Brooklyn, NY – A supportive B41 bus operator expressing solidarity with marchers protesting the police killing of George Floyd elicited cheers on Saturday afternoon, after she paused and allowed demonstrators to safely pass, honking her horn and giving everyone the thumbs up as they proceeded down Flatbush Avenue.
The show of solidarity came a day after a fellow TWU Local 100 member driving his bus outside the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, refused to transport a load of arrested demonstrators after police commandeered his vehicle on Friday night.
The B41 bus operator, identified on Twitter as Yasmin Rowe, reportedly said she was thankful TWU Local 100 had refused to transport demonstrators arrested outside the Barclays Center the previous night.
“We don’t work for the NYPD,” said Rowe as she happily paused between Parkside and Clarkson avenues.
The union representing New York City’s mass transit workers posted a Tweet on May 29, urging all TWU operators to refuse to transport protesters who police collared.
“TWU Local 100 Bus Operators do not work for the NYPD. We transport the working families of NYC , all TWU Operators should refuse to transport arrested protestors,” the Tweet declared.
Members of the Transport Workers Union in other cities also refused to ferry arrested demonstrators on behalf of police.
TWU International President John Samuelson sent his out his own Tweet on Friday night saying, “The TWU sued the @NYPDnews in 2011 during Occupy Wall St over efforts to force our Bus Ops to transport arrested protesters. The TWU refused then and is rightfully refusing now.”
An Amalgamated Transit Union [ATU] member in Minneapolis — the city where George Floyd was killed by police on May 25 — started a petition refusing to transport arrested demonstrators on behalf of cops.
ATU International President John Costa reaffirmed the right of union bus drivers to refuse the “dangerous duty of transporting police and arrested protesters away from these communities where many of these drivers live.”
“The Amalgamated Transit Union has a long history of fighting for social justice as well as the rights and equal treatment of all people regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation,” Costa said in a statement. “If any good is to come of this, we in the labor movement and the nation must unite to stop the systemic cycle of injustice, racism and hatred that plagues our country.”
Back in New York City, George Miranda, Teamsters Joint Council 16 president and head of the Teamsters National Hispanic Caucus, said the Teamsters National Hispanic Caucus stands in solidarity with “people across the country in condemning the murder of George Floyd.”
“But this problem stretches far beyond one group of officers,” Miranda said in a statement. “Black and Brown communities each face daily encounters with the police, and know the fear that any arrest or stop could turn deadly. We also have done the country’s most dangerous jobs, before and during the pandemic, while facing wage theft and union busting.”
The Teamsters Joint Council 16 leader also said it is “our duty as working people and union members to fight institutional racism head-on” and that the labor movement “must be part of the fight to dismantle racism, for our members and for all workers.”
Police in Minnesota killed Teamsters Local 320 member Philando Castile during a traffic stop four years ago. Jeronimo Yanez, the police officer who shot Castile dead was later acquitted of all charges.
“The twin evils of police violence and government negligence in the face of a global pandemic are falling predominantly on Black and Brown communities,” Miranda continued. “We must unite, workers of all races, to demand justice for all.”
George Gresham is the head of 1199SEIU — the biggest union in New York and the largest healthcare union in the nation. The union leader issued a statement in the aftermath of this weekend’s violent crackdown on demonstrators, denouncing the “scourge of police brutality the has targeted Black and Brown communities for generations.”
“We all saw the footage of George Floyd’s murder,” Gresham said. “This weekend, we also saw police brutality in New York City, carried out against groups of protestors exercising their constitutional right to assemble. We all saw footage showing the use of batons, tear gas, closed fist punches, and cars barreling through groups of people as tools to quell the voices demanding an end to the violence against Black people at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve.”
Observing the cops and their militarized equipment, the 1199SEIU leader also wondered “where the same protection — both literal and figurative — is for our frontline healthcare workers – many of whom live in communities that have already suffered enough discrimination and trauma to last a lifetime.”
On Sunday morning, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams told LaborPress that his is proud of the way TWU Local 100 bus operators reacted to the violent crackdown on demonstrators.
TWU, particularly Local 100, have a particular history of standing with the people, and I was proud to have their endorsement when I first ran for city council,” Williams said. “I was proud to see that they would take the side the people. That really means focusing on how to ease the pain and anger.”
In contrast to Mayor Bill de Blasio, who looked at the NYPD’s actions during this weekend’s violence and said the department acted “appropriately” —the public advocate called it a “terrible response” and demanded action.
“You cannot see what people are seeing and say that was an appropriate response,” Williams told LaborPress. “We can’t have police officers who are throwing out white power signs — it just should not be. They should not be police officers; they should be removed. We can’t have police officers who, perhaps, haven’t been trained how to handle a panicked situation and are going to handle it by plowing through protesters. That’s not something that we can accept.”