NEW YORK -- Gov. Kathy Hochul has signed a bill into law imposing stiffer penalties on anyone who assaults a transit worker.
The governor signed the bill at the Jamaica Bus Depot on Monday, CBS2's Natalie Duddridge reported.
"Stuff has been thrown at me, cursed out on the regular," said Cory Milliner, a bus operator and assistant shop steward with Local ATU 1056.
Milliner, who said he has worked for the MTA for 25 years, said he has seen an increase in assaults targeting transit workers since the COVID pandemic started.
"Right now, we have about maybe 15 to 18 people out from assaults," Milliner said.
In 2022 so far, there have been 118 assaults -- up 23 percent from last year -- and more than 2,500 incidents of harassment. Video from May 5 shows a Bronx bus operator being kicked and punched by two people.
"Our workers, not protected the way they should be in our laws until today," Hochul said Monday. "We'll now cover over 11,000 more transit workers who were left out of these protections up until today."
Existing laws already protected train and bus conductors and operators, station agents and cleaners. The new bill expands the law to cover all workers, including repair staff and equipment inspectors.
The bill makes it a second-degree felony to assault a transit worker. It passed unanimously in the state Assembly. The state Senate passed it 62-2.
However, the bill focuses solely on serious injuries, not harassment.
"We need more security. We need more police on buses," said Natalie Pierre King, an MTA bus operator.
King was recently training a new bus operator and was targeted while standing next to the driver's seat.
"A customer come on the bus and was upset that the driver wasn't driving fast enough, because he's learning, and spat on me," King said.
Transit workers have renewed calls to raise penalties for spitting on workers from a violation to a misdemeanor. They'd also like floor-to-ceiling barriers on new buses to better protect drivers.
Under the new law, criminals found guilty of assaulting a transit worker could face up to seven years in prison.
The MTA estimates there have been 15,000 police patrols on buses this year, a major increase from the past.
for more features.