The head of the Transport Workers Union said he will assemble a task force to lobby Harrisburg for legislation that would add further protection for transit workers after a second operator was attacked late last week.
The latest incident happened Thursday afternoon on the Route 22 bus in Hatboro. The female operator was letting a male passenger off the bus when the male allegedly began striking her with his fists and an umbrella. The assault happened two days after another female operator was shot on an unoccupied bus in Grays Ferry.
“He lunged at me and I moved back. He lunged at me again, and when he lunged at me the second time, I went down and … he started hitting me with the umbrella. One of the guys had to come pull him off me,” said Wanda Avery, who’s worked for SEPTA for seven years.
Avery said when the attack started the bus was still in gear with about 15 passengers on board, so she had to put it in neutral while trying to defend herself in order to avoid an accident.
According to SEPTA, 47 operators have been assaulted this year, more than double the 20 from last year.
John Johnson, president of Transport Workers Union Local 234, said a task force will urge lawmakers to support the bill sponsored by state Sen. Christine Tartaglione, of Philadelphia, that would add transit operators to the protected class, increasing penalties for those who assault them.
“We can’t keep living like this. It’s crazy. Aside from the operators’ [safety], it’s a public danger,” Johnson said.