Please Stop Attacks on Transit Workers

With high temperatures and brutal humidity over the past few weeks transit workers are facing dangerous conditions on the job. In order to ensure your safety and health during these summer months we have developed an ATU Bulletin on “Heat Stress Safety”. This Bulletin can be downloaded here in English, Spanish, and French and easily printed by most computers. We encourage you to share these tips with your fellow brothers and sisters. We hope you find this information helpful this extremely hot and humid summer continues. Read more.

Help stop attacks on transit workers

From Winnipeg, MB, to Washington, DC to Kelowna, BC, to San Francisco, CA assaults on ATU members and all transit workers have become an epidemic. Not a week goes by that we don’t hear stories about bus operators and other transit workers being punched, stabbed, yelled at, spit on, shot at, and worse. ATU is calling on transit agencies, law enforcement, and elected officials to better protect all transit workers and riders. That is why it is important that you tell your stories of senseless attacks on bus operators and voice your opinion on the best ways to address this problem. We want to hear your ideas about how to prevent attacks on transit workers. We have created new online surveys for every ATU member to fill out. Here are links for the US members survey, Canadian members survey, and school bus workers survey. Fill out the survey today.

A “thank you” to transit drivers goes a long way

On a recent visit to Vancouver, Winnipeg Free Presscolumnist John Longhurst was riding a bus and was struck at how often riders said “thank you” to their drivers. A friend told him he experienced the same thing. Then in the wake of a recent incident of a Winnipeg bus passenger spitting in the face of a bus driver, Longhurst decided to pursue a story. While researching his column, Longhurst came across a comment about expressing gratitude on a website devoted to Vancouver buses: “I just think it makes their day a bit better and less stressful. It’s always nice to have someone be appreciative of what you do not because it is your job or part of your job duties.” In his column he wrote “saying thanks won’t stop the abuse (of bus drivers). But it might be a way to make their days a little less stressful and anxious, not to mention injecting a little humanity into what is an otherwise impersonal and rote encounter.” We couldn’t agree more. Read column.

Detroit Local, allies rally to fight RTA’s ‘transit racism”

The Regional Transit Authority (RTA) of Southeast Michigan is discriminating against minority and low-income Detroit bus riders by shifting federal funds away from Detroit to the surrounding suburban system said Local 26 and allies at a packed rally. Since 2013, about $8 million per year has been moved to the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) while many Detroit riders wait an hour for a bus where ridership is three times higher than in the suburbs. ATU is calling on officials to fix Detroit transit first and then address the issue of regionalizing the bus system. Watch story.

Why give to ATU COPE?

It’s clear that the 2016 U.S. election is the most important election in history for ATU members and working families in the U.S. How can you help to elect pro-labor and pro-transit candidates to office? Give to ATU-COPE. Watch this video about why ATU-COPE is critical and how you can win by contributing to it. ATU has extended the ATU-COPE month promotion it held in June through to Election Day in November. This means everyone who contributes to ATU-COPE between now and November 8, will receive an ATU pin and those who give at least $100 annually will receive a special ATU-COPE t-shirt. ATU-COPE helps your Local win as well.Watch the video to find out more.

Memphis Local, transit allies join to stop bus cuts

The negative impact of bus service cuts on the people who depend on public transit was exposed by ATU Local 713, the Memphis Bus Riders Union (MBRU), and riders at a packed public town hall meeting. “Instead of catching one bus to get from point A to point B, riders must catch two to three buses,” said one attendee. “With upcoming proposals to cut even more bus service, riders may have to use three to four buses.” The Local and MBRU have already won increased funding for buses which resulted in a $7.5 million increase to MATA’s budget this fiscal year and these allies will continue to fight any proposed cuts. Read more.

Hamilton Local produces nonviolent crisis intervention video

In response to the continuing problem of assaults against transit operators, Local 107-Hamilton, ON produced a video demonstrating nonviolent strategies drivers can use to protect themselves and defuse crisis situations. The video breaks down dangerous situations into three stages: pre-crisis, crisis, and post-crisis – with an emphasis on trying to avoid a crisis, and moving to the post-crisis stage as quickly as possible. The video points out the importance of always wearing a seatbelt, explaining that rather than hindering drivers from defending themselves, seatbelts help to prevent drivers from being dragged out of their seats, and serve to restrain a driver tempted to get out of their seat from leaving the bus. Watch video.

TransLink uses ‘defusers’ to help bus drivers cope with tragic accidents, assaults

It could be an assault, a serious traffic accident, or even a suicide on a transit bus, but when his phone rings, Dave McKay knows there’s a bus driver out there in need of help.

McKay is a front-line member of Coast Mountain Bus Co.’s “defuser” team — an army of about three dozen transit employees trained to help bus drivers cope in traumatic situations. At a moment’s notice, he could be called to help a bus driver involved in a fatal accident or who has been spat at or assaulted by a passenger.

“It’s kind of like emotional first aid,” said McKay, a former bus driver who manages the “defuser” team. “It helps them to recover faster and better.”

The volunteer program, started in 1992, is similar to the critical stress management used by police and firefighters, but tailored to bus drivers. The program is open to TransLink employees who must go through a rigorous screening to ensure they have traits such as strength, empathy and good listening skills to make them effective defusers.

Nathan Woods, president of the union that represents bus drivers, said the idea is to counsel bus drivers to help “take the stress away.” There are 23 members on the team now, while another eight are undergoing the four-day training. When a bus driver is in need, a call goes out to all the volunteers.

“Anyone can be used for any event,” Woods said, noting defusers are needed more than a couple times a week. “If you feel you’re not safe to drive anywhere, you can call a defuser.”

McKay, a former volunteer firefighter who became a defuser 15 years ago, has been woken countless times in the middle of the night, and once had to cut short a 10-kilometre run after a bus driver hit a cyclist. Sometimes, the call is extremely unsettling: in one case, he arrived at a fatal crash to find the traumatized driver standing over the body. In another, he dealt with a driver pummelled repeatedly by a passenger as he drove a crowded bus.

“The passenger was upset at the previous bus driver because he had been passed up or missed,” McKay said. “When this bus driver pulled up, the person walked through the front door and attacked him while the bus was moving. It was quite a big fracas.”

The driver was almost unconscious when he crashed into the curb. While passengers restrained his assailant, a transit supervisor was called to assess the situation and alerted McKay who raced to get there before the shock wore off. ” (The drivers) could be physically shaking or incoherent,” he said. “They’re at the point of being physically unable to function. The last thing we want them to do is drive a bus.”

It took McKay close to an hour to calm the driver down, using a structured process that allows the driver to explain what happened, react and then deal with it. But sometimes, the trauma is so bad that the driver needs more psychological help.

Drivers also don’t have to accept the help of a defuser. In 2014, 104 bus drivers used a defuser, while 214 rejected the offer. Last year, 97 accepted the help, while 225 declined it.

As a bus driver in the mid-1990s, McKay drove over a person who jumped in front of his bus at Hastings and Jackson St.

“He fell down and I drove over him. His legs were flailing,” he said. “I didn’t kill him, but I thought I had. It was just unimaginable.”

McKay didn’t use a defuser, but said his experience has helped him to aid others. Many defusershave backgrounds as former cops, firefighters or mental health workers, he said, and depending on what they see, some will stay on the job for more than 10 years.

“You need to be a person who is confident and has the strength to deal with people who are not in a good place,” he said.

The job has its consequences, however. Defusers are required to get counselling after every 10 incidents, but usually turn to each other.

“Generally, we take care of ourselves,” McKay said. “You help to defuse the defuser. If you don’t do that, that’s when we lose people.”

McKay said there are times when he doesn’t feel like taking a call, but he would never pass up a driver in need. He cites the case where the driver was found standing over the body.

The driver refused a defuser, but agreed to talk with McKay, thinking it was just a chat. Now whenever he sees him, McKay said, the driver thanks him for his help.

“Obviously, it had a profound effect on him,” he said. “There is some personal satisfaction in doing that. It’s people helping people, but they go that extra mile to put themselves out there for it.”

Courtesy of Vancouver Sun

Watch the video

Transit union leaders renew push for tough penalties for bus driver assaults

articles_bus_stopOTTAWA — Transit union leaders from across Canada are again pushing the federal government to stiffen penalties for people convicted of assaulting bus drivers.

Thirty-one regional representatives from the Canadian Council of the Amalgamated Transit Union were to lobby politicians in Ottawa on Tuesday to resurrect a failed private member’s bill that would require judges to consider assaults on on-duty operators as an aggravating factor to be applied during sentencing.

Getting the proposed amendment to the Criminal Code back on the agenda is the priority for the director of the ATU’s Canadian Council, Mike Mahar, who took over the position in January. After meeting with about a dozen MPs in the past six weeks, he said Monday there is early support from some members of the Conservative majority government.

“It’s the biggest issue for us right now and has been for quite some time,” Mahar said. “We’re definitely seeing an increase in the severity of the assaults.”

He cited several specific attacks, including one in April on a Montreal transit driver who was severely beaten by three young men and hospitalized. Thanks to a surveillance video and tips from the public, three men have been arrested.

In Ottawa, police reported an assault in March in which a passenger sucker-punched an OC Transpo driver who reportedly questioned him about an expired transfer. Statistics from OC Transpo show 51 operators were assaulted in 2012. Fifty of those were Level 1 assaults with no or minor injuries. One report was a Level 2, a classification for those who suffer injuries. In 2011, three of 52 assaults were Level 2.

“These (assaults) happen daily (across Canada), and they’re only getting worse,” Mahar said.

Numbers collected by the Canadian Urban Transit Association and released by ATU this week shows 2,061 bus drivers from across the country reported being assaulted in 2011. The majority of those assaults included incidents in which people spit on the driver, which do not garner the public’s attention like the more vicious assaults.

A breakdown of CUTA data shows 47 per cent of the assaults did not cause bodily harm; six per cent of the attacks were with a weapon or causing bodily harm. Fewer than one per cent fell into the category of aggravated assault.

Mahar and his fellow union leaders were to spend Tuesday meeting with MPs, trying to find the support they need to resurrect the proposed bill that was introduced by Conservative MP Brent Rathgeber in 2011. The catalyst for that move was the well-documented assault on Edmonton transit driver Tom Bregg, who was beaten into a coma by a passenger in 2009.

The bill died when the last election was called and now the union leaders want to recapture the attention of their politicians. For Mahar, assaults on drivers will also continue to make bus driving an unattractive occupation.

“It’s going to be critical for the industry. As public transportation is growing, growing and growing in Canada, it becomes a staffing issue, it becomes a retention issue,” he said. If a bus driver is assaulted, “If they don’t come back, you’ve lost that experience and expertise. Then the general talk of the industry becomes, Do you want to get into that career?”

Bus operator Assaults reflect how vulnerable we are!

In the awake of this recent incident and its administrators  give total support to our fella operator who was involved in this disgusting assault, we believe that this brother had to react to a situation out of control which became ugly and unpleasant, we don’t approve violence nor provocation but when your safety and your passengers are at stake all necessary measurements have to be taken in consideration.

Bus driver fights back following assault

City police have identified a man arrested Wednesday after a Winnipeg Transit driver was spat on and the two traded blows in an exchange caught on cellphone video.

The incident occurred at approximately 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at a bus stop outside Polo Park.

A short video circulating on social media shows a man yelling at a bus driver and spitting at him, after which the bus driver chases the man out of the bus. The video, recorded by a bus passenger on his cellphone, shows the two men fighting for several seconds.

Police said Friday the assault was sparked by a fare dispute.

“The suspect became aggressive and opened the door to the driver compartment,” Winnipeg Police Service spokesman Const. Rob Carver said Friday. “At this time, the driver opened the door to the bus to allow some distance when the assault occurred.”

A second transit driver and two passengers helped detain the suspect until police arrived.

Police have charged 29-year-old Matthieu Joseph Fortier with assault.

The bus driver is not facing any chargers in connection with the incident, Carver said

“If an individual was assaulted, you had the right to detain the person and call police,” Carver said. “There is often no way to detain someone who has been very aggressive, who has assaulted you without preparing to potentially use some force.”

Carver advised passengers facing similar circumstances not to intervene.

“We never know when we intervene as police officers if someone is going to produce a weapon or if there is another person connected to that individual we didn’t know about,” Carver said. “It’s a big risk. Our recommendation is to keep yourself safe and call 911.”

Video of the incident will be provided to a Winnipeg Transit assault review committee, which will determine if any disciplinary action is warranted against the bus driver, said Amalgamated Transit Union 1505 president John Callahan.

“We’re hoping there won’t be,” Callahan said. “We’ve had many drivers tell us they’d rather be punched or slapped than spat on. When someone spits in your face you see red, it’s the lowest of the low — disgusting, degrading, you name it.

“In the heat of the moment, it’s pretty difficult to contain yourself.”

Last year, Winnipeg Transit recorded 60 assaults on bus drivers, two-thirds of which were the results of fare disputes, Callahan said. Spitting is the most frequent form of assault.

Callahan said Winnipeg Transit could reduce the number of disputes and assaults by introducing inspectors who would randomly check passengers to ensure they had paid their fare.

“If we could take (fare collection) out of the equation, that would have a pretty big impact,” Callahan said.

Courtesy of Winnipeg Sun and CTV news

Cities need public Transit, Not Uber

New technology in transportation is currently all the rage. On-demand taxi services like Uber, private transit operations like Bridj, and self-driving cars are all being touted as the future of urban transportation. But what is seldom mentioned about these new alternatives to public transport is that their cost is prohibitive to the poor who need and rely on public transportation the most. The Pew Charitable Trust recently reported that transportation consumed 15.7% of the income of the bottom third of households in 2014 – almost twice as much as that of the top third (8.2%). This emphasizes the importance of supporting public transit that offers much more affordable transportation for everyone rather than on-demand services like Uber and Lyft. Read more.

DC members rally for respect, increased funding

More than 500 members of Washington, DC Locals689 and 1764, riders, transit allies and clergy packed a DC church to demand workplace respect and make the case that Metro needs to secure a dedicated funding source to ensure safe and reliable public transit for the millions of people who use the system each year. They called on Metro officials to listen to their recommendations to boost safety and to halt efforts aimed at privatizing critical services. “They talk about us in a bad light, and everyone I know in the track department feels that it’s not fair to us,” said one worker in attendance. “I tell my supervisors the train is unsafe but the supervisors try to force you to take the train out.” Watch video.

ATU hero in Rhode Island with a simple act of kindness

Sometimes even a small act of kindness can make a big difference and that was the case with an ATU Rhode Island bus driver who is being hailed as a hero. Ed Mello, 618, was driving his usual route when he noticed a woman walking across a bridge. He offered the woman a “courtesy lift” as he always does to pedestrians approaching the bridge because it’s safer. When he stopped he noticed the woman was crying, shaking and seemed distraught. She mentioned to him about possibly wanting to jump off the bridge but Mello, aided by a passenger, convinced her to get on the bus. Once she was safely on the bus, he called Rhode Island Transit Authority (RIPTA) dispatch office which then notified local police. RIPTA commended Mello for his actions and we at ATU salute him as well. Read more.

Why TPP is wrong

TPP has been in the headlines again as trade has become a controversial issue in the upcoming U.S. Presidential campaign. A new video “TPP: The Dirtiest Deal You Never Heard Of” explains why this trade deal is bad for American workers and our nation. The video uncovers the little publicized provisions of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership that would threaten American and Canadian food safety standards, environmental protections, local labor laws, internet privacy, and could force us to pay much more for the medicines we need.View the video.

Public transit crucial to connecting unemployed with jobs, training

According to a new University of Minnesota study, the biggest concentrations of unemployed workers in the Twin Cities lack adequate transit service to some of the highest concentrations of job vacancies in the region. As ATU knows well this is a problem throughout North America. The researchers also examined the potential of a new approach that integrates transit planning and workforce training and development. Policymakers tend to address these two problems separately rather than connecting them. “Our research lays out an approach to reconcile those mismatches by coordinating transit planning, job training and job placement services,” says one of the chief researchers. Read more.

Cleveland transit workers, allies call to open up Public Square for buses

A week after ATU members and Clevelanders for Public Transit rallied to demand more investment in public transit, the allies called on Mayor Frank Jackson to rethink his plan to keep the newly renovated Public Square closed to buses permanently. They pointed out that many in the community rely on public transit in that area each day and that closing the Public Square to buses would increase commute times by almost an hour. “We are opposed to cutting the buses through Public Square because it will have a negative impact on the community,” says Local 268 President Ron Jackson. “The buses should be able to go straight through Public Square – we should make it easier on the people to get back and forth to work.” Read more.