Unions Agree: Let Bus Drivers Kill People With the Right of Way

Unions whose leaders think it’s ok for bus drivers to kill law-abiding New Yorkers
Unions whose leaders think it’s ok for bus drivers to kill law-abiding New Yorkers

Just about all of New York’s major labor unions signed a Transport Workers Union letter demanding that MTA bus drivers be allowed to legally injure and kill people who are walking or biking with the right of way.

The letter, dated June 11, was sent to New York City Council members [PDF]. The unions want the council to pass a bill that would exempt bus drivers from the Right of Way Law.

The letter was signed by heads of the New York State AFL-CIO, the New York City Central Labor Council, the Hotel Trades Council, 1199SEIU, the United Federation of Teachers, the Uniformed Firefighters Association, and others.

One union chief who didn’t sign the letter: Pat Lynch of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, which represents NYPD officers.

After the requisite lip service to “the goal of reducing traffic accidents,” the unions object to “arresting, handcuffing and charging bus operators like common criminals for accidents that do not involve speeding, texting or some other form or demonstrably reckless behavior.”

The implicit meaning of that statement? Hitting and killing someone with the right of way is just an “accident” if you’re driving a bus. Union officials who signed the letter agree with TWU that bus drivers should not be treated like other motorists. “Bus Operators are in a class by themselves,” the letter reads.

A major point in the letter is that MTA discipline and training protocols are stringent enough to ensure that bus operators drive safely. But one of the TWU’s own once took issue with that claim. Pete Donohue is a TWU employee and former Daily News reporter who used his column as a platform for union opposition to the Right of Way Law. In 2012 Donohue chastised the MTA for failing to ground the bus driver who struck and killed Seth Kahn the first day he returned to the job after getting suspended for texting while driving.

MTA bus drivers killed eight people in New York City crosswalks in 2014.

The council bill to exempt bus drivers from the law has 25 sponsors, one short of a majority. Mayor de Blasio has defended the Right of Way Law against union attacks.