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OUT OF CONTROL: Bus Assaults Cause A “Sick-Out” Protest

It’s chaos on the Metro as drivers stage a sick-out in response to escalating assaults on operators.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (say that 5 times fast) is feeling the heat.

There’s nearly 360 drivers didn’t show for work on Friday.

The agency’s scrambling to fill the gaps, grabbing anyone they can to keep those dollars rolling in, I mean, keep those buses rolling.

Looks like Metro drivers are tired of being treated like punching bags and are putting their foot down and it’s not on the gas pedal.

LA Times reports:

Dozens of Metro bus routes were delayed Friday after hundreds of drivers held a sick-out in protest of the rising number of assaults on operators.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority said as of midday Friday that about 360 operators had called out sick — about 10% of drivers — forcing the agency to redeploy instructors, field supervisors and those watching from control rooms to the driver’s seat.

Unionized train and bus operators have criticized Metro for failing to respond forcefully enough to violence on the system. Drivers have been the target of several recent attacks, including one in Willowbrook where a man stabbed a bus driver while passengers watched.

Last year, the agency logged 168 assaults, a slight increase from the previous year. The assaults included being spat on and stabbed.

“We understand the sick-out affected a small percentage of bus riders,” John Ellis, who represents six union locals, said in a statement. The representative of 5,000 Metro bus and train operators for the International Assn. of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers told passengers that the union recognizes their “anguish” and that “Metro sees your frustration,” adding: “We will continue these stepping stones of safety.”

Ellis has been working with Metro’s Chief Executive Stephanie Wiggins to install protective barriers and has been advocating for the agency to create its own police force. He says he believes that working “hand in hand” with Metro leadership will improve security.

Others aren’t so sure. The action was not organized by the union, but it raises questions about deep, brewing frustration within its ranks. Drivers have expressed outrage on social media about attacks, and many worry privately about their safety day in and out.

In February, there was an attack nearly every other day — 12 in all — according to a Metro report. In one instance, a driver was punched after asking a passenger at Western Avenue and Jefferson Boulevard to stand behind a yellow safety line.

A longtime bus driver who wasn’t authorized to speak to the media said Metro just wants the buses moving, while drivers are worried about not making it home.

The driver said workers are concerned the new protective barriers are not bulletproof.

“Metro doesn’t care about its drivers,” the person said.

“We are all expendable.”

Metro warned on Friday of at least 40 bus routes affected by the staff shortage, including Line 53, which runs from downtown Los Angeles to Dominguez Hills; Line 251, from Eagle Rock to Lynwood; Line 115, from Playa del Rey to Norwalk; Line 246, from Willowbrook to San Pedro; and Line 720, from Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles.


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