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Transit Operator Assaults: A National Epidemic

Check out TWU's coverage of our nationwide campaign to end transit assaults on page 7 of the Fall 2014 TWU Express


The Scope of the Problem

Line-of-duty attacks on transit workers occur with alarming frequency across public transit systems. For decades, our locals have worked independently to combat the assault epidemic. The Transit, Universities, Utilities and Services Division built on these efforts to roll out a coordinated campaign across the country.
"For many transit workers in America, going to work every day means putting themselves in harm's way," said Transit Division Director Jerome Lafragola. "Transit workers who deal regularly with the public often have no guarantee of their physical safety on the job.
"They are the face of the system. If riders are frustrated because their bus is late, they take it out on the driver. When transit service is cut and riders experience delays, operator assault rates spike. And our members are not the only victims—these attacks cause alarm among the riding public and put a strain on the entire system.”

How TWU Is Taking Action to #EndTransitAssaults

In 2014, TWU International Executive Vice President and Local 100 President John Samuelsen spoke as part of a panel of experts at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s assault prevention summit at DOT headquarters in Washington, D.C. Addressing fellow leaders in organized labor, transit agency management representatives, law enforcement, bus manufacturers and citizens’ groups, he stressed the need for urgent collective action to protect our drivers.
“TWU has made a commitment to do everything we can to ensure that our operators go to work safely and come home the same way,” said Samuelsen. “We are working on every level—from community organizing to local and national political action—to increase awareness and pass meaningful legislation.
“Deterrents are one avenue. That means cameras, partitions, stickers, initiatives like the Transit Watch program in NYC, panic buttons, felony penalties carrying prison time—no possible means of prevention can be ignored.”
In Ohio, Local 208 President Ron Dreyfus and member Ludie Hatten, a bus operator for the Central Ohio Transit Authority and victim of assault, testified before the House of Representatives in support of HB 355, which would dramatically increase assault penalties.
In Nebraska, Local 223 held a “Ban and Bar” meeting in summer 2014 to make headway on introducing similar statewide legislation. Local President Joe Boncordo and Vice President Steve Foster called the meeting, which was attended by Metro Transit General Manager/CEO Curt Simon and State AFL- CIO President/Secretary Treasurer Rod Vlcek. State Senator Steve Lathrop, also in attendance, expressed interest in sponsoring the legislation, after successfully working to pass a recent law that upped penalties for attacks on firefighters and police.
In New York, Local 100 secured—as part of its contract with MTA/New York City Transit—the installation of Plexiglas barriers throughout the system’s entire bus fleet as well as DNA kits, which help to identify criminals for prosecution. Right now, the local’s focus is on working with management to dramatically increase police presence throughout the system.

How You Can Get Involved

To get active in combating transit assaults, contact your TWU local president, your local's Transit, Universities, Utilities and Services Division International Representative, or reach out directly to Divsion Director Jerome Lafragola.