Independence, Ohio (March 25, 2024) — The union representing the transit operator involved in the Los Angeles bus hijacking demands immediate measures to protect their men and women, and the people they transport, from violence. The LACMTA incident, which hospitalized a union member, is the latest in a long series of incidents that expose the urgent need for our nation to rethink and prioritize the safety of public transit employees.

The Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD) represents bus and transit agencies from coast to coast. Late Wednesday, March 20, a man pulled a weapon on our member. He forced the bus operator to ignore traffic lights and oncoming vehicles. The result of the hijacker’s actions included injuries to the driver of another vehicle and the bus slamming into and damaging the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Thankfully, our member was treated and released from a local hospital, and no one was killed.

 “This is unacceptable. SMART-TD and I, personally, have been told repeatedly that our bus operators’ lives matter. We have been shown plans to form safety committees on bus properties, and directives straight from the Oval Office have demanded the Federal Transit Administration safeguard these men and women,” SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson said. “Our members are on the ground getting guns in their faces and putting their lives on the line. The time to ‘plan’ has long passed. We know what these professionals need, and that list is publicly available to the FTA and every bus and transit agency CEO and board. Employers must act now to protect their workers.”

In recent weeks, in addition to the Los Angeles incident, violence has been perpetuated on transportation workers serving SEPTA in Philadelphia, the New York City MTA and elsewhere.

FTA has solicited suggestions and opinions from SMART-TD and other labor organizations multiple times to prevent these nightmarish scenarios. SMART-TD has called for:

  • Providing operators with full enclosure in bullet-proof, glare-resistant glass.
  • Armed police or security officers on these buses.
  • Felony-level charges and punishments with a long, nonnegotiable jail sentence to anyone who assaults bus operators or transit workers.
  • Making fare payments and monetary transactions cashless and not incumbent on the bus operator.
  • Giving the bus operator an emergency exit on the left side of the bus.
  • Providing drivers with silent alarms allowing them to alert police of live shooters.

“Our position has always been consistent. We are facing a national epidemic of bus and transit assaults, and the only way we can address it is through immediate action by transportation agencies on these common-sense measures insisted upon by SMART-TD and the Biden/Harris administration,” President Ferguson said. “Our drivers should never have to worry about a physical confrontation over control of their steering wheel, as happened in the Los Angeles incident.

“These requests are non-negotiable, nor are they property-specific. They need to be universal and federally mandated. They need to happen NOW,” Ferguson said.

“As the president of this union, I’m entrusted to protect the well-being of our members. My options are limited. If the workplace this nation’s transit agencies provide is not safe, the one thing I can do is call for a safety standdown on all SMART-TD bus properties. A decision to keep our operators home is not one I take lightly, but neither is calling the mother, father, child, or spouse of one of my members to inform them their loved one was the victim of a violent incident that was preventable with simple safety measures. SMART-TD will not allow our brothers and sisters to work in what we know are unsafe circumstances.”

“If the leaders in the public transportation sector of this nation refuse or prove incapable of protecting our men and women, in the wake of what we saw in Los Angeles, make no mistake. This union will.”


If you’re interested in speaking more about transit worker safety, and the changes SMART-TD is calling for, we’d be happy to connect you with:

SMART Transportation Division President, Jeremy Ferguson

President Jeremy Ferguson, a member of Local 313 in Grand Rapids, Mich., was elected president of SMART’s Transportation Division in 2019. Ferguson, an Army veteran, started railroading in 1994 as a conductor on CSX at Grand Rapids, Mich., and was promoted to engineer in 1995. Ferguson headed the 2019 national rail negotiations for the union.

SMART Transportation Division Bus Department Sr. Vice President, Alvy Hughes

Vice President Hughes, a member of Local 1596 out of Charlotte, N.C., began his career in transportation with the Charlotte Area Transportation System in 1999 and has been a SMART-TD member ever since. Hughes was an Alternate Vice President at SMART-TD from 2014 through 2019, when he was elevated to his current role as Vice President.

SMART Transportation Division Bus Department Vice President, James Sandoval

Vice President Sandoval began his career as a bus operator at the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District for more than a decade. He assumed his first officer roles as general chairperson of GCA-SCM, alternate legislative representative, and local chairperson of LCA-SCM in January 2019. In February 2022, he assumed the position of Local 23’s legislative representative. In August 2022, Sandoval became alternate vice president of the Bus Department, serving the western portion of the nation. On Oct. 1, 2023, he was elevated to the position of TD Bus Department vice president.

The SMART Transportation Division was among the 36 signatories in a letter sent Aug. 4 calling on leaders in Congress to provide $36 billion in emergency aid to public transportation agencies as the economy continues to be staggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The letter delivered a stark warning to lawmakers: without at least $32 billion in emergency funding, transit systems in both urban and rural areas face irreversible harm. In the letter, the organizations explained that physical distancing measures, including stay-at-home orders, have taken a serious toll on demand for public transportation services. This, in turn, has placed a major strain on funding sources public transportation agencies traditionally rely on, including farebox revenue and sales tax receipts.
The text of the letter appears below:
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell, Leader McCarthy, and Leader Schumer:
On behalf of the millions of Americans who rely on public transportation every day, the 435,000 frontline workers who operate and maintain those systems, and the public transportation agencies that serve communities across America, we urge you to include at least $32 billion in funding for public transportation in the next COVID-19 emergency response bill.
As you know, physical distancing measures, including stay-at-home orders, have taken a serious toll on overall demand for public transportation services. This has placed a major strain on the revenue sources public transportation agencies count on for continued operations, including farebox revenue and sales taxes. Nonetheless, throughout this crisis, millions of Americans have continued to depend on reliable and safe public transportation to get to and from work and for other essential services.
Without robust public transit systems in our urban and rural communities alike, the national economy will not be able to recover. As recently reported in The New York Times, some public transit systems are in danger of heading into a “transit death spiral” where evaporating revenues lead to cuts in services, which in turn cause riders to find alternative means of transportation if they can, further incapacitating transit systems to the point where they become insolvent and inoperable. Communities and transit agencies of all sizes are hurting, and critical emergency funding must be made available immediately to avoid a worsening crisis.
Millions of essential workers bravely fighting on the front lines of this pandemic have no other means of transportation. Healthcare, grocery, and other workers will be put at risk of losing their jobs and livelihoods. And families who rely on transit for transportation to pick up food, get to work, and meet their health care needs will be left stranded. Likewise, Americans who depend on paratransit service and Medicaid recipients who receive medical transportation for critical care services will lose their only transportation lifeline. Seniors, communities of color, and other groups who disproportionately rely on transit will be particularly hard-hit, further weakening our country at the worst possible time.
Unfortunately, if Congress does not provide the necessary funding for public transportation in the immediate future, the traveling public will suffer. Allowing vital transportation services to lapse in the middle of a global pandemic will guarantee more harm to our communities and place the economic well-being of the American public in jeopardy.
Our communities across the country are depending on you to act swiftly and decisively to save public transit. This will require an immediate investment of at least $32 billion in our transit systems. We urge you to include this funding in the next aid package.


Amalgamated Transit Union
Active Transit Alliance (Chicago, IL)
American Public Transportation Association
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
Better Bus Coalition (Cincinnati, OH)
Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen
Central Ohio Transit Authority (Columbus, OH)
Center for Disability Rights (Rochester, NY / Washington, DC)
Central Maryland Transportation Alliance
Chicago Transit Authority (Chicago, IL)
Circulate San Diego
Coalition for Smarter Growth (Washington, DC)
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division (SMART-TD)
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Investing in Place (Los Angeles, CA)
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) (Los Angeles, CA)
Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (Houston, Texas)
Metropolitan Transportation Authority (New York, NY)
National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, SEIU
Pittsburghers for Public Transit
Riders Alliance (New York, NY)
San Francisco Transit Riders
Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA)
Sound Transit (Seattle, WA)
The Street Trust (Portland, OR)
Transit Forward Philadelphia
Transit Matters (Boston, MA)
Transportation for America
Transportation Communications Union/IAM
Transport Workers Union
Tri-State Transportation Campaign (NY, NJ, CT)
Transportation Choices Coalition (Seattle, WA)
Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Washington, D.C.)

A PDF version of the letter also is available.

General Chairperson John Ellis (Los Angeles County MTA) reports that Brother Wilfredo Corsino, a member out of Local 1607 (Los Angeles, Calif.), passed away on June 11 from COVID-19 complications.

Brother Corsino was 65 years old.
“Brother Corsino has been a part of our Union UTU/SMART since 1996,” Ellis said. “He was a 23-year veteran and a consistent supporter of the Union cause.”
Corsino began his career with LACMTA and worked out of Divisions 7, 10, and 13.
“On a personal level, many operators remember Brother Corsino’s infectious laugh and his love for Metro,” Ellis said. “Many of his co-workers stated that he was a great ping-pong and pool player.”
Brother Corsino is the eighth active member of the SMART Transportation Division reported to the union as having passed away from the novel coronavirus.
The union offers its sincere condolences to Brother Corsino’s family and friends and his union brothers and sisters at Local 1607.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced Oct. 23 that California and Oklahoma have obtained federal certification of their rail transit State Safety Oversight (SSO) programs.
Federal law requires states with rail transit systems to obtain FTA certification of their SSO programs by April 15, 2019. By federal law, the deadline cannot be waived or extended.
Twenty-seven of 30 states have received approval of their plans.
“FTA is pleased that California and Oklahoma have developed safety oversight programs that meet federal certification requirements and will strengthen rail transit safety,” said FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams. “With certification, transit agencies in California and Oklahoma can continue to receive federal funding.”
The California Public Utilities Commission is responsible for providing safety oversight of the following rail transit agencies:
San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District heavy rail, light rail and automated guideway systems;
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency light rail, cable car and streetcar systems;
Sacramento Regional Transit District light rail system;
Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority light rail system
San Diego Metropolitan Transportation System light rail system;
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority light rail and heavy rail systems; and
North County Transit District light rail (trolley) system.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation is responsible for providing safety oversight of the Oklahoma City streetcar system.
For the full release from FTA, follow this link.

The chief executive of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority said Tuesday that he would step down in April after six years of overseeing both high-profile failures and major milestones during the most ambitious rail expansion agenda in the agency’s history.

Leahy’s performance as chief executive has been under confidential review by the Metro board of directors for more than six months, and a majority of board members were ready to let his contract expire in April, according to sources familiar with the negotiations. But in an interview with The Times, Leahy, 65, said leaving Metro was his choice.

Read the complete story at the Los Angeles Times.

SMART Transportation Division members represented by General Committee of Adjustment GO 875 have approved a new agreement with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority that attains all of the goals sought by the committee’s negotiating team.

The general committee represents bus and light and heavy rail operators throughout the county’s transportation system, as well as schedule makers and schedule checkers for the agency.

“The major issues given to the committee’s negotiators by the membership were discipline policies and work rules, an elimination of a two-tier wage scale and the security of the health and welfare trust. This contract accomplishes all of those goals,” said SMART International Representative Vic Baffoni. “The committee sought to address these issues, first and foremost, and our members approved of their accomplishments.

“Preservation of our work rules was paramount, and we totally renegotiated the discipline policy to provide our members with job security and fair treatment.”

The general committee represents approximately 5,000 LACMTA employees and is the largest bus and transit property represented by SMART.

The negotiation team was led by GO 875 General Chairperson James Williams and general committee members Local 1607 Chairperson Lisa Arredondo, Local 1563 Chairperson Robert Gonzalez, Local 1564 Chairperson Ulysses “Butch” Johnson, Local 1565 Chairperson Eddie Lopez and Local 1608 Chairperson John M. Ellis.

In preparation for the negotiations, Williams held meetings with California Gov. Jerry Brown and Los Angeles City Mayor Eric Garcetti. Preliminary negotiations with the agency commenced in February, following discussions with members at local meetings to pinpoint their objectives for a new contract. Negotiations with LACMTA officials began in earnest in March.

“This General Committee is extremely proud of the work that was put into crafting the new work rules for our members. Other transportation unions have gone on strike to get a fraction of what our committee was able to accomplish. There is not a doubt in my mind that these rules will serve as a model for other bargaining units in the future,” Williams said.

Under the new contract, an unfair and divisive two-tier wage system was eliminated for good and was replaced by a seniority-based rate schedule. Under previous agreements, operators hired after July 1, 1997, were paid significantly less than operators hired on or before that date.

Employees will now see wage increases after five, six, 10, 11 and 17 years of full-time service.

“If you put in the time and do the job, any operator can now reach the top of the pay scale,” Williams said.

During the life of the contract, all operators will see at least one significant pay increase, with the top-rate employees receiving a 4.5 percent pay increase immediately. Trainees, schedule checkers and schedule makers, and some part-time operators, will receive rate increases as well.

GO 875 represents members of Transportation Division Locals 1563, 1564, 1565, 1607, 1608. LACMTA Metro operates 2,228 vehicles over 1,433 square miles. The authority reports its total calendar monthly system-wide boardings for July 2014 at 38,327,115 riders.


Pictured, from left, are Local 1564 Chairperson Ulysses “Butch” Johnson, Local 1608 Chairperson John M. Ellis, General Chairperson James Williams, Local 1607 Chairperson Lisa Arredondo, Local 1563 Chairperson Robert Gonzalez and Local 1565 Chairperson Eddie Lopez, GO 875 members who negotiated the LACMTA contract.

Some 600 mourners – including more than 300 coworkers and UTU officials — attended the funeral June 9 of slain Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) bus operator Alan Thomas, who was murdered May 20 by a lone passenger.
Also in attendance were law enforcement officials, transit executives and political leaders and representatives of other labor organizations. Thomas was remembered by his children, spouse, parents and other relatives for his strong family ties, and mourned as a public servant “doing a job for a community” when he was gunned down in a still inexplicable homicide.
Thomas was a member of UTU Local 1563.
To read the article on his slaying, click on the following link:

James Williams; William, James

LOS ANGELES – The almost 5,000 UTU members employed by Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) have ratified a new contract, through June 30, 2014, by better than a three-to-one margin.

The new contract provides for wage increases, a signing bonus, improved work rules, narrows the pay gap between the top and bottom tiers of employees, and maintains health care and pension benefits.

LACMTA General Chairperson James Williams led the negotiations, with assistance from UTU International Vice President Vic Baffoni.

“We have high praise for all the general committee and local officers who supported our efforts during a difficult two-year process to obtain this agreement,” Baffoni said. “We gained stability and job security in a very troubling economic environment and we are in a position to build on this agreement, on behalf of our membership, in better economic times.”

The agreement affects UTU Locals 1563, 1564, 1575, 1607 and 1608.