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Not Your Average Joe, the ATU Applauds President Biden for Fulfilling Promise to Protect Transit Workers from Brutal Attacks

Silver Spring, MD - Transit workers will now be empowered to make our transit systems safer for riders and communities thanks to game-changing, life-saving regulations published yesterday by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) regarding Public Transportation Agency Safety Plans (PTASPs).

The new regulations, authorized by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) signed by President Biden in 2021, finally shift decisions and actions on safety issues away from transit management – which has shown a clear disregard for workers’ health and safety – and into the hands of frontline workers and their unions, who are far better equipped to deal with such matters.

Physical and verbal attacks on bus operators have skyrocketed over the past decade, increasing by 400%, according to the FTA.

“For years, our members, especially transit bus drivers, have been the victims of vicious physical attacks. They get punched, shot, stabbed, and spit on. Passengers throw hot coffee and urine in their faces. They are sitting ducks with no protections,” said ATU International President John Costa. “I’ve had grown men come into my office crying. It’s incredibly sad.”

Of course, when bus operators get assaulted when they are behind the wheel, the safety of all passengers, pedestrians, and other vehicles on the roads are placed in serious jeopardy. We’ve seen buses crash into trees and poles as a result of these violent attacks.

“Unfortunately, when these incidents happen, the managers seem to all copy the same quote out of the newspaper from other cities where this has happened. Their playbook calls for them to say that ‘Nothing is more important than the safety of our operators.’ They say, ‘Our prayers are with the victim and their family.’  But the very next day, it’s business as usual, back to work. That’s the culture of our industry,” said Costa.

The PTASP regulations require labor-management safety committees, with equal numbers on each side, to develop strategies and solutions to protect workers from assault as well as other safety hazards. These labor-management committees are now responsible for developing PTASPs which must be carried out by management to implement safety risk reduction programs for transit operations. Ultimately, the new PTASP regulations will help significantly reduce the number and rates of safety events, injuries, and assaults on transit workers.

Now, transit workers will have the opportunity, based on sound data, to make the case in safety plans that barriers or other protections are needed to keep them safe. And according to the regulations, if agency safety plans call for operator barriers, management may no longer say no. Under previous regulations, the PTASPs were developed and approved solely by management without any input from transit frontline workers.

“This one is for Thomas Dunn,” said Costa, referring to the ATU Local 1593-Tampa, FL transit bus driver with a wife and young children who had his throat slit by a mentally ill passenger in 2019 and died, but not before he safely steered his passengers to safety. Six months before his death, Dunn stood up at a public hearing and pleaded with management to provide protections for the drivers. “It’s also for all of our other members who have lost their lives in the line of duty over the years. This regulation is written in their blood. We just hope that not one more transit worker will have to lose their life due to management negligence.”

With these regulations, President Biden fulfills a promise to finally provide protections for transit workers under assault. “Just someone getting on the bus and going after you. … I mean, my Lord, we need much more support for transit workers, because you are the reason why things continue to function. Period. I promise you I’m going to keep banging away at this. … And if I’m president, I guarantee you that [protection and support] will be available,” then-Vice President Biden said in 2020.

In contrast, the previous Administration refused to enact regulations addressing transit worker assaults, publishing a shameful, heartless, one paragraph entry into the Federal Register saying that it was “unnecessary” to take action to protect workers from assaults.   

“Our Union will be working closely with our Locals across the country and the FTA to ensure transit agencies have sound safety plans that provide real protections and safety measures for transit workers and riders,” Costa continued. “This will help save lives.”

“In addition to President Biden, I want to publicly thank Senator Chris Van Hollen and Representative Grace Napolitano for their tireless work to incorporate the Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act into the BIL,” Costa continued. “And we, of course, thank Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown for leading the fight. Finally, thanks to Leader Schumer and Banking Committee Members for weighing in with FTA in public comments, explaining that the legislative intent of the bill was to shift power on safety related actions to the workers, who have been suffering far too long.”

The final rule can be found at