Skip to main content


A transit bus driver is brutally attacked by a passenger. The Local Union demands changes, including decent safety barriers that would keep unauthorized people out of the driver’s workstation. The general manager of the system speaks to the press, saying, “Nothing is more important than the safety of our operators, but we don’t have a lot of assaults at our system. We don’t need barriers on the buses. And we can’t afford them anyway. We will continue to keep this operator in our thoughts and prayers.” 

The bus driver’s physical injuries heal in a few weeks, but her emotional scars have kept her off the job for months.

Sound familiar? This could be any transit system in North America. Thankfully, thanks to new federal regulations spearheaded by the ATU, these situations will hopefully be a thing of the past.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law signed by President Joe Biden in 2021 required major changes in how transit systems deal with safety issues, including operator assaults. In April, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) published regulations to enforce the new rules, which came out of ATU’s Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act. The key provision in the law requires labor-management safety committees at most transit systems, with equal numbers on both sides. These committees are required to approve safety plans which the transit systems need to submit to FTA in order to qualify for federal funds.

The key issue that FTA dealt with in finalizing its regulations was the power of the committee. Not surprisingly, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and its members (our employers) called for the committees to only be advisory in nature. At the end of the day, they said, managers need to have the final say on the safety procedures at the agencies. They also said that managers should be able to break all ties at the committee level.

Our Union fought back hard. Many Locals submitted comments to the FTA saying that giving managers veto power over safety issues would ensure that nothing ever changes. Our International President John Costa took the case directly to President Joe Biden.

The final regulations say that management does not break ties at the committee level, a huge victory for our Union. And, most importantly, the rule says that once a safety committee develops language for risk mitigation plans and passes recommendations forward into final safety plans, transit managers are required to carry out such language.

What does this mean for our members? Now, instead of begging general managers for safety barriers and being denied time after time, our Union will have the power to get language into safety plans requiring that quality barriers (or other options) become a reality. Managers will no longer be able to say no. This will hopefully soon result in safer working conditions for our members. No more spitting in our faces. No more hot coffee thrown at us through flimsy shields. No more stabbings or black eyes. No more being pulled out of the driver seat while buses are still moving. Just a safe shift so that you can return home safely to your family.

It’s a massive power shift brought to you by the most pro-union President in U.S. History, something to think about as we approach the fall elections in the U.S.