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The Bus Riders Union Is Taking On LA Metro’s Anti-Black Policies

In this open letter, the Bus Riders Union calls on Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell and Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins to help them fight anti-Black policies by the Metro Board.

The interior of a Los Angeles Metro bus
The interior of a Los Angeles Metro bus (Photo by Alan B, CC BY-ND 2.0)

In December 2021, Bus Riders Union leadership Barbara Lott-Holland, Channing Martinez, and Eric Mann met with Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) CEO Stephanie Wiggins and the office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell separately to introduce the Bus Riders Union motion to cease and desist all anti-Black policies on Metro buses and trains. Specifically, stop all fare enforcement, completely abolish the MTA Codes of Conduct, and terminate all employees that carry out any forms of anti-Black behavior, including police.

We had received the most up-to-date data confirming that Black people — who are only 8% of the Los Angeles population and 19% of Metro ridership — received 50% or more of all fare citations and arrests for fare evasion in 2018, 2019, 2020, and in 2021.

You can read the BRU Motion in full here:

MTA agrees that since 50% to 60% of all MTA passengers receiving tickets and arrests are Black, it will immediately stop any enforcement of fares or any enforcement of their “Codes of Conduct” that the BRU calls their “Black Codes.”

MTA will give the highest priority to a full investigation of all forms of anti-Blackness at the agency and its treatment of passengers, and will work with the Bus Riders Union to stamp it out — including cooperating on the monitoring of MTA police and staff on buses and trains. All MTA staff participating in anti-Black policies and practices will be terminated.

Both Wiggins and Lilly O’Brien-Kovari, senior deputy of infrastructure and transportation for Supervisor Mitchell, agreed that the evidence was damning on its face. Wiggins agreed to acknowledge the continuing problem of anti-Blackness in her CEO report to the December Metro Board. O’Brien indicated that Supervisor Mitchell would also acknowledge the issue in her remarks and acknowledge the work of the Bus Riders Union in confronting anti-Black racism.

Posters by bus riders supporting free fare (Photo credit: ACT-LA)
Posters by bus riders supporting free fare. (Photo by ACT-LA)

We had so much hope for Supervisor Mitchell, the author of the Crown Act, and CEO Wiggins who vowed to root out all bias from Metro, especially anti-Blackness. Instead on December 2, 2021, Wiggins opted to give a speech to the board completely ignoring all anti-Black policies at the MTA, boasting of the extra millions in funding the Metro has received from the federal government in COVID aid, and sharing her plans to build more rail. Supervisor Mitchell followed suit by completely ignoring anti-Blackness at the Metro board and her promise to acknowledge the work of the BRU. The Board has also moved to re-implement their enforcement of racist fares, which will intensify racism against the Black community.

Virtually all the MTA board members — including Mayor Eric Garcetti, Supervisors Hilda Solis, Sheila Kuehl, Janice Hahn, Kathryn Barger, and every representative from surrounding municipalities — have not simply ignored the anti-Black policies at the Metro board, but played pivotal roles to escalate the problem. (See my article in CounterPunch.)

We are calling on CEO Stephanie Wiggins and Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell to immediately introduce the Bus Riders Union Motion to stamp out all forms of anti-Blackness in all Metro policies and practices. Both CEO Wiggins and Supervisor Mitchell are still our best hope. 

Please email and call their offices.

Urge Supervisor Mitchell and CEO Wiggins to work with the BRU, implement free public transportation for all Metro passengers, completely abolish the Metro Black Codes of Conduct, and defund the Metro policing contract. We call on the PSAC Advisory Committee Members and all Black, Latinx, and civil rights groups to make this fight their priority. 

CEO Stephanie Wiggins: email hidden; JavaScript is required, (213) 922-7555

Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell: email hidden; JavaScript is required, (213) 974-2222

Additional Metro contact info: 

​​Mayor Eric Garcetti: (213) 978-1028

Supervisor Hilda L. Solis: (213) 974-4111

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl: (213) 974-3333

Supervisor Janice Hahn: (213) 974-4444

Supervisor Kathryn Barger: (213) 974-5555

Support the Bus Riders Union:

Finally, please contact Channing Martinez, director of organizing at Labor/Community Strategy Center and Bus Riders Union, to get involved and help the BRU win this victory:

Channing Martinez: email hidden; JavaScript is required, (323) 903-6238