Did MTA workers retaliate against whistleblower?

January 19, 2010 10:40:42 AM PST
A source for an Eyewitness News undercover investigation into track workers goofing off is coming out of the shadows. He says he was nearly killed when he was pushed onto the tracks before a train roared by. Was it retaliation?Subway track worker Juan de los Santos claims someone pushed him off a station platform and onto a subway track in Brooklyn.

"I felt a push, it happened so suddenly," said de los Santos.

He briefly lost consciousness, his nose broken, face bleeding. He knew that if he touched the electrified third rail, he'd be dead.

"Choking on my own blood, I couldn't breathe through my nostrils. I believed I was going to get killed," de los Santos said.

De los Santos was a key source in the Eyewitness News ongoing reports into idle track workers. A year ago, in a wig, behind shadows, he helped expose millions of dollars in wasted time.

"The people to blame are management," he said.

Last week, the MTA Inspector General released a report confirming our findings that track workers put in only three to four hours of work a day so as not to delay rush hour trains. A few hours after that report came out, de los Santos says he was pushed onto the tracks. Just three days earlier, he had written a letter to the head of transit concerned about a "hostile work environment," adding that he "fears for his safety."

"If you keep their secrets, you are rewarded," he said. "If you denounce wrong-doings, you are in hot water."

When Eyewitness News looked into the claims, we found workers spending hours sitting around at stations, some reading in the park, driving work trucks to hang out at the beach, or even cutting out of work to tend bar. De los Santos, who decided revealing his identity now might better protect him, claims little has changed.

De los Santos: "If they're working more than two hours it's a lot."
Eyewitness News reporter Jim Hoffer: "What are they doing the rest of the time?"
De los Santos: "Hanging around, pretending they're working, watching TV."

De los Santos says he spoke to the Inspector General, who promised to investigate the incident that happened at the Wilson Avenue station. The track worker says as soon as his injuries heal, he plans to go back to work. He says he has no intention of suing the MTA.

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