Transit Ambassadors complain about working conditions
Cite stabbing of colleague, raise possibility of forming union
SOME OF THE MBTA’S Transit Ambassadors, the people in the red shirts who assist passengers at train stations, are not that thrilled with their working conditions and rumbling about forming a union.
The roughly 200 ambassadors work for a third-party company called MyDatt Services of Nashville, which serves as a hiring agency for the T, which trains the workers.
Several of the ambassadors, who asked not to be identified, tentatively stepped forward after the MBTA’s board of directors raised concerns last month about a new $102 million contract on which MyDatt was the lone bidder.
The ambassadors complained about their working conditions – being on their feet all day, dealing with a ridership that sometimes can be threatening, and getting paid $19 to $20 an hour with limited benefits.
“We’re on our feet all day long,” said another ambassador, who added that he is allowed to take two 15-minute breaks and 30 minutes for lunch.
Safety appears to be a major concern. One of the ambassadors said he regularly deals with drunks and homeless people who sometimes can be aggressive. Another said he has talked 10 people out of committing suicide.
The ambassadors said one of their colleagues was stabbed in November 2020 by a transit rider at Copley Station in the Back Bay. They said the worker was let go after the incident for straying from his post.
The workers said they have been talking among themselves about forming a union, but the idea appears to be in its infancy.
The Transit Ambassador program was launched in 2017 and the initial contract with MyDatt Services is set to expire at the end of this month. T officials said they notified more than 200 vendors that the agency was looking to sign a new five-year contract and expand to 30 more locations. Only two companies showed any interest, and MyDatt was the only company to submit a bid.Members of the MBTA board at their meeting last month raised concerns about the size of the contract and the lack of interest from bidders. They asked for more information on worker benefits.
Steven Poftak, the general manager of the T, said he did not want the agency to be saddled with hiring the ambassadors, rather than contracting for their services, at a time when its human resources staff is struggling to hire workers in key operational and safety positions.