New York, NY – According to Richie Davis, TWU Local 100 Vice-President for Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Operating Authority [MaBSTOA], assaults on Bus Operators have increased 42-percent since 2018.
“Our members are in fear of being harmed and being assaulted, spit on. Everything you can think of happens to us on a daily basis.” Davis recently told Good Day NY.
Riders skipping the fare box or flouting mask requirements put Transit workers tasked with enforcing the rules at especially high risk. Sometimes, however, there appears to be little rhyme or reason behind the attacks. Early this month, a man and woman beat up a female Bus Operator along the BX18 route in the Inwood section of the Bronx.
Bus Operators Wilfred Tineo and Sacha Alvarez both know what it’s like to be assaulted on the job. LaborPress spoke with them about their harrowing experiences, and what they think can be done to protect Bus Operators from further attacks.
Tineo has been on the job for 14 years. He was also driving the BX18 bus in the Bronx when he was assaulted last year. The incident occurred at 176th street. Tineo still appears visibly shaken when talking about what happened.
“Approaching a bus stop, this one gentleman didn’t have a face mask,” he says, “so, I pointed to my face mask and gave like a thumbs up. I finished approaching the bus stop, kneeled the bus, opened the doors, and he came in by my plexiglass — his face came around the plexiglass. I thought he was gonna ask me a question, or ask me for a face mask; I’ve always carried extra. [But] he leaned further in — and that’s when he let out whatever bodily fluid, whatever he carried in his mouth. It got all over my hair, got on my glasses, through my mask. It was just degrading. Disgusting. I don’t know how else to describe it. I relive it every time.”
The assault wasn’t the first time Tineo’s safety was threatened along the Bronx route. Once, while on the job, a rider pointed his fingers at him “right in front of the camera” as if to shoot him.
Tineo likes buses in Europe that have their doors placed further back away from the Bus Operators. He also says replacing the MTA’s current bus shields with “floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall shields” would be a very positive step in protecting Bus Operator like him. He also says cops are few and far between along his route — and that their presence in the Subway only serves to flush out potential troublemakers who then enter city buses.
“Sometimes,” Tineo says, “I tell [management] to ride the bus from start to finish in the Bronx.”
Alvarez has been a Bus Operator since August of 2021, but has already had her own terrible experience on the job. It happened this past February while driving the BX40 route in the Bronx. A man who was talking to himself began “speaking derogatorily” to her, as well as another woman on the bus. He then told Alvarez he wanted to get off, but she was stopped at a light and had to wait until it was safe. The man eventually exited the bus only only to return with what Alvarez describes as a “big branch, over a foot-long and at least an inch-thick.” The man charged back onto the bus and proceeded to go around the fare box when he started beating Alvarez with the makeshift weapon.
“I put my arm up to cover my head and my face,” Alvarez says. “No one helped me right away. “Eventually, some guy came in and took him off [the bus].”
But even that didn’t deter the assailant. Once out of the bus, he went around to her window, which was cracked open, and tried to get to her that way. Alvarez says she sustained bruises even though she was wearing “two sweaters and a coat.”
She wants to see something a lot sturdier and protective than re-designed plexiglass. “Something I can lock from the inside,” she says.