Passengers board a Detroit city bus (The Detroit News)
The Detroit Department of Transportation is warning bus riders that there may be no service Monday due to a sick-out organized by the union, but the bus drivers' union officials maintain there are no such plans to encourage workers to take sick leave.
“DDOT is sorry to announce bus driver’s union have scheduled a sick-out Monday, Oct. 21,” a recording on the department’s hotline said at 4:30 p.m. Saturday. “Bus service will not be in operation. When service is fully restored, the department will inform all. Again, we are sorry for the inconvenience.
Fred Westbrook, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 26, said the union has planned a rally at 10 a.m. Monday at the Coleman Young Municipal Building to address a rash of violence against bus drivers.
“I’ve asked those who have the day off to come out and if you can to take a vacation day, but a sickout strike — that’s not my intention,” Westbrook said. “Now, Monday when we have the rally, if drivers show up and call off sick, I can’t do anything about that.”
Westbrook said there have been four bus drivers hospitalized in the past week: two drivers were stabbed; one was attacked by three passengers and a female bus driver had urine thrown on her.
“The deterioration of the bus system is not the drivers’ fault,” Westbrook said. “We are going beyond the duty required of us. I want to let (passengers) know it’s not our fault.
“We are doing what we can, we cannot be expected to be stabbed, spit on and have urine throw on us, and come to work the next day.”
U.S. Transportation Department funds will ensure access to $100 million in transit grants, including immediately releasing $24 million to repair and rehabilitate buses and to install security cameras to protect passengers and drivers as a part of the $300 million in new, re-purposed funds the federal government announced last month. But Westbrook said cameras aren’t a viable solution for preventing violence.
“Cameras on the bus is just for litigation,” he said. “I don’t believe cameras on the bus will dispel people form being irate if we are still passing them up and packing them in like sardines.