Wednesday, April 24, 2019

trimet bus driver left to find his own way home

Kim Sewell
TriMet Executive Director,
Labor Relations & Human Resources

          I have just got home from walking from Clackamas Town Center. I left Clackamas Town Center on foot at 10:49pm and arrived at my home () at 12:16am. The reason I walked home is because dispatched relieved me from my bus due to me voicing my concern about continuing my run with customers. Dispatch instructed me to catch a bus back to the garage and report to the station agent. At this time I was attempting to handle an anxiety attack that was brought on by what I would call a verbal assault from a customer. I explained to Dispatch and Station agent that my anxiety was so high at the moment that I did not feel safe being exposed to customers. Both instructed me that was the only option they had to offer. I was not able to afford a cab because I was still catching up on bills from the time lose I had when I was last assaulted. I find myself very upset and concerned about how this entire incident has been handled. January 30, 2018 Oregon Live reported "TriMet's leadership wants to assure our operators that going forward, if they become ill while on route, they will not be left in the field to find their own ride," Altstadt said ( yet here I am giving an incident that demonstrates that TriMet has not changed its policies and are still leaving operators stranded.

          I want to give you some background on this incident along with a little more history as to why this incident is affecting me as deeply as it is. On April 23, 2019 at about 9:30pm I was driving line/train 7242. I stopped at MLK and Killingsworth to service the stop. There was a group of people at the stop. Included in this group of people is a female that goes by the name “Queen Bee”. This person is known for causing problems on the bus and many times Dispatch has advised operators via BDS message to not pick her up. Because there was a group of people I had to stop. As the others got on she also pushed her way on. She had a walker that was overloaded with stuff along with addition things. She was able to get the walker on the bus making it so I could not close the door. She then started collecting the rest of her stuff making it so I could not move the bus and having me pinned in with her walker blocking me.

          I commented that she had too much stuff and was creating a safety issue. She then pulled her walker aside enough so that she could get up in my face and instruct me to mind my own F***ing business and to just drive the bus. She then made other rude statements and became very unruly. At this point I secured the bus and sent a BDS message “Passenger Conduct” to Dispatch. Dispatch responded with Pick Up Handset and started asking me what was going on. I explained that “Queen Bee” has boarded with bus with a walker that is overloaded and is delaying the bus. As I was talking to dispatch she became more aggressive towards me and then advised me that she will kill me. She also stated that she will not leave the bus. Dispatch asked me why I stopped for her and I explained that there was others at the stop and I had no choice. Dispatch advised that Police and Road Sup has been advised and is on the way.

          For almost 20 minutes I sat in fear that this lady was going to become physical with me. She kept making statements of how she will kill me, how I am a piece of shit, how I need to get up in her p***y, along with many other nasty vulgar statements. Finally I notice my follower arriving behind my bus and I saw an opportunity to get past her and her walker. I got off my bus from the front door then opened my back door and advised the other passengers that another 72 was behind my bus and to board that bus. All the passengers got off my bus and got on my followers bus. “Queen Bee” was attempting to get her things and get to that bus so I advised that bus what was taking place and to leave. As my follower was leaving a Road Sup arrived and pulled up behind my bus. “Queen Bee” still had her things on my bus but at least I was not trapped in the driver’s area. I came around to the driver’s side of the Road Sup truck and told him what was going on and about that time she walks towards the Road Sup truck making threats. Road Sup states to me that he is going to just stay in his truck until the police arrive and that he has been assaulted by her before. I responded “I see how you are” indicating that I am stuck out in the open and alone. The Road Sup then stepped out of his truck and advised me to just stick close to him.

          At one point “Queen Bee” started walking around with a belt in her hand and making negative sounding statements but I was not sure exactly what she was saying. Both the Road Sup and I shared concerns that she might use the belt to assault us so we stayed on the Driver’s side of the truck away from here. She then made a statement about taking the bus. At this time the bus was secured but still running. The Road Sup had be stick close to him and we went to the bus so that I could shut it down. To avoid being cornered in the bus we went back to his truck. The police finally arrived and once they had her isolated away from the bus they advised me to take the bus away from the area. I sent Dispatch a “Ready for Service” message and I was advised to “Dead Head” to Clackamas Town Center.

          As I drove to the town center I found myself reflecting back on my past 2 assaults. My first assault, the guy knocked me out and fractured my cheek bone in four different places leaving me out of work for about 2 months recovering. The second assault re-fractured my cheek bone and left me out of work for about 3 months and the need for mental care. This was the first aggressive action towards me since the last assault that re-fractured my cheek bone. Many thoughts kept going through my mind. All the things she said to me, how long I had to sit there in fear not sure when help will arrive, how scared I was that if I said anything it would set her off and she would become physical and how she stated that she will kill me. By the time I got to Clackamas Town Center I found myself very stressed and having anxiety about picking up customers. The more I thought about it the worse it was. I attempted to try some breathing routines that the physiatrist taught me and to keep in mind the sound advice he gave me yet I found myself still not getting calmed down. At this point I felt best to advise Dispatch of this and told them that I don’t feel safe picking passengers and that my fear is still too strong for me to manage. Dispatch then asked me if I wanted to “Mark Off” and I replied that I am not feeling safe to transport passengers at that time. Dispatch then advised me to leave the bus and to just catch a bus back to the garage and report to the station agent. I told dispatch that at that time I am fighting a strong fear of customers and I do not feel safe being around any customers and that I would only feel safe in a vehicle with a fellow operator but no customers. Dispatch advised that they had no other options for me.

          I called Powell Station agent and advised him what is going on and he advised me that I didn’t need to report to the garage and I can go straight home or to my car but is not able to provide any transport other than me taking a regular bus with customers on it. At this point my anxiety became too strong for me and out of being so upset I stated something like “I spent 20 minutes being verbally assaulted, threatened with a belt and this is how you treat me? Thanks a lot” and then hung up and started walking home. Four busses passed me as I was walking home and I was not able to manage the strength to get on a bus with unpredictable customers. I was hoping the long walk would help me calm down yet I just found myself more frustrated.

          In our Working Wage Agreement in Article 1, Section 8, Paragraph 5n states “An employee that is the subject of an assault, including spitting upon the operator, that requires medical treatment or that is referred to EAP by Safety and Security, shall be allowed to complete the remainder of his/her shift that day or to turn down the remainder of scheduled hours of work for that day without loss of pay or time loss.  In such cases, the District will notify the Union.”
          Though I was not physically assaulted the 20 minutes of the verbal assault brought on what I felt as emotional wounds that felt physical. My past assaults along with this being my first aggressive action since my last assault brought on an anxiety that I found myself finding difficulty with finding a way to get myself calmed back down. I felt the safest action to take was to advise management of my concerns and that management would take action to help relieve the anxiety. Instead I found myself being told to not drive the bus anymore and the only option they are able to offer me is for me to take a bus that is picking up customers to get back to my car or home. Though management did send a drive to retrieve the bus from Clackamas Town Center I was not allowed to ride that bus.

          Now I find myself with time loss and loss in pay for the day. I am not familiar with what an EAP is or if Article 1, Section 8, Paragraph 5n can be applied in this case. It is my hope that this might be able to be applied. None the less I do want to address TriMet’s policy about the options that was presented to me to get home.

Sent from Mail for Windows 10

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