Diary of a Tube worker: "Black lives matter! Black lives matter!"

Submitted by AWL on 10 June, 2020 - 12:34 Author: Jay Dawkey
Tube worker

I was in the mess room when the shouting started. I paid no attention at first. I knew the demo in central London [3 June] had been big, but didn’t really twig whether people would be out on a Wednesday afternoon and how they would get there and get home.

“Jay, I think you should come out here”, F, who is covering on another station, radios through.

I get into the ticket hall. It’s not normal peak-time busy, but its busier than normal. Yeah, people are shouting, but it’s not an aggressive protest in the station. The manager obviously feels differently and is rushing to try and close some of the station doors.

That is going to create a bottleneck, I say to F. We are better off just opening up the gates and letting people pass. We should put our masks on as well.

The line of five police at the top of the stairs, already here, is causing more trouble than is needed, with protestors wondering why they are being held. We move to direct people as fast as we can and just move people out of the station, which is difficult when trying to stand 2m away from everyone and communicate while you and they are wearing a mask.

Throughout the week there are just two topics of conversation. Compulsory masks on public transport: “Who is going to enforce it”? “Why didn’t they do this from the beginning”? “The volunteers are gonna get those masks robbed within a hour, trust”.

The other is all about the protests. Some tube workers come through who have been at the protests. At other times we debate them in the control room. “They shouldn’t be looting”, a much better off senior member of staff says. “That discredits the protests, and what have they achieved?”

“They got all those officers charged, and they’ve reopened the case of that woman getting shot up in bed [Breonna Taylor]. The media will focus on the looting but when bredren has been pushed around enough he’s gonna react. Man isn’t smashing up his local shop, he’s doing Walmart. They’re insured. And anyway that’s a small amount of people. American police are mad, look at them arresting that FBI guy or slamming people to the floor over speeding”.

“But then you have people stopping other police from joining demonstrations”, the manager says. “They are the example we need and that should be encouraged”.

“So are these BAME impact assessments on the Tube going to ensure black lives matter?”, I ask. He decides he has to leave at this point. Not interested in taking the conversation further.

• “Jay Dawkey” is a London Underground worker and RMT union activist.

Other entries in the “My Life At Work” series, and other workers' diaries

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