NYC Bus Drivers Take 3 Paid Months Off After Passengers Spit on Them

NYC Bus Drivers Take 3 Paid Months Off After Passengers Spit on Them

May 25, 2010
Originally published in Opposing Views

New Yorkers have a reputation for being rude. But they are also a sensitive lot. Especially bus drivers. Last year, angry customers literally spit on bus drivers 51 times. The experience was so harrowing for one unidentified driver that he or she needed 191 days of paid leave to recover. The average driver took 64 days of paid leave after being spat upon.

Seems a bit much. But union leaders think it’s justified.

“Being spat upon — having a passenger spit in your face, spit in your mouth, spit in your eye — is a physically and psychologically traumatic experience,” said John Samuelsen, the union’s president. “If transit workers are assaulted, they are going to take off whatever amount of time they are going to take off to recuperate.”

Getting spit on is not fun. And it can certainly ruin one’s day. But the recovery time for most people is measured in minutes, not months.

Raul Morales, 52, has been driving city buses for five years, but his first encounter with spit came early.

“A guy wanted to get on the bus; I told him the fare; he didn’t want to pay it,” Mr. Morales said. “So, he spat at me.”

The spittle landed on his shirt and glasses. He stopped at a nearby McDonald’s to clean himself off, then finished his shift. “I just kept on going.” (An ice slushie was once thrown at him for the same reason.)

Mr. Morales said it did not occur to him to take an extended absence to recover.

Good to see that common sense isn’t completely dead.

It is sad that so many transit employees have no problem taking months-long vacations at taxpayer expense, using the flimsiest of excuses. That kind of behavior wouldn’t fly in the productive sector.

New York City Transit is running a $400 million deficit this year. Saliva-induced vacations alone account for nearly a million dollars of that, based on average salaries. That money could have gone towards softening looming service cuts. It could have gone to repairing aging infrastructure. It could have gone to employees who actually work.

But when labor rules are as generous as they are for many public-sector union workers, it should come as no surprise that some people will game the system.