A shooting aboard a Greyhound bus traveling between Los Angeles and San Francisco shows how passenger and operator security for ground transportation is more vulnerable when compared to air travel, The Associated Press reported.
One passenger lost her life and five other people were wounded, two critically, in the shooting that happened as the bus was moving on Interstate 5 near the small mountain community of Lebec, Calif., early Monday, Feb. 3. The suspect, a Maryland man, was restrained by passengers and arrested by authorities.
“Anyone determined to carry out an attack on ground transportation faces few, if any, security checks,” the AP report stated.
The report mentions that more than 30 million people in the U.S. use ground transportation daily while 3 million fly. But spending on security for ground transportation such as passenger trains, subways, light rail and buses is dwarfed by spending on air transportation security. An estimate from a former U.S. representative mentioned that after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that security for buses, trains, subways and ferries combined was outspent by air security by more than $20 billion.
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Agency in conjunction with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is enacting security devices that scan for weapons and explosives, the first in the nation to do so, AP reported.
But duplicating the level of security that exists at the nation’s airports would be a difficult task for ground transportation providers nationwide, AP stated.
“As it is now, drivers and passengers are the de facto, frontline security when violence breaks out on buses,” the report stated.
Read the entire article from The Associated Press.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Board of Directors unanimously adopted a motion to establish an agency-wide Good Jobs and Equity Policy that will cover billions of dollars of taxpayer-purchased trains, buses, and equipment last night. The motion was introduced by Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis and included five co-authors from the Board: Los Angeles City Los Angeles City Mayor and Metro Chair Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, Councilmember Paul Krekorian, Duarte Mayor John Fasana, and Metro Director Jacqueline Dupont-Walker.
Under this new policy, for future train, bus, and related equipment purchases, Metro will apply the U.S. Employment Plan to all projects above $100 million to incentivize companies bidding on Metro contracts to create and retain high-quality jobs, partner with community and labor organizations to apprenticeship programs, and hire individuals facing barriers to employment.
“As the Secretary of Labor under President Obama, I have a deep and steadfast commitment to maximizing job creation and career development, with a special emphasis on providing employment to low-income residents and those facing barriers to employment,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Hilda L. Solis. “It is exciting to kick start this new year with new jobs for county residents. This policy helps achieve equitable outcomes throughout the region. Thank you to our partners and the Metro Board for making this policy a reality.”
Remarking on the USEP’s emphasis on opportunities for returning citizens, veterans, single parents, and other groups facing challenges to obtaining gainful employment, Pastor Amos Young, director of Community and Government Affairs for Project Caring and Sharing Family Services, said, “This Good Jobs and Equity policy prioritizes workers who are facing multiple, significant barriers to employment. We look forward to continuing to work with Metro, and our coalition, to ensure that clients of PCS Family Services and job seekers who have difficulty securing employment, can benefit from these opportunities.”

lacmta-logo The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) increased security after having received a bomb threat Monday, Dec. 5.
The threat warned of a possible attack at the Red Line subway’s Universal Station in Studio City, Calif.
LACMTA is working with the FBI and police to investigate this threat.
Read more from Progressive Railroading.

LOS ANGELES – Sheriff’s deputies were searching for a man Monday (Oct. 13) who made threats while traveling on a Metro bus through Lincoln Heights.

According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, a man and a woman boarded the bus from Line 33 around 1:45 p.m. at Venice Boulevard and Hoover Street.

Read the complete story at CBS Los Angeles.

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:

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – A Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) bus driver, and member of UTU Local 1563, was murdered aboard his bus here Sunday morning, May 20, by a lone gunman, according to media reports.

Alan Thomas, 51, who began driving part-time for LACMTA in 2007, and became a full-time driver in 2010, was taken to an area hospital following the shooting and later pronounced dead. He reportedly had been shot in the upper torso.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Thomas was leaving a layover area “when the lone passenger allegedly shot him.” The alleged shooter reportedly exited the bus through a rear window and awaited county sheriff’s deputies, who placed him under arrest without a struggle. Two weapons – a shotgun and a handgun — reportedly were recovered at the scene.

The alleged shooter, Anthony Craig Chambers, 41, of Los Angeles, was booked on a “suspicion of murder” charge and is jailed in lieu of $1 million bond, according to the Los Angeles Times. If convicted, he could face the dealth penalty under California law.

A detective told the Los Angeles Times that there was no apparent relationship between the bus driver and the alleged shooter.

Fellow bus operator Victor George, also a member of Local 1563, said, “We always are exposed to mental, verbal and physical abuse by passengers.”

UTU General Chairperson James Williams (LACMTA, GO 875) said, “I’d like to see more security on buses, such as law enforcement officers riding buses and doing spot checks.” Williams stopped short of calling for protective enclosures for drivers, saying “more study and member involvement is necessary.”

Calling the shooting “tragic,” Williams said, “We are all deeply saddened. Our thoughts and prayers are with Brother Thomas and his family.”

A friend of Thomas told the Los Angeles Times, “He had no enemies. He loved everybody. He associated with everybody.”

LACMTA CEO Art Leahy arranged for grief counseling to Thomas’ “family of fellow bus operators.”

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.

LOS ANGELES — For 15 years, Thomas L. Mitchell worked a Ponzi scheme targeting and draining the retirement funds of retired LACMTA bus workers, many of whom were UTU members.

The con artist will now spend his next nine years in federal prison – having pleaded guilty to mail fraud, according to The Los Angeles Times. And while Mitchell has been ordered to return to his victims millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains, it is likely the scores of retirees, whose comfortable retirement was ruined by the cheat, will never recover their money.

Federal prosecutors said Mitchell promised high investment returns in exchange for access to the victims’ retirement funds. Only a small fraction of the money was placed in legitimate investments, with most of the funds financing a lavish lifestyle for Mitchell, according to prosecutors

The federal judge who imposed the nine-year prison sentence described Mitchell’s scheme as a “remarkable level of deception” driven entirely by “greed.” A federal prosecutor said Mitchell “was able to lead a luxurious lifestyle by stealing the life savings of hard-working men and women who only sought a dignified retirement. For his criminal conduct, Mitchell richly deserves his nearly decade-long prison sentence.”

As UTU General Secretary & Treasurer Kim Thompson pointed out in a leadership column in 2010, while “the vast majority of investment advisers, investment firms and financial planners are trustworthy professionals, an encounter with only one dishonest individual could devastate your retirement.”

Thompson recommended retirees heed 10 steps suggested by best-selling author Charles Murray, a resident scholar with the American Enterprise Institute:

1) Every deal is a potential scam: Recognize that fraud is an act of deceit by one party intended to induce another to part with something of value.

2) Map out your goals before shopping or investing: There’s a difference between “buying” and “being sold.”

3) Avoid mixing business with pleasure: According to the National Institute of Justice, the attempt to defraud is more successful if a person knows or knows of the offender.

4) Don’t get greedy: Remain calm and dispassionate.

5) Be suspicious of “inside information,” “hot tips” and “one-time offers”: Why you instead of Tom-Dick-and-Harry?

6) Educate yourself: Beware of getting all your information from the seller.

7) Double check all facts: A cheat doesn’t want himself or his deal scrutinized.

8) Don’t wilt when the heat is turned up: It takes a secure person to say “no” to pressure and manipulation.

9) A promise is only as good as the person behind it.

10) Scams copy the same methods used in legitimate business dealings: Spotting the difference can be difficult. Five tell-tale signs:

* Something is promised that borders between reasonable and too good to be true.

* Victims typically know or know of the swindler.

* A sense of urgency exists.

* A cheat doesn’t want himself or the deal scrutinized;

* High-pressure sales tactics are used.

Says GS&T Thompson: “There are many investment instruments including your own UTUIA annuities that are available in which to place retirement funds that can provide the necessary security and still provide a cash stream in retirement years.

“In speaking with a financial adviser, find out what their experience has been. Check their credentials and demand other client references. And never write a check directly to an individual. Your payment should be to the investment firm or to the investment fund itself. A request for direct payment to an individual is a big red flag!

“Remember, your retirement funds represent a lifetime of savings, and there is no ‘do-over,’” Thompson warned.

By Vic Baffoni
Vice President, Bus Department

These are troubling times for our nation, states and municipalities. Budget problems are forcing cutbacks in a wide variety of public services, and public transit often is targeted for cuts.

At the extreme is the union busting going on in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and other states. But even where labor union collective bargaining isn’t under attack, we are facing severe challenges at the bargaining table and with cutbacks in service.

In the not too distant past, when the good times seemed as they would never end, government agencies borrowed and committed to future obligations. The future is now here and it is not a pleasant environment.

The UTU has negotiated some of the best contracts out there, but the economic landscape is now very different. Transit systems have laid off thousands of employees and reduced funding for services.

In Los Angeles, where the UTU represents more than 5,000 rail workers and bus operators, negotiations with the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority are slow moving and tense.

The State of California has been furloughing workers, while many cities and counties have frozen wages and benefits as they struggle to pay their obligations. The mood of taxpayers is that taxes should not rise.

Too often, the lawmakers who approve budgets — even those who historically have been union friendly — are turning a deaf ear on the needs of working families, who are struggling to keep their homes and put food on the table.

In this environment, I commend LACMTA General Chairperson James Williams (GO 875) and his negotiating committee, which includes Robert Gonzales, Lis Arredondo, Ulysses Johnson, Eddie Lopez and John Ellis. They are committed to protecting and preserving everything in our contracts and are working tirelessly to improve working conditions and job security for the membership.

I remain confident in their abilities. They are among the best of the best at the bargaining table, as is evidenced by the contracts produced in the past.

In addition to fighting for members at the bargaining table, Mr. Williams and Local 1608 Chairperson John Ellis have recently won a significant arbitration case on behalf of bus operator Adalid Morgana, who had been terminated following an accident.

Working on Mr. Morgana’s behalf, the UTU prevailed on evidence presented in the arbitration and won for him back pay and benefits.

LOS ANGELES — A Thursday morning in February started like most for bus operator and UTU Local 1564 member Darwin Dawson — making fruit and vegetable protein shakes for fellow Division 18 workers as part of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s health and wellness program.
By afternoon, Dawson was standing on the set of the Jimmy Kimmel Live show in Hollywood, collecting $650 in cash from host Kimmel — and it had nothing to do with buses or fruit and vegetable protein shakes (the latter a southern California thing, so don’t ask).
So let’s back up and sit a spell for this yarn, as Dawson is one fascinating fellow.
It begins in the garage of Dawson’s home in Redondo Beach, which he converted to a private sports bar for his friends and family. On display everywhere were old leather football helmets, antique cleats, brightly colored neon beer signs, five television screens — a memorabilia laden man-cave if ever there was one.
And, somehow, there was room for Dawson also to restore vintage Chevy pick-up trucks — the source of cash to keep those friends and family in beer and pretzels during Angels, Clippers, Dodgers and Rams ballgames.
Somehow, some hard-to-find ’49 Caddy parts found their way into the garage — the source of a barter that would lead to the Kimmel show. But let’s not get ahead of this story.
Some years back, in exchange for hard-to-find ’49 Caddy chrome bumper and other parts, Dawson acquired a 100-pound, 6’7″ fiberglass statue of basketball legend Michael Jordan, which fit oh so well in the home sports bar a/k/a Dawson’s garage.
Man-caves can change, and when Dawson decided it was time to redecorate — from a sports bar motif to an auto/bus motif — the Jordan statue become surplus. So Dawson put it up for sale at $650 on Craigslist.
Then came the call from producers of the Kimmel show. Kimmel wanted the statue as a gift to present Jordan on his birthday.
So, with help from Dawson’s 12-year-old son, into a Dawson-restored ’68 Chevy pick-up went the 100-pound statue, and down the road went Dawson and his son to the Jimmy Kimmel Live set in nearby Hollywood — a building but 100 yards from the route of the LACMTA bus Dawson drives.
In his driver’s uniform — at Kimmel’s request — Dawson gained his few minutes of national fame, selling the statue to Kimmel not for the $600 Kimmel offered, but the $650 Dawson insisted on receiving.
Hey, he’s a UTU brother, and UTU brothers and sisters don’t let even the Jimmy Kimmels of the world get the better in negotiations.
Basketball fans may notice something amiss in the photo. Yes, Jordan’s jersey shows #32, not the #23 Jordan wore with the Chicago Bulls.
Kimmel noticed that discrepancy, and Dawson had the answer. The statue was never “authorized” by Jordan — as were the legendary Nike Air Jordan shoes — but was created in the Philippines, perhaps by a dyslectic sculptor of knock-offs.
While insomniac Americans watched Dawson on Kimmel’s late night show, Dawson was sound asleep. He begins his day with the LACMTA at 4 a.m.

Late-night television host Jimmy Kimmel, right, pays UTU member Darwin Dawson for the Michael Jordan statue seen in the background.