City transportation unions demand harsher punishment for harassment of workers
Transportation unions banded together to demand harsher punishments for people who harass and spit on transit workers.
Bus driver Yomaira Guerrero says a passenger threw some sort of liquid on her back in 2019. She says she hasn't been able to go back to work since due to post-traumatic stress disorder caused by the incident.
Guerrero worked out of the West Farms Bus Depot on East 177th Street in the Bronx. She says something has to change to protect transit workers.
"You never expect something like that to happen to you," she says. "It's really hard because we just wake up every day and go to work, and it is not fair."
Eight transportation unions came together in Manhattan on Friday to spread the message. They say their 60,000 workers from the city bus and subway system, Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North are essential for transporting front-line workers and that they deserve to be treated with dignity.
The unions demand that state legislators approve Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal to change the penal code. It would make harassment, like spitting on transit workers, a misdemeanor instead of just a violation.
The group says there were more than 200 incidents of transit workers being spit on in 2020 and in 2019. One Metro-North conductor was spit on in the face and eye last year. He called the experience "very traumatic."
The conductor says he had to go on anti-HIV medication just in case and take multiple COVID-19 tests.
"It's a terrible feeling because you're putting yourself at risk to keep the city moving, to keep the passengers going," he says.
Guerrero says she still suffers from PTSD but that the new law would at least be a step in the right direction if passed.
"It would be a relief. It would be helpful. I would be happy," she says.