators Protest Port Authority's Vaccine Mandate In Downtown Pittsburgh

By: KDKA-TV's Erika Stanish

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Protesters gathered outside the Allegheny County Courthouse on Tuesday morning, speaking out against the Port Authority's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Employees could be heard chanting, "Our bodies, our choice!" and "Stop the mandate."

Hundreds of workers remain off the job for failing to meet the authority's requirements.

As a result, bus routes have been cancelled daily due to a driver shortage.

"The worst was the other night when it was raining," bus rider Natashia Sorokin said. "I waited an hour to a bus. I was just waiting and waiting and waiting."

Sorokin said wait times have gotten longer since the mandate went into place.

Employees who are protesting against the vaccine said they have been following COVID protocols for two years -- wearing masks, hand sanitizing and cleaning the insides of the buses -- and  are left question why not now if it worked then?

"None of us are unwilling to continue to do those things in order to keep our ridership and keep our coworkers safe," Port Authority worker Jeffrey Good said. "We're all willing to still do that. But they're saying it's now not good enough."

Good said he's worked with the Port Authority for 10 years in the maintenance department.

He said the mandate also is affecting his department, saying without someone to maintain the buses, more routes could cancel.

"I don't believe in being anti-vaccine," Good said. "I believe in pro-choice. I think it should be everybody's choice whether or not they decide they want to put something into their bodies."

The Port Authority said Sunday that 90 percent of employees are either fully or partially vaccinated.

"As many of us have experienced over the last week, service reliability remains an ongoing issue," Port Authority CEO Katharine Kelleman said. "Fortunately, it has already begun to improve as more and more employees get vaccinated and become eligible to return to work."

Employees told KDKA they plan to protest again Friday when the union is expected to meet with the Port Authority board.

They said the protest will begin in front of the Heinz building at 9 a.m.

"I think they need to sit down, both sides, and iron this out because the public is losing this," bus rider Al McGhee said.

The Port Authority is offering free fares for riders until Sunday.

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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