Kansas City, Mo. – KCATA bus operators rallied for higher wages and safer working conditions Monday. They say the shortage of drivers forces them to work long hours and puts them and passengers in danger.
Wendell Ferguson said it was different to operate KCATA buses before the pandemic and free fares continued. Now he describes an average day on the bus as “chaos”.
Ferguson said from the time he hit the road at 4 a.m. to take people to work throughout his 19-hour workday, the ridership changed.
“We’re driving people to the liquor store all day, to the drugstore all day, the mentally ill, the way I feel it’s a mobile psychiatric center,” Ferguson said.
He said he had his life threatened, his window kicked in, all to start paying $17.85 an hour. He said, the frustration of motorists can arise from unfilled routes.
“We went and people were like ‘you’re two hours late’ and they called you out and left and all I could explain to them was my paperwork lady said I was on time,” he said. .
The union representing KCATA operators said they are down about 100 bus operators now, or about 25%.
“You ask people to do more, 16-18 hours a day which causes fatigue with our operators. We have to do it in an emergency, but when every day is an emergency it is a difficult feat for people every day,” said the President of the Union Amalgamated Transit William Howard.
“Two weeks ago I was scheduled to work 19 hours two days a week and I had to tell them two days I can’t do it, you’re not going to drive me to an early grave,” Ferguson said.
Howard said he is aware of at least ten assaults on drivers in the past few months.
“Nobody wants to come to work and get hit in the face. You’re here to take care of your family here to serve the community, you want your working conditions to be safe,” said Howard.
They are asking KCATA for more transit officers than the two KCPD officers they currently have and to review their contracts and wages in hopes of hiring and retaining more bus operators. Some that Ferguson said went to other departments.
“The mental stress that’s going on I can understand why a lot of drivers would rather wash the bus then go here now,” said Ferguson.
A KCATA spokesperson did not respond to FOX4’s request for comment today. The KCATA website says they hire drivers with no experience required and they will pay for your training to get a commercial driver’s license.
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