CTA workers march in Loop after spate of violence against bus drivers: ‘Give us safety for Christmas’
“We’re getting ready to shut down the street. Next time we’re going to shut down the city,” the president of the union that represents CTA bus drivers said.
About 100 CTA drivers marched from City Hall to Millennium Park Saturday, temporarily shutting down the corner of Michigan Avenue and Washington Street as they demanded the city increase protections for public transit workers — including by giving them their own police force.
“Enough is enough,” said Keith Hill, head of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 241, which represents bus drivers. “We are asking somebody to give us safety for Christmas.”
The demonstration came a week after a driver was beaten at the same Loop intersection and hospitalized. In September, a driver was shot in the jaw when he asked a passenger to step off the bus at the end of another downtown route.
The union’s primary demand is that the CTA get their own police force, similar to Metra’s, Hill said.
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“We at one time had our own police department and we want that back,” Hill said. “The police are stretched thin, they got crime going on. We could do this ourselves. We had it once upon a time. We want it back again.”
CTA representatives have noted that unarmed security guards patrol the system, with more being added next year. “The safety and security of our employees is our top priority, and we have zero tolerance for anyone seeking to harm them,” CTA spokesman Brian Steele said Friday.
But Hill said an even larger public safety presence — and the threat of repercussions for those who attack operators — is needed to make drivers feel safe. Rena Mosley-Cotton, who said she’s been attacked multiple times as a bus driver, agreed.
“[I’ve been] spit on three times. Witnessed knives pulled on me,” Mosley-Cotton recounted through tears to the crowd at the demonstration. “This has got to stop, people.”
Yet Mosley-Cotton keeps driving.
“[I] take care of my family in the city of Chicago, these people got to get around too,” Mosley-Cotton said. “They’re just like us. You still got to go to work, we still got to go to work.”
A representative for the transit agency said Saturday there were “no plans to implement a police force.”
“The Chicago Police Department provides law-enforcement services for the CTA, and we have a close working relationship through which we work aggressively to deter crime, and investigate it when it does happen,” the CTA wrote in a statement.
Eric Dixon, the president of the union that represents CTA train drivers, said he wants the city to give them a seat at the table.
“I want my members to feel safe to come to work,” Dixon said. “I want them to come to work and go home the same way they came. That’s it. I’m not asking for more.”
According to Hill, the union has recorded nearly 400 instances of CTA drivers being attacked this year, a figure that includes verbal assaults.
If the city doesn’t act on the union’s demands to increase safety for CTA workers, Hill said they’re prepared to take “drastic measures.”
“We’re getting ready to shut down the street. Next time, we’re going to shut down the city,” Hill said.