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NOT ONE MORE! ATU Intensifies Our Demands to Protect Our Members From Increasing Violence and Attacks


Change does not come easy for everyone. Just ask your boss.

As a result of the new bipartisan infrastructure bill signed by U.S. President Joe Biden, transit general managers now have to get the Union’s approval before submitting safety plans to the federal government. And they are not happy about it at all.

Dozens and dozens of transit systems failed to form labor-management safety committees by the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) July deadline last year, and even more didn’t turn in an updated safety plan.

Why are the bosses pushing back on the new law? Because they don’t want to share power with us. They liked the old system where they controlled everything. 

Our Union called for these labor-management safety committees (made up of equal numbers on both sides) so that we can finally make progress on the key hazards facing transit workers today, like brutal assaults. Everyone deserves the right to a safe workplace, and for bus drivers, that starts with redesigning the operator workstation to provide protection.

In late January, ATU International President John Costa wrote to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, urging the DOT to respond immediately to the nationwide transit worker assault crisis by directing the FTA to issue a nationwide “Special Directive” requiring all grantees to begin immediately the process of installing quality barriers on all revenue vehicles to protect transit bus operators from continual vicious attacks. In addition, the ATU called on the FTA to issue separate Special Directives to each transit system that has failed to comply with the requirement to form a labor-management safety committee and update its Public Transportation Agency Safety Plan in accordance with the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Just a few days later, tragedy struck again, as Robert Cunningham, a 64-year old member of Local 689-Washington, D.C., getting ready to retire, was shot and killed by a crazed gunman while trying to save lives on a Metro platform. Buttigieg was now ready to meet.

Costa urged the Secretary to act immediately to save lives. He shared the story of attending the funeral of Thomas Dunn of Local 1593-Tampa, FL, who died in 2019 when a passenger slit his throat. Dunn pulled his bus over safely, saving the lives of his passengers as he bled out in his seat. Costa also talked about the daily abuse that ATU members take every day, like getting spit upon, and being struck with canes, hammers, and fire extinguishers. “Enough is enough,” he said.

Costa urged the DOT to clamp down on agencies that refuse to form labor-management safety committees. The workers need a voice, he said.

Buttigieg was visibly moved by the stories he heard about working families in the transit industry and their struggle to survive. He pledged to work with us to address the issues as soon as possible.

Hopefully not one more transit worker has to die while we wait for action. It’s time for the bosses to realize that Transit Labor now has the power to get things done when it comes to our safety. The sooner they do, the more lives that will be saved.