Supporters of the alleged victim of sexual harassment said she was a good worker. Said one, "She came to work to do her job. No one deserves to be harassed."
"There is a pervert on payroll," said Transport Workers Union (TWU) President John Samuelsen.
As he spoke on Broadway, at the Kingsbridge Bus Depot in northern Manhattan, scores of Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and TWU members stood beside him – many held up placards emblazoned with the iconic Rolling Stones logo, a wagging tongue.
But the group was not gathered to pay tribute to Mick Jagger and the band.
Instead, Samuelsen and TWU members, joined by New York State Senator Adriano Espaillat, together declared themselves "shocked and disgusted" at what they termed as the transit authority's failure to properly investigate a recent case of sexual harassment at the Kingsbridge Depot.
It is alleged that on April 9th, a male MTA supervisor grabbed the face of Nancy Jenkins, a Bronx female bus operator and licked it, from chin to forehead.
Jenkins has said that the incident occurred after she became upset at something said by the supervisor.
"He stuck out his tongue and licked me from under my chin all the way up to my eyebrow," Jenkins reported to the New York Daily News on May 18th. "It was just so nasty."
Jenkins filed a sexual harassment complaint against the supervisor with the MTA, but found that he was still working at the depot the following day.
He has since been transferred.
"A month and a half after a woman was harassed at this MTA bus depot, there has been no resolution," said New York State Senator Adriano Espaillat, who represents northern Manhattan and the Bronx. "This is unacceptable, not just because of this particular case, but because it sends the wrong message to women."
State Senator Espaillat stood beside Samuelsen and TWU workers, vowing to reach out to District Attorney Cyrus Vance to urge for legal action if warranted.
"We are calling on the MTA to take stronger action," stated Senator Espaillat, who said he'd also written directly to MTA chief Joseph Lhota.
"It's about women being able to work in an environment that's safe from fear and harassment and workers who feel protected at their workplace," he added.
"The MTA must step up and create better conditions for the hard-working men and women who make New York City run," said Samuelsen. "We know this is about more than just one case; it's about the failure of the largest public transportation authority in the world to appreciate the people who allow our transportation system to exist."
Moreover, Samuelsen charges that the supervisor under investigation continues to be protected by the MTA.
"Currently the MTA is covering for that transit boss. They refuse to suspend him. They still have him in direct contact with NYC Transit workers," said Samuelsson. "There is no time to hide. We need to get that person away from the workers, and we demand Chairman Lhota suspend him immediately."
Other community leaders and activists at the rally said they would also press forward for justice in Jenkins' and others' cases of workplace harassment.
"We cannot and will not tolerate the harassment of women," said Judith Amaro, President of the National Organization for Women (NOW) Northern Manhattan Chapter. "We stand united in calling for the MTA to act decisively and create a better work environment where all employees, including women, feel safe from harassment."
Friends of Jenkins, who was not present at the rally, came out to support a woman they said was going through a tough time in her personal life.
"I have never dealt with this (sexual harassment), but I think this is definitely an outrage," said Felicia Fields, who works in the stations' department at the Kingsbridge Bus Depot. "She came to work to do her job."
Fields said that Jenkins was a good person.
"She is a mother, a sister, a daughter," said Fields. "She does not deserve this. No one deserves to be harassed."
"It's demeaning for someone to experience something like that," said Renee Alford. "This bothers me so much as a friend of hers. I feel that this is [happening to me] personally."
The women were visibly upset, as were other female bus conductors present who chose to remain anonymous, but argued that the harassment was far more pervasive.
"Let me tell you, this is a very bad situation," said one bus operator, who'd been working for the MTA for 11 years. "Sexual harassment happens in here all the time."
The MTA claims that its goal is to provide every male and female employee with a work environment that is free from sexual harassment by any other employee, according to the sexual harassment policy sent out to all employees on January 2010 by then Acting President James L. Ferrara.
However, TWU President Samuelsen says that enough victims have stepped up to issue complaints to suggest that the policy is not being seriously enforced.
"This is an outrage. The Authority should be the first one to step up and immediately suspend and pursue a dismissal charge. Rather, they put him back to work," said an angry Samuelsson. "They are all our members, so we are absolutely pursuing the case of all the women who were harassed or violated."