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Infrastructure law demands new focus on transit worker assaults

By Admin

Reported by Jessica Wehrman for Roll Call.

Mohammed Miah signed onto the Metropolitan Transit Authority of New York City to operate trains. He did not sign up to be punched in the face.

Still, it’s happened twice since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s still recovering from the second assault, which occurred last September and left him with a jaw injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. To his knowledge, no suspect has been arrested.

“If you assault a police officer, you get in really big trouble,” he said. “That’s not the case for us.”

Transit operators and unions say they’ve seen a spike in violence against transit workers since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. And workers complain it’s hard to quantify that spike.

Under the Federal Transit Administration’s prior definition, a worker was considered assaulted if, for example, they had to be hospitalized for more than 48 hours or of they had certain fractures, severe bleeding, or damage to nerves, muscles, tendons or internal organs. The FTA also does not separate customer assaults from assaults by fellow workers in the National Transit Database, according to the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO.

Provisions in last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law aim to change that.

The provisions create a legal definition of assault as “a circumstance in which an individual knowingly, without lawful authority or permission, and with intent to endanger the safety of any individual, or with a reckless disregard for the safety of human life, interferes with, disables, or incapacitates a transit worker while the transit worker is performing the duties of the transit worker.” It also requires transit agencies to develop a risk reduction program for assaults on transit workers.

That the law creates a more specific definition of assault is important, according to Greg Regan, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO.

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