The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

L.A. Transit Operators Stage a Sick Out

May 6, 2024

On May 2, about 360 Los Angeles Metro bus and train operators staged a sick-out, leading to delays and cancellations on 40 bus routes. This protest was in response to the violent attacks workers have been exposed to in recent months.

Mass transit operators risk their lives day in and day out. Last year, Metro logged 168 assaults on transit operators, including being spat on and stabbed. That violence has escalated in recent months. In February, Metro logged 12 attacks, nearly one every other day. In March, a passenger hijacked a bus with a BB gun and crashed it into the front of a hotel. In April, a passenger repeatedly punched and stabbed an operator in front of 50 passengers. A few days later, a 65-year-old female worker returning home from her late-night shift was stabbed to death while she was getting out of a train.

After the latest murder, the transit agency held an emergency session, promising bigger protective barriers around the drivers and more cops: that is, more of the same and highly inadequate. Even in the best of times, the police don’t appear to care.

Metro employees will need to fight to impose their own solutions. That means reducing sources of stress for both passengers and drivers, like allowing free fares and much better transit service. There need to be more employees on the buses and trains to help defuse tensions before they rise.

In fact, the increase in violence is the product of the worsening crisis of homelessness and misery that is hitting more people in the poorest and most vulnerable parts of the population. The housing situation is so bad in Los Angeles that 40% of all renters fear falling into homelessness, according to a recent study by UCLA. And food prices have gone up so high the same 40% fear that they cannot afford to feed their families.

These are problems transit drivers can’t solve. But they can be part of a larger fight that needs to be made by the working class to force the capitalists back up and off of impoverishing workers and the population.