Union speaks out about safety of VTA drivers and operators after recent attack

A recent string of assaults against VTA drivers and operators is shedding more light on how dangerous it can be for these essential workers.

This week, Santa Clara Sheriffs released photos asking for the public’s help in finding a man who attacked a bus driver. 

Just in the month of May alone, there were 10 assaults against VTA drivers and rail operators. VTA says it’s doing all that it can to keep them safe but the union doesn’t think it’s enough. 

"Shot with an arrow, hit from behind, concussed, an operator punched in the eye months ago while on his break." 

The President of ATU Local 265, the union that represents VTA’s drivers and operators, says its members being assaulted at work is common place. Last month a VTA bus driver was knocked unconscious after Santa Clara County Sheriffs say this man attacked him without cause during his break. VTA says from February to April, drivers or operators were assaulted eight times. 

"They’re serving our community and helping people get where they need to go. They deserve to be treated with respect. They deserve to be able to do their job without fear of being assaulted or attacked by someone," said Stacey Hendler Ross, VTA's Public Information Officer.

Hendler Ross says they train operators to deescalate confrontations and they have security officers that patrol the transit system. 

"But it’s impossible to have an officer on every bus and every train that we run here, just as it’s impossible to have a police officer on every street corner in a town or a community," Hendler Ross said. 

MORE: Sheriff's officials seek help in locating suspect in VTA bus operator assault

Still drivers and operators say more needs to be done to keep them safe while they’re working. 

"Let’s look at some of the security contracts that we actually have here. Is it an ‘observe and report’ or are they actually there to protect people? Let’s look at the hours that they work. Let’s see if they’re around the clock. Let’s see if there’s an actual presence on the vehicle. I can tell you that every single item that I mentioned right now, I check the box as a NO because that’s not what’s happening," Courtney said. 

VTA says they’ll prosecute perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law and they need the public’s help to catch these attackers. The Union says they’re building a Bay Area coalition that will lobby to make work safer for all essential workers.