Governor Signs Bill That Stemmed from VTA Tragedy
Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law SB 1294 authored by Senator Dave Cortese, (D-San Jose), Chair of the Senate Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee, that will address the rise in workplace violence. SB 1294 was authored in response to the mass shooting that occurred on May 26, 2021 at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Agency (VTA) Guadalupe Yard, the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the San Francisco Bay Area.
The bill requires the Workforce Development Board, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, VTA, and the Health and Human Services Agency to work together to draw from the lessons and successes of the VTA Wellness Center and develop a model for the deployment of Wellness Centers in transit agencies statewide to provide services and support to workers and their families.
“Through support services such as peer-to-peer counseling, prevention and early intervention training, we can reduce stress and improve morale so that everyone can feel safe at their place of work,” says Senator Cortese. “I am grateful to our Governor for signing this legislation, as well as to the workers who crafted this legislation with me to prevent further tragedies and loss of life.”
In the immediate aftermath of the Guadalupe Yard shooting, Senator Cortese worked with VTA unions and management, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, to respond to the pressing needs of the employees, including through standing up a Resiliency and Trauma Recovery Center, or “Worker Wellness Center”, that has provided behavioral health support to individuals and families dealing with grief.
Workplace violence is on the rise. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, there have been 37 mass workplace shootings between 2009 and 2021. Five of those 37 occurred in the Spring of last year. Experts say that the individuals that commit these attacks are likely to be reacting to stress or pain in the workplace. A recent study of workplace shootings between 2011 and 2015 showed that out of over 1,000 shootings, three quarters involved an argument or conflict, as opposed to a robbery gone wrong or another cause.
John Courtney, President and Business Agent at Amalgamated Transit Union Local 265 says, “Immediately after tragedy struck our place of work on May 26, 2021, hero's emerged to figure out how to provide immediate support for workers and families thrust into a mental health crisis and to make sure mental health services will be available to prevent more tragedies like ours at VTA. The legislation signed by our Governor does exactly what is needed to provide mental health resources and support to workers. We are forever grateful to our heroes, Governor Newsom and Senator Cortese for making this life-saving legislation a reality.”