Updated June 27 at 3 p.m.

The MBTA’s Transit Ambassadors, identified by the red shirts they wear, assist T riders at train stations by giving directions, helping with CharlieCards and providing information for those unfamiliar with Boston’s transit system.

But some of the ambassadors, who asked to remain unidentified, say they are underpaid, harassed by their supervisors and not allowed to sit down during most of their 8-hour shifts. They say they often must deal with people who are mentally ill, have substance use disorders and are homeless, and that the people they encounter can become aggressive at times. As a result of these challenges, the ambassadors are now seeking to form their own union.

The roughly 200 ambassadors do not work for the MBTA but for a third-party company called MyDatt Services of Nashville, which serves as a hiring agency for the T and trains the workers. They began to seriously consider unionizing after the T’s board of directors balked at agreeing to a new $102 million contract, on which MyDatt was the lone bidder.

A small group of ambassadors has filed what’s called a formal notice of representation with the National Labor Relations Board. If they can get 30% of their 200 colleagues to sign on, that will trigger an election which they hope to have in late August.

This is the second effort underway to organize the MBTA's Transit Ambassadors. The Machinists Union Local Lodge 264 — which is comprised of more than 400 mechanics, fuelers and other professionals at the MBTA — said they had already been working to include the ambassadors in their union. Spokesman Michael Vartabedian said the union declared in December 2020 that they would start a campaign to organize the ambassadors who work for the company Block by Block, a subsidiary of MyDatt Corporation, but they put the campaign on hold because many ambassadors quit and lead organizer for the campaign was dealing with health complications. The machinists union says its goal over the next few weeks is to get a majority of support from the MBTA Transit Ambassadors and then also file for an election.

The machinists union said it was previously unaware of the new unionization effort. Members of Transit Ambassadors United say they started their own campaign because they weren’t seeing any results from the machinists union’s effort.

The Transit Ambassador program was launched in 2017, and the initial contract with MyDatt Services is set to expire at the end of this month. Although MBTA officials said they notified more than 200 vendors about bidding on a new five-year contract, only two companies showed any interest, and MyDatt was the only company to submit a bid.

T ambassadors say they would prefer to be MBTA employees to receive better pay and benefits. But General Manager Stephen Poftak says he would prefer their services to be contracted out considering how difficult it has been for the agency to hire any new workers.

Produced with assistance from the Public Media Journalists Association Editor Corps funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

This story was updated to include details on the machinists union effort.