Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has responded to the ongoing strike of bus drivers Saturday afternoon, saying he hasn’t “gotten a single complaint or request from the leaders of the drivers union” expanding on their concerns on security in the past four months.
While there are concerns on safety, Duggan said the strike is also in response to the discipline of a driver’s reaction to a passenger not wearing a mask. Because of this, he said, the strike violates contract law.
Detroit bus drivers have been on strike since Friday, saying the Detroit Department of Transportation had failed to protect employees from COVID-19 and assaults. Some of these assaults were over mask-related disputes, with passengers lashing out when being asked to put on protective face-coverings.
“They are fed up with ongoing assaults, threats by angry riders refusing to wear masks, and other safety concerns while (Detroit Department of Transportation) officials are doing nothing to provide any protection at all,” Glenn Tolbert, President of Amalgamated Transit Union in Detroit said in a news release. “Way before the pandemic even began, we had demanded the agency provide us with police protection, training, emergency communication, and other safety measures.”
Duggan said he met with the union four months ago in response to their safety concerns and replied with installing security doors next to drivers. He said the union had signed off on the design of the doors, recalling that they were pleased with the results. Duggan also said Detroit buses also have cameras installed to track and prosecute assaults.
“So when you don’t hear from the unions that there is an issue, it’s a little surprising when you get up on Friday morning and find out they just didn’t show up for work, stranding people all over the city without notice,” he said.
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“We initiated discussions with DDOT early this morning in hopes of finding real solutions,” Tolbert said. “Instead DDOT offered inadequate half-measures, leaving bus drivers and riders exposed to violence on buses and COVID-19.”
Duggan also said the strike was in response to a driver’s suspension.
Tolbert said the driver was fired for acting in self-defense when a passenger became violent after being asked to wear a mask. Duggan said the found the video of the incident “disturbing”, adding DDOT’s response was appropriate.
According to Duggan, the individual did not wear a mask when entering the bus. When asked where his mask was, the passenger covered his face with a piece of clothing. The driver did not start the bus, which prompted the passenger to cross the line and ask why the bus was going. Duggan said the passenger’s actions were inappropriate. He did not expand on the driver’s response, but said “(i)t wasn’t go back to your seat, it wasn’t stay back behind the line.”
The driver, he said, is in the middle