My speech from today's hearing on HB2717:
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
My name is Henry Beasley, and I have been a transit worker for almost ten years now. In that ten years, there have only been maybe five attacks that received media coverage. Since 2010 there have been a combined 225 (that we know of) which includes: spitting, physical assaults, menacing or thrown objects. We have no data on how many of these attacks were plead down to simple misdemeanors. It is not unusual to come across those who have attacked us while doing our assigned routes, which creates anxiety or diminished capacity and creates a safety hazard for us and the public.
Back in 2015, I looked at the statue posted on the buses we operated and looked it up. ORS 163.165 which defines an assault as a felony, but when looking at the law closely the only way it is a felony is if the transit vehicle is moving. In the case of bus operators, almost, if not all the assaults, the bus is not moving. So, ORS 163.165 is not correctly posted because it gives the transit worker a false sense of security while doing their jobs. ORS 163.165 will inevitably be pleaded down to the misdemeanor ORS 166.116 which is only interfering with public transportation. Right now, there is no real protection for transit workers when an assailant can just hop on the next transit vehicle. One thing we think needs to be emphasized in this meeting is that assaults are not about fares, that’s just an excuse that districts love to use to blame the operator. These attacks should be categorized as “provoked or unprovoked.” if the professional transit worker is doing their jobs, these attacks are not provoked in any way.
You have received the information on the number of assaults in our district and how the district provides safety or lack thereof during this time.
In our district, they have reduced reasonable security claiming budget restraints while increasing their salaries. Currently, if a transit worker gets attacked they are only given two choices, suck it up and continue or go home and receive time loss (meaning you received discipline for going home). The transit worker gets penalized twice for doing our jobs
I ask that the committee adopts the original language introduced by brothers Fredrick Casey and Mike McCurry, which has teeth that look out for transit workers in Oregon. If that is not in consideration, we suggest the committee listen to the audio of these events and hear the anguish, stress, and the diminished capacity of the transit worker.
Thank you for taking the time to listen to the concerns of the transit worker and hopefully your vote to move the legislation forward and work to provide adequate protection under the law that reasonably deters attacks on transit workers.
With that, I will take any questions.