CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) — The head of the CTA bus drivers union said a driver beaten on Michigan Avenue Saturday night is recovering and that his members are coming under attack more frequently than the public knows.
“It happens because there’s no fear of repercussion,” said Amalgamated Transit Union Local 241 president Keith Hill.
Hill said drivers fear going to work but that troublemakers have no fear they’ll receive anything more than a slap on the wrist.
“You tell them, ‘Hey, man. I’m [going to] call the police,’ and the troublemakers respond, ‘For what? Just be right back out and I’ll see you tomorrow,’” he explained.
The union local president represented nearly 4,000 CTA bus drivers and said that on the same day the driver was attacked outside his bus downtown, four other drivers were spit at across the city, including one female driver.
“She was very frustrated and very agitated ‘cause this, I think, it was her third time this year that this incident has happened, but she was brave enough to continue and keep going,” Hill shared.
Hill said the driver attacked Saturday night at Michigan Avenue and Washington Street had gotten off his bus to check to see what the loud noise was outside his bus in case the bus accidentally hit someone. Hill said it was at a time when dozens of young people were causing chaos downtown that the driver was attacked. That driver is at home recovering.
“Mentally, it’s traumatizing. Physically, he has a couple of bumps and bruises. We encouraged him to take the time, clear your head, heal,” he said.
Hill said that attack received more reporting in the media because it happened downtown. “Although it’s eye-opening to the public, it’s something we deal with every day,” he said.
Hill said he does not blame Chicago police which he says are stretched thin responding to carjackings, robberies and other crime. He said the CTA needs its own police force.
The Chicago Police Department has its own Mass Transit Unit.
“We’re very prideful at what we do. We’re dedicated to what we’re doing but, right now, it’s getting too dangerous to do what we’re doing,” he said.
Keith Hill said the CTA and his union have been meeting regularly to discuss safety issues but that, “The police are very, very stretched thin. The city is under siege and it’s falling on deaf ears.”