CHICAGO – CTA bus drivers are calling for more security after one of their own was attacked by two drunk passengers. Drivers said not enough is being done to protect them, and they want harsher penalties for any attackers.
Melissa Barker was assaulted by two drunk female passengers who poured alcohol on her while she was driving. They were initially charged with misdemeanors but after a couple of dozen of her co-workers came out to court on Monday, the charges were upgraded to felonies.
Driving is a job Barker loves but only under the right conditions.
“I want to do it to the best of my ability without my safety being compromised,” she said. “I feel that the laws regarding us being attacked should be enforced.”
From January to August there have been 117 attacks on drivers. From January 2014 to June of this 2018, 129 drivers have been hospitalized after being attacked on the job.
Amalgamated Transit Union President Keith Hill demanded that all attack moving forward be felony charges with jail time.
While drivers currently have a plastic or fiberglass shield separating them from the public, Hill and the drivers said it’s not enough. They want a steel cage and video monitors that show passengers they are being recorded.
“We are here to ask for justice when a driver is assaulted they receive felony charges,” Hill said. “That we receive more protection more security as we perform our duties. We enjoy moving this city. We do it with pride. We’re just asking to do it safely.”
A CTA spokesman said the company is also in favor of felony charges over misdemeanors and said that is “committed to looking for ways to further boost safety and security.”