Metrobus drivers demanding better protection after passenger throws urine at colleague

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - The X2 line had delays for hours this morning after Metrobus drivers say they wanted a police officer or supervisor on the bus with them.

The line was taken out of service and passengers were forced to use alternative routes.

"What did metro do instead of riding with them they took them out of service, they are going to discipline them for saying you are not keeping me safe," says Jackie Jeter, president of ATU Local 689, the union representing operators, clerical and maintenance workers for WMATA. "What kind of crap is that, it doesn’t make any sense."

However, Metro claims the drivers were refusing to operate the buses.

The union took a stance at the Minnesota Avenue Metro Station in light of the incident involving their colleague earlier this week.

Bus cameras recorded 38-year-old Opal Brown standing up in front of the bus when she opened a cup and waited for the bus to stop.

Police say as she was leaving, the driver told her to have a nice day and she responded by asking "are you talking to me" and then tossed urine at the driver's head.

The U.S. Attorney's Office charged her with misdemeanor assault and was released on personal recognizance on Wednesday pending a status hearing set for 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 28, 2017.

A judge ordered that stay away from the Metrobus driver and the X2 Metrobus line and report to the Court's Mental Health Urgent Care Clinic for an assessment.

"The lady reached around the bus shield, the urine got in the operator’s mouth, the operator is so depressed, so down," says Carroll Thomas.

The union says the bus shields are not doing enough and the laws should be stronger.

Metro released a statement about this morning, saying:

"ATU Local 689, the union representing Metrobus Operators, is currently engaged in an unauthorized and potentially unlawful labor action that is significantly impacting riders on the X2 line. The stated goal by union leadership is to draw attention to safety concerns, specifically bus operator assaults, following an incident on Saturday. This is a subject on which Metro and the union agree: Absolutely no one should be assaulted simply for doing their job. However, we disagree with impacting Metro customers who are simply trying to get to work and school by Metrobus Operators refusing to provide bus service in a disruptive and unlawful job action.

Metro and the union also agree that laws need to be strengthened to help protect bus operators, including enhanced penalties for anyone who assaults a frontline transit worker.

We should note that, working with the Union, Metro has taken several steps to address the issue of bus operator safety. For example, Metro Transit Police now have nearly 40 Transit Police officers specifically assigned to Metrobus. These officers are embedded with our bus operators at Shepherd Parkway and Northern bus divisions with the goal of sharing information with operators about where problems are being encountered. Additionally, more than a third of Metrobuses have now been equipped with protective shields and all new buses will arrive from the factory with a safety shield already installed. In addition, every Metrobus has been equipped with digital cameras that are always recording, as well as communication equipment that allows the operator to call for help with the push of a button."

Metro Transit Police Chief, Ronald A. Pavlik, Jr., said it's unrealistic to have officers on every single Metrobus when there are thousands of them.

The union says Metro is being dishonest when they say they are working with them to discuss the issues of bus operator safety and their fight for better protection will continue.