Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Reasons for #BANDTOGETHER

#BANDTOGETHER participants in Portland show their resolve.

Deke's Note: From September 16-22, operators from every corner of the globe have participated in an event designed to raise awareness of transit worker assaults. When this week began, we had 72 attacks here. As I wrote this, the tally had increased by five to 77.

Our second #BANDTOGETHER event is nearly finished, and it has been fascinating to watch operators (and supes) in Canada and the USA join together. We have opened dialogues with the riding public, many of whom had no idea of the pandemic of violence toward transit workers.

Upon boarding my busy route the first few days this week, most passengers greeted me, their eyes bouncing from the numbered bandage back to my eyes with a quizzical expression in their own. Preferring not to remain subtle, I made no mention of the obvious. This initially led to a few gentle inquiries as to why I was wearing our collective statement on my right cheek.

"I didn't know they were numbering drivers now," one elderly lady quipped.

"Cut yourself shaving?" a stately gentleman teased.

"You don't look 72," another said.

Knowing these people are regulars on my route, I kept my replies simple. "It's just a statement regarding transit worker assaults," was all I said that first day.

Mr. Henry Beasley
ATU 757 - Portland, OR
"I've seen other drivers wearing the bandage," a young man said on the second day, "and I'm wondering what it's about?" By then, the number of attacks directed at Portland transit workers had jumped to 73 for the year.

I paused at a stoplight, and turned to look at him. With a (hopefully) grim look, I told him what the number signified.

"Wow," was all he could muster in reply.

We rolled through downtown, discussing what an "attack" means. It could be spitting, screaming insults for crimes passengers insist us guilty of, cruel insults and threatening behavior, sexual assault, punches, kicks, and having liquids of all kinds tossed on us.

"People actually do those things to you guys?" my young new friend asked, incredulous.

"It happens every day," I told him with a sigh. "Some, or many, are never reported. I guess many of us have just learned to accept it as an occupational hazard."

If you're female, the public tends to be more brazen with their abusive behavior. Perhaps it's telling of today's society to treat women as if they're only half-human, evidenced by our propensity toward treating sexual assault as if it's acceptable. If women report it, even years later, their credibility is questioned. The male's behavior is written off in a "boys will be boys" brush-off, and women are bullied into keeping quiet or facing shame for "their part in it."

In NO situation is assault, against women or men, acceptable to minimize. As a victim of assault in my profession and long ago in my personal life, I can personally attest to the guilt feelings of a victim prohibiting the proper healing process from taking its natural course. When I was assaulted earlier this year, I self-analyzed to find how I could have prevented it. Then anger took hold, and I had to forcibly tell myself... it wasn't my fault. While doing my job as a transit worker, my actions were morally just; my assailant broke the law of common decency and legislative edicts. She kicked me as I was simply trying to ensure her safety. Afterward, I never heard a peep out of management wondering if I was "okay." As long as I'm not transported to the hospital, they evidently feel no need to express concern.

Mr. Billy Alsheimer, III
Rhode Island Public
Transit Authority
If you're a passenger on an airline, you're subject to Federal Aviation Agency rules. If you ride a train, enjoy a sea cruise or roll upon the rail, there are rules you must obey or risk arrest and serious consequences. Why people think they're immune to the same when riding our vehicles defies logic.

People who ride public transit are passengers, subject to rules; they are not "customers." When you purchase a ticket to ride my bus, you enter into a contract with the transit agency which prohibits certain behaviors. Most people understand and accept this basic agreement. Unfortunately, some refuse. This small percentage of scofflaws are catered to by our wanna-please-everybody management. They fail to support frontline transit workers, and make sure we know who comes first: everyone except us. It's oddly-inconceivable, but true. And that, my dear readers, is why I continue to write this blog.

Fifty years ago, the middle class worker was respected as a valuable contributor to not only the workforce, but also to society. Although there were disagreements over how our government should guide this nation, our parents worked together to give us and our children's children a better future. Now, those who toil along with us have been trained to bash each other. We argue over the most petty or serious topics rather than listening to each other to attain reasonable compromise. It's divide and conquer at its ugliest, and its only effectiveness is to further empower those who make the money which keeps them enriched. We do their dirty work when we fight amongst ourselves, so why should they care when the lowest common denominator joins in bashing us? As long as we keep the wheels rolling, our collectively-damaged soul seemingly means little to those "at the top."

Mr. Dwayne Russell, Sr.
ATU 1197 - Jacksonville, FL
Creator of
Transit management chases its tail and bites anyone who tries to stop this folly. When they finally acknowledge we're being assaulted, their knee-jerk reaction is to cage the operator behind a barrier. It's a pitiful attempt to apply a bandage to a gaping wound. It cuts us off from those I truly enjoy serving. It also avoids the subject, which management has artfully kept from the media: operators, supervisors, maintenance workers are being brutally-attacked every day just for doing our jobs. If we dare defend ourselves, we're subject to illogically-extreme discipline up to termination. If one of us were to threaten anyone in management with even the slightest slight we're treated to on a daily basis, we'd surely be fired on the spot. There are benefits to ruling from an isolated ivory tower, but I don't know them down here upon the harsh streets of reality.

I'm fired up, but even beavers know when to stop gnawing on a tree that won't give easily. It comes back the next day to eventually fell the branches to an ever-evolving dam which gives its family shelter. My teeth are wearing down, but I'll continue chewing upon the subject of our personal safety until and after I've had to obtain dentures. Until then, I hope #BANDTOGETHER grows each third week of September until the mindless violence against us begins to dwindle. If we don't fight together, we'll keep fighting each other and remain magnets to the ungrateful minority who love to hate us.

Peace, and be well.


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