“My conductors, on a weekly basis, are either verbally or physically assaulted.” Two assaults were reported recently, he said, including one against a female conductor who required medical attention after she was pushed into a train wall. –Stephen Burkert, a New Jersey Transit union leader
Conductors, engineers, ticket salesperson and others working for the New York Subway system, the Long Island Rail Road, Amtrack and New Jersey Transit have become punching bags for the public frustrated about increasingly unreliable service.
It’s a tough time to work on the rails that move millions of people to and around New York City every day. Subway delays and disruptions have become expected and planned for in one’s schedule, while the Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit, two of the nation’s busiest commuter lines, have been dogged by derailments and have warned riders to be prepared for a “summer of hell” as Amtrak repairs deteriorating infrastructure at Pennsylvania Station.
Riders react, every day, and those reactions are not aimed at the management of the transit agencies or at the two governors, Andrew M. Cuomo of New York and Chris Christie of New Jersey, who control them. Subway and train operators, conductors and station agents spoke of the toll of being the faces of their increasingly unreliable systems. They are voices grimly familiar to riders on the train, via vague announcements — “we should be moving shortly” — but not often heard speaking about their work. Their tribulations are lost in the complaints of the passengers.
Morale among employees is down and workers who were once proud of the job they do now hide their uniforms on their way to work.
Transit workers feel like they’re punching bags.
Lynwood Whichard, a recording secretary with the Transport Workers Union Local 100, which represents subway workers, hears constant complaints from employees in the stations: “Verbally abused, cursed, spit on,” he said. “People are hostile.”
Some put part of the blame on passengers, particularly those who complain about missing instructions or re-routing information because they’re plugged into their earphones. But the transit employees have some sympathy for passengers. After all, they’re paying for a service they’re not getting.
And even the workers on the rail have to take public transit home at the end of the day — they’re not just employees; they’re also transit commuters — who often arrive late back to their families at the end of the day because of the same service disruptions that plague everyone else.