Bus operators with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority rallied at 125th Street and Lexington on Wednesday to call attention to the conditions they face while on the job facing a public that seems more belligerent than ever before.
Shop Steward Monique Rondon, a member of Transport Workers Union Local 100, spoke of feeling as though her job has become more hazardous not only for her, but across the entire transit system.
“What’s going on in subway is absolutely crazy, it’s absurd, no one feels safe… Not on a train, not on a bus,” Rondon said. “The public is not safe. At any time, you could get a skateboard to the head, a knife to your face, pushed into the train. It’s crazy. You cannot walk anywhere. If you have an MTA on beware. We had respect many years ago, people respected the uniform. We were a lot more than public sector workers.”
Between Oct. 5, 2020 and March 29, 2021, there were 29 felony assaults committed against bus operators, according to the union, and that does not include those on commuter trains and subways where a fresh attack make headlines almost on a daily basis in recent weeks.
These, however, are just the felony assaults.
TWU says in that same period, there were about 800 incidents classified under penal law as harassments, which include spitting and menacing, and not excluding physical attacks such as punching or kicking.
“Our heroic bus operators have been hard at work keeping this city moving throughout the pandemic and any attack on them is an attack on all of us,” MTA spokesman Shams Tarek said. “Traveling on the bus is and continues to be safe and we welcome increased NYPD presence and focus to keep it that way as New Yorkers return to our system.”
While Mayor Bill de Blasio and the MTA have squabbled over whether or not the subway needs more police officers and how many in recent weeks after the slashing of train conductor Gerard Sykes in early May, the union has been working with district attorneys and other elected officials to push for greater punishment against those who harass and harm transit workers.
In fact, the calls for action against subway and bus harassment and assaults have been in-demand for transit workers since before the pandemic left the stations and trains desolate and called into question the safety of the transit system.