Attack on HART bus driver highlights disturbing increase in transit worker assaults nationwide
Tampa, FL – Improved security on Tampa buses for the safety of drivers, passengers and the public must be a top priority for HART says the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU). ATU Local 1593 is demanding an independent investigation into the safety policies and procedures implemented during a recent assault on a HART driver.
The union’s concern was heightened by the transit agency’s failure to respond when the driver repeatedly called for help in the way he had been trained. The driver had to use his cell phone to reach the agency’s dispatch center. After significant delays, Dispatch finally sent emergency responders who took the operator to the hospital where he was treated for a concussion and other injuries. Adding insult to those injuries, HART failed to notify driver’s wife about the incident, but did call the following day threatening discipline if he failed to report or call-in prior to his next shift.
Attacks on transit workers have increased across North America. A bus driver gets assaulted every three days in the U.S. In Canada, 40 percent of bus operators are assaulted on duty during the course of their careers. New York has seen a 30 percent increase this year while attacks on Philadelphia transit workers doubled from 2010 to 2011.
“Unfortunately, assaults like this have become far more frequent since the beginning of the recession,” comments ATU International President Larry Hanley. “People stuck in poverty will take out their frustrations on the bus driver who is seen as a rolling representative of the government, demanding increasing taxes in the form of fares for a ride.”
The ATU and Transport Workers Union have formed a committee that has been working to deal with the longstanding issue of assaults on drivers. This past spring the committee held the first-ever national conference on operator assaults in Brooklyn, NY.
“Last month a Los Angeles bus driver was shot to death while on duty. A New Jersey bus operator was stabbed seven times. Lower profile offenses such as spitting and verbal abuse are becoming part of the job,” Hanley continued. “The public is also at-risk. Transit agencies must put the safety and security of their operators and passengers first.”
In reaction to the attack, Local 1593 wrote to HART saying that they are “deeply concerned for the safety of our drivers, maintenance personnel and our patrons who rely on our service, and are demanding that the HART board immediately intervene and restore our confidence in being able to perform our duties in a safe work environment.
“With the Republican National Convention coming to Tampa in August, and thousands of visitors expected to utilize our transit system, we want to be assured that that our safety, as well as that of our patrons will not be in jeopardy,” they concluded.
About the ATU
The Amalgamated Transit Union is the largest labor organization representing transit workers in the United States and Canada. Founded in 1892, the ATU today is comprised of over 190,000 members in 264 local unions spread across 44 states and nine provinces, including 3,000 workers at Greyhound Lines, Inc. Composed of bus drivers, light rail operators, maintenance and clerical personnel and other transit and municipal employees, the ATU works to promote transit issues and fights for the interests of its hard-working members.