April 28 is Workers Memorial Day, a day to remember and honor those who lost their lives or have been injured at work.
For the men and women who keep America moving, this holiday is especially poignant. Working on the frontlines of our transportation system is never without risk. Whether working with heavy equipment and machinery or promoting the wellbeing of the traveling public, frontline transportation workers make safety a priority every day.
That is why we support rules and regulations to mitigate fatigue, ensure adequate staffing levels, and advocate for policies that empower working men and women to speak up and stand together. It is also why, this Workers Memorial Day, we are drawing attention to the epidemic of assault that plagues transit workers, and the federal legislation needed to fix this growing problem.
No one should have to worry about being assaulted at work. Yet, our nation’s transit workers are regularly yelled at, spat upon, punched, and sometimes even stabbed or shot while just trying to do their jobs.
This year alone, a pregnant bus driver in New Jersey was attacked and robbed by a passenger, resulting in cuts and bruises to her body. A driver in Connecticut reported having to go into “survival mode” after passenger beat him with a cane. In Seattle, a bus operator fended off an attacker who threw a brick at him, then repeatedly punched him. In California, a driver was shoved off the bus he was operating and repeatedly punched by a passenger who didn’t want to pay fare. And in New York, a bus driver was doused with urine and a transit worker stabbed in separate but equally horrifying incidents that occurred within weeks of each other.
Preventing attacks like these and protecting the safety of transit workers, their passengers, and the traveling public is why, along with the Amalgamated Transit Union, the Transport Workers Union, SMART-TD, and our other unions,
We are urging lawmakers to pass the Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act. This common-sense legislation will require transit agencies, in cooperation with frontline employees, to develop risk reduction plans, and implement strategies — which may include de-escalation training, increased law enforcement, or driver shields — to reduce assaults.
We know these mechanisms work. In communities where they have been implemented, assaults against transit operators have decreased substantially. But fighting this problem at the local level isn’t enough. Congress has an obligation to protect our nation’s transit drivers and the passengers they serve. It is time to #DriveOutAssault and pass national legislation that will prevent these tragedies once and for all.