CLEVELAND – For the first time publicly, Cleveland transit union leaders are coming out in defense of bus driver, Artis Hughes, suspended after punching an unruly passenger in a viral video seen worldwide.
"He didn't ask for this to happen, so it's stressing him. And he wants to be at work," says Amalgamated Transit Union president of Local 2689 William Nix, Sr. about the veteran driver who he says has a great reputation in the 22-years he’s been on the job and who is a family man that loves his job.
Nix says Hughes, 59, acted “human” in defending himself, adding, " We're not gonna say the driver is just supposed to go and attack someone. If someone is violating their space and attacking them, what do you want them to do."
It was September 18th, Hughes was put to the test when passenger, Shidea Lane, 25, refused to pay the fare at a stop in Beachwood. Nix says Lane got physical when Hughes threatened to put her off his bus.
Nix says, "You heard the operator tell her several times get behind the line, get behind the line, but you don't put your hands on the operator because it can cause, it could’ve been worse. The bus driver could've ran into a wall, pole, killed people. We don't want that. And we need something in place to help protect them on that.”
The transit union president is now calling on the RTA, Cleveland council members and state leaders to draft legislation that would ultimately protect bus and rapid drivers against unruly passengers.
Nix says it’s something the union has been fighting for years and says it’s sad that it takes an incident like this, to be taken seriously.
"They gotta go home safe and whole, like they came to work,” Nix says, “They shouldn't have to come losing an eyelid, eye or limb or die because they're trying to do their job."