This conversation occured a few years ago, but enters my mind every so often. And it is very true. We are the first ones to be placed in harms way when, as a recent Amalgamated Transit Union video called us "Tax Collectors", goes very wrong. No one likes the Tax Man! This is why many old timers dont worry about fares. Trimet tells us this, and yet many cannot let it go.
While theft is certainly aginst most folks moral and ethical code, it is never worth the pain and suffering given over $2.50.
Now on the flip side of that, is the old phrase, "It is never okay to punch someone." This is where the problem seems to be. One can not account for all the reasons one may get hit, but I am sure there must be repercusions from physical altercations. In this state, Oregon, we have laws set to guide the District Attorney where and how to prosecute.
This is where things would seem to be simple, but fall all apart. We have a special law called, "Interfearing with public transportation." It is a catch all for anything bad that happens while on a bus, or train, or anything transit related. When a driver is assaulted, while a normal felony assault charge would seem to fit, it wont. Because a lawyer for the defense says that his client had no intent to really harm the driver, it defaults to this catch all misdemeanor law. This needs to change.
Let us begin:
Over 41 Operator assaults have occured this year, so far. The Media and Trimet admit the number is growing. The ATU International is seeing violence agints transit workers grow world wide. Some places have instituted harsher penalties for violence, we should do the same. While crime will not stop with harsher laws, justice for those hurt will be more equal.
Fred Casey, a Station Agent at Trimet got motivated. He had a connection to a representative in the Oregon State Legislature, and took it. With my assistance we looked at the true reasons people were getting a slap on the wrist for pummeling an operator who still fears seeing this man someday.
We Formed a plan
If one takes the wording of the Assault law that makes it a crime to punch a Police officer and add Transit worker, while deleting laguage in a nearby law, you get it to be a felony to attack Transit Workers. Not just Operators but fare inspectors, and maintenance!
We, like Police, can not go on strike. Corrections and Animal control officers are protected by this same law already on the books. We seek to make this justice for operators hurt while doing the job fearing someday they are punched stabbed or even....killed.
I know full well, what it is like not having a father come home from work. My father Aubrey Eugene McCurry was a Police officer who was killed in the performance of his duties. He knew how fragile life is. He, like many who put their life out there are just trying to make the world better. We, as Transit workers, are even more exposed as this Transit Officer pointed out.
We NEED help:
Months ago when Fred and I began this mission, we kept details a secret. We felt it was a long shot. We were fearful Trimet or the ATU Local may steal or shut this down. In the Case of Trimet, we were right! They seek to keep this a misdemeanor. As I pointed out, the catch all law is of this same catagory. They seek to change nothing. If they win, they get to have their pretty pony show, all the while.... no real change happend!
Lets not let them half-ass this like they do so much!
What YOU can do to help:
We need folks to call, write and make noise that this law must be real! Susan Mclaine (D) of District 29 has listened to us and is forming this to be law. Her number is 503-986-1429. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Support her and Fred Casey's, "Transit worker assault bill Proposal"
The louder we are, the more JUSTICE these workers will get for their service to the community!!!!
In Solidarity, and human dignity,
One of two simple motivated men,
Mike W. McCurry