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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

ATU INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT WRITES TO ATU757 MEMBER

(1 month ago)

Dear Brother:

This is in response to your letter, received in this office on April 25, 2013, regarding operator
assaults. Thank you for taking the time to write to me on this critical issue.
ATU unfortunately has been dealing with this matter for decades. Due to the nature of their
employment, which includes dealing with complaints, working alone, working late, and enforcing
regulations, transit employees are vulnerable to horrific criminal acts. Bus drivers frequently travel
in unsafe neighborhoods, dealing with people who do not want to pay fares and children who hurl
rocks and snowballs at their vehicles. And they are confronting all of this while trying to safely steer
their vehicles through traffic. During my time as a bus operator and in the years since then, I have
witnessed firsthand the brutal nature of this senseless crime.
Years ago, our union led the campaign for exact fare, hoping that once drivers no longer had to deal
with money, there would be less possibility of conflict
. Unfortunately, even now when most systems
have gone to electronic fare collection, the problem persists, and in fact it has gotten worse. Transit
passengers fed up with increased fares and reduced service are taking it out on the face of the
nation's transit systems - th
e operator.
Earlier this year, ATU and the Transport Workers Union (TWU) assembled ajoint cornmittee to deal
with assaults and other health and safety matters with the goal of identifying solutions and then
seeking the assistance of appropriate local, state, and federal officials to address our concerns. We
have also stepped up our lobbying efforts at the state and local level all across North America in an
effort to increase the penalties for interfering with a transit worker
. In Oregon, for example, assault
in the third degree (including the causing of physical injury to the operator of a public transit vehicle
while the operator is in control of or operating the vehicle) is a Class C felony.
However, we realize that enhanced penalties are not the cure all for what in most cases is a senseless
act committed in the heat of the moment, and we therefore continue to tell policymakers that we
must do more to protect bus operators. When an assault occurs, the safety of every individual on
board the vehicle is placed in immediate jeopardy. In addition, other cars, pedestrians, and bicyclists
are put at risk when bus drivers are distracted for any reason, especially when they become the victim
of a senseless assault
.     As far as I am concerned, all solutions should be on the table for discussion, including shields, driver
side doors
, and other ideas. I know that Local 757 PRiBA Bruce Hansen is also working on these
issues, and we will continue to reach out to our officers and members in an effort to put a stop to
these indefensible acts
.
I trust this responds to your concerns.

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