SEAT Drivers Call for More Protections

The union representing SEAT bus operators says there has been a rise in verbal assaults and threats during the pandemic.

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The union representing drivers for the Southeast Area Transit District says it wants more protection for bus operators.

"It is very stressful," said Sendra Childs, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1209. "This seems like it has gotten worse. We have asked for help and we are not getting help."

ATU Local 1209 represents about 40 SEAT bus operators. According to a press release from the union, there has been an increase in assaults against bus operators "for simply enforcing safety regulations like the federal mask mandate on public transit."

"Sometimes they get violent with us or they start cursing us out," said Childs.

Now the union is asking SEAT supervisors to "better protect workers and riders." They are calling for better bus shields for drivers that offer more coverage, more police presence at transit centers and a better emergency alert contact system.

Michael Carroll, general manager of the SEAT district, said his team will look into their current driver barriers and emergency contact system to see if they can make improvements.

"We were one of the first systems in the state that had all of its buses equipped with driver barriers. We will look to see if there is some way of making improvements or additions to those," said Carroll.

According to Carroll, if an incident is brought to SEAT's attention they investigate and take "appropriate action." They review surveillance camera video from the bus if it is available.

"In some cases we have barred customers from further service if the situation warrants," said Carroll. “In the customer service business sometimes we have to learn to put up with a certain amount of less than desirable behavior. Sure, sometimes people may say things that are inappropriate. What we want to do is make sure we control our emotions and de-escalate those situations.” 

Carrol said that SEAT bus operators will be receiving a pre-scheduled de-escalation training in October.

Several drivers told NBC Connecticut today that they don't feel that SEAT is doing enough.

"We need management to listen to our concerns, take it seriously and do something about it," said Childs.

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