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Detroit buses to roll Tuesday after driver protest

DETROIT (AP) – Detroit buses will roll again Tuesday after a drivers’ protest over safety issues halted operations for a day, a union leader says.

About 150 drivers rallied Monday outside Detroit City Hall to protest what they see as a lack of protections for drivers, who have seen a recent series of violent on-the-job attacks. The city halted bus service earlier Monday after drivers called in sick.

“Apparently, I have to call a rally and get media attention so we can get the word out that it’s not our fault,” said Fred Westbrook, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 26, which represents about 470 drivers.

“What do we need? Protection. When do we want it? Now,” the drivers chanted as they marched beneath the Spirit of Detroit statue next to the Coleman Young Municipal Center.

Bus service should resume Tuesday, Westbrook told the Detroit Free Press.

People at bus stops served by the Detroit Department of Transportation had to find another way to get around for the morning commute after 156 drivers called in sick, Gary Brown, the city’s chief compliance officer, told The Associated Press.

The department needs 180 drivers for morning service, Brown said.

Brown said two-thirds of bus drivers last week rejected a potential new contract.

“It’s no coincidence,” Brown said of Monday’s protests.

But the union said it wasn’t behind the job action and couldn’t do anything if drivers call in sick.

The rally focused on the four attacks in the past week that sent drivers to hospitals. Two were stabbed, one came under attack from three passengers and one had urine thrown on her, Westbrook told The Detroit News.

Brown said the city is working to address safety issues, which have been raised previously.

“If one driver gets hurt that’s too many,” he said.

Detroit is under the control of state-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr, who has filed a city request for bankruptcy protection. The U.S. Department of Transportation announced last month that it was releasing $24 million for the repair and upgrade of Detroit buses, including installation of security cameras.

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