CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Still recovering from his injuries, RTA bus driver Gregory Vranekovic said he was too afraid to fight back during an attack Thursday, fearing he would lose his job.
Transit union leaders say that is simply unacceptable.
“And that's because the fear of what happened to brother (Artis) Hughes being fired, if he got up to defend himself, and we cannot have that," said William Nix, Sr., ATU President of Local 628.
Just last month, an RTA driver had hot coffee thrown on him. And in September, Hughes, who was also an RTA driver, punched an unruly passenger after she allegedly spit on him and choked him. He was charged with misdemeanor assault, and she was charged with disorderly conduct.
Hughes was fired Tuesday.
Then Thursday, Vranekovic, 59, was punched in the face as he was driving the No. 15 bus down Union Avenue on Cleveland’s East Side.
The person who assaulted him ran away after entering the bus through the back door and refusing to pay the fare.
Nix said drivers are fed up, renewing calls for tougher laws, more security and stricter penalties against hostile drivers.
And the RTA is responding by continuing to work on ways to address the issues. Solutions include a text alert system that would allow customers to text tips to transit police and even send pictures and videos anonymously.
The RTA is also testing protective equipment for drivers and has already increased uniformed and undercover officers riding on RTA vehicles.
"They're gonna have to help us to get these laws, get these dividers that's gonna help us get the shields that will help shield people from being able to put their hands on our drivers or spit on our drivers, but we gotta have laws," said Nix.