With a little more than a month left before expiration of the union’s contracts for TA/OA and MTA Bus members, the Local’s top leadership and more than 250 rank-and-file members packed the MTA Board’s meeting room to capacity, with an even larger overflow crowd in the lobby of MTA headquarters at 2 Broadway.
Many members carried intense poster sized images of co-workers who were beaten and slashed on the job into the Board meeting and held them high so Board members would see the kind of daily pressures and dangers facing transit workers. Members also produced a TWU version of the Union Square Subway Therapy Wall (where New Yorkers stuck thousands of post-its to express their post election feelings) by taping letter-sized “post-its” on the lobby wall at 2 Broadway. The “post-its” contract demands included messages like, COLA’s Don’t Cut It, Don’t Touch My Health Benefits, Improve Our Longevity, and many more.
The Local 100 action was bolstered by a powerful show of national TWU solidarity, as TWU International President Harry Lombardo, the entire International Transit Division staff, and numerous officers from other TWU Locals in the the tri-state region stood side-by-side with Local 100 President John Samuelsen, Secretary Treasurer Earl Phillips, Recording Secretary LaTonya Crisp-Sauray, Vice Presidents Tony Utano, Pete Rosconi, JP Patafio, Kia Phua, Nelson Rivera and Richard Davis, and numerous Division officers.
International President Lombardo addressed the MTA Board affirming: “I stand with Local 100 and its bargaining team in solidarity today. I have pledged to them the International’s support as well: financial, legal, political, and of course our moral support. Their fight is our fight; their goals for this contract are our goals.”
Local 100 President Samuelsen, who is also a member of the MTA Board, made it clear that transit workers expect and deserve raises that exceed inflation, and that go beyond the 2 percent annual increases recently accepted by one of the state’s largest public sector unions. Samuelsen said that there is a “disconnect” between transit workers who really move NY and the policy making members on the MTA board, the policies they set, and the “hard work performed by the people in this room” as he pointed toward the assembled transit workers just a few feet away.
Samuelsen also prevailed on the MTA Board to support “fair and equitable raises” for transit workers “that will allow us to continue to live in the City we serve.”
Samuelsen concluded to applause from the rank-and-file, stating: “This issue is going to come to a head in a month, and I hope we can get to a spot that’s not ugly.”
Five Local 100 members also addressed the Board to put faces to the union’s messaging throughout the contract campaign that the dangerous, pressure filled jobs transit workers perform warrant a fair contract.
TAS Bus Operator John Browne, who was viciously slashed on the neck in 2014, asked for a fair wage increase and better safety for Bus Operators while saying that he puts his MTA uniform on “with pride” every day.
Hero CTA Darren Johnson told the Board how a normal day recently turned chaotic when he chased down a pervert who had just groped a young a female passenger with a small child. “I don’t consider myself a hero,” he modestly told the Board. “These kind of things happen every day on the job.”
Train Operator and Executive Board member Janice Carter talked about the importance of a transit worker’s job. “We move New York City,” she said to shouts of “Yes we do,” from the crowd.
Conductor Warren Cox eloquently told of how he intervened after spotting a distraught and possibly suicidal woman with a young child on a station platform edge.
Finally, Bus Operator Clarence Jackson held up a bloody emergency room photo of himself and his grotesquely slashed right after being assaulted by a teen on his Bronx bus on July 3, 2013. Jackson said that he and his co-workers deal with these sorts of dangers every day. He asked that the MTA Board simply treat the transit workforce “as family.”
After the final speaker, Samuelsen led the large TWU crowd back down to the lobby where they joined up with a waiting assembly of transit workers. He held a spirited “shopgate” meeting asking the rank-and-file to be ready for “further actions” in the weeks leading up to the contract expiration on Jan. 15, 2017.
He then wished everyone a happy, health holiday season to raucous cheers of “TWU, TWU, TWU.”