Streams

 

 

Twu Local 100

Transportation Nation

NYC Transit Workers Approve Contract

Monday, May 19, 2014

After two years of negotiations, the city's largest transit system and its largest union look to have finally settled a protracted contract dispute.

Read More

Comments [3]

Transportation Nation

MTA Passes Budget, But Lack of Pay Raises Remains Nagging Issue

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Brooklyn station agent Christine Williams put it in stark terms. "Underground where I work," she said. "There's a storm brewing -- and it's not good."

Read More

Comments [1]

Transportation Nation

Transport Workers, Needing to Bargain With NY MTA Chair Prendergast, Open With Praise

Friday, April 12, 2013

Now that the NY MTA has a new chairman in Tom Prendergast, and Local Transport Workers Union 100 has a recently re-elected president in John Samuelsen, the two sides can now sit down hammer out a contract.

Read More

Comment

Transportation Nation

Death On The Tracks: Its Human Cost & The Labor Fight It Has Provoked

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

NYC subway train operator Ed Goetzl, an 11-year vet, has been at the controls for a pair of 12-9s, transit shorthand for someone hit by a train.

(New York, NY - WNYC) A spate of deaths on the subway tracks has led to a confrontation between the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the union representing train operators. The two sides disagree about how to reduce the number of deaths, which take a serious toll on the train operators who witness them while piloting their trains.

Train operator Ed Goetzl has had two 12-9s -- transit shorthand for hitting someone with a train. In both cases, a woman tried to commit suicide by lying on the tracks. One lived, the other did not. He says he took no more than five days off to recover, and claims that's because he didn't blame himself for the incidents.

"See, I didn't kill them," Goeztl said. "They committed suicide and I was the instrument of their suicide. That's how I look at it."

On average, three people a week are hit by subway trains and one dies. Sometimes these incidents come in clumps. Right now, we're in a clump.

Twelve people have been hit by subway trains in the three weeks since a woman pushed Sunando Sen in front of a 7 train in Queens on December 27th. Sen died, and the woman has been charged with second degree murder.

The Transport Workers Union says each death leaves a train operator prone to nightmares, trauma and the impulse to withdraw from others. After a 12-9, operators get three days off at full pay. They can also take unpaid or disability leave for up to a year. It usually takes them three to six months to return to the job.

This week, the union distributed a flyer and sent a sharp letter to MTA management. The union wants the MTA to order trains approaching stations to slow down from 30 miles per hour to 10 miles per hour to give operators more time to brake if there's a person on the tracks.

The authority doesn't like the idea. Spokesman Adam Lisberg says operators who slow trains without permission are taking part in an illegal job action that could get them suspended. It would also lead to fewer trains running per hour at some times, and potentially to overcrowding on platforms, a danger in an of itself.

Ed Goetzl disapproves: "What's really offensive is management's concept that this is about a work slow down rather than what it's really about, which is the safety of the riding public." And of train operators.

Psychologist Howard Rombom has been treating train operators for 15 years. He says motormen react in many different ways after 12-9s, but that all of them are deeply affected. At his office in Great Neck, where hundreds of traumatized train operators have sat in a chair and looked out the window at the waters of Manhasset Bay, he talks about how a 12-9 can shake up the strongest-seeming train operator.

"I remember one worker, he was a big guy, the kind of guy you wouldn't think would get upset by a situation just by virtue of the physical presence," Rombom said. "He was involved with a 12-9 episode where he hit someone coming into the station. Someone jumped in front of the train -- smiled, waved and jumped."

The operator stopped the train and calmly went through the required procedures: he found the body, did interviews with the police and MTA supervisors and submitted to a drug test. His wife and children were supportive. But as time went by, his mind kept replaying the scene. He couldn't concentrate or sleep at night and had trouble connecting to the people around him.

"He felt sort of out of it, socially separate from everybody else. He said, 'I just don't feel like myself. I want to be alone,'" Rombom said.

The man needed months of therapy, sleep medication and conversations with his fellow operators before he felt better, Rombom says. Then one day, he was ready to drive a train again.

Such recoveries are usually private affairs. But the spate of recent highly publicized deaths has spurred the union to collective action. In the end, train deaths are rare--an average of 50 out of 1.6 billion riders per year. The MTA says that number is tragically high, but not high enough to slow the entire system down.

Read More

Comments [9]

Transportation Nation

NY MTA Contract Talks With Union Delayed

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

 

TWU Local 100 president John Samuelsen and NY MTA executive director Joe Lhota before start of contract talks. (Photo by Jim O'Grady)

(New York, NY - WNYC) The NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority and its main union have cancelled a bargaining session only ten days before their labor contract is to expire.

The heads of the union and the NY MTA were supposed to hold their first face to face talks on Thursday. But that probably won't happen until after NY MTA executive director Joe Lhota has his confirmation hearing before the State Senate on Monday.

Lhota is expected to be confirmed as chairman and CEO of the NY MTA. That should put him in a better position to strike a deal with Transport Workers Union Local 100 president John Samuelson.

Both sides say preliminary talks have gone fairly well. Gone is the animosity that Samuelson, a track worker, felt toward former MTA chief Jay Walder. One union official described the problematic relationship this way: "Walder condescended to John, like he still had steel dust under his fingertips. But John feels Lhota is genuine and honest."

At least that's the feeling for now. The two sides will probably need to agree that any pay raises over the next three years be offset by measurable productivity gains or benefit cuts.

For example, the NY MTA is asking the TWU to allow a combining of the train conductor and train operator jobs. New hires would be trained to do both tasks, allowing the authority to pay fewer workers to stand in reserve in case an operator / conductor misses work because of sickness or some other reason.

That's just one of many issues to be worked out in a negotiation that has begun well but which neither side expects to be easy.

Read More

Comment

Transportation Nation

NY MTA And Its Largest Union Open Contract Talks

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

TWU Local 100 president John Samuelsen chats with MTA executive director Joe Lhota before the start of contract talks at the Sheraton Hotel. (Photo by Jim O'Grady)

Listen to an audio version of this story:

 

(New York, NY - WNYC) The NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority and its largest union opened contract talks on Tuesday at the Sheraton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. Both sides acknowledged tense times ahead.

The MTA said it is counting on its workers to accept a three-year wage freeze like the one Governor Andrew Cuomo extracted from the Public Employees Federation. But John Samuelsen, president of Transport Workers Union Local 100, said he and his members won't buckle if the MTA tries to do the same. Samuelsen said, "We're certainly not going to be bullied into accepting wage freezes by threat of layoff."

The current contract expires January 15.

Negotiations began with addresses by Samuelsen and MTA executive Joe Lhota to a conference room packed with TWU members. Lhota started with a compliment: "My first message to you is that I know the MTA employees are our most valuable resource."

The remark was in some ways pro forma. But its reception by the workers — hearty roars filled the room — seemed to signal something new between the authority and the union: a measure of mutual respect. Samuelson said he never felt that from Lhota's predecessor, Jay Walder, who fought with the union and laid off 1,000 workers in 2009. When Walder announced his resignation this past July, the TWU began  its official statement by saying the union was "glad to see him go" -- and it went downhill from there.

Lhota, who started on the job Monday, shrewdly made his first act in office to join the union's call for aggressive prosecution of attacks on bus drivers. The union says someone assaults a bus driver an average of three times a week in New York. Lhota reiterated the stance at the Sheraton, to more applause.

He then switched to the matter at hand and declared, "As we begin the collective bargaining process, you have my commitment that the MTA will listen to your demands and that we will negotiate in good faith."

On the surface, the two men anchoring each side in the contract talks are opposites: Lhota wears an executive's suit and looks owlish behind thick glasses; Samuelsen is a bear of a man in an untucked union polo shirt.

But they seem to have gotten off to a good, if wary, start. When Samuelsen brought Lhota to the podium at the Sheraton, he asked his members not to boo. They didn't.

And when the meeting was done, the union chief made another unusual request of the crowd as Lhota and his deputies were leaving. "Please show respect for the bosses who are walking out of here right now," Samuelsen said. "We'll save our fight for another day."

Fighting there will be. Lhota cautioned that the MTA's budget was "fragile" due to "the ongoing economic crisis." Samuelsen countered that its members have increased their productivity in recent years and deserve a raise. Talks begin in earnest in a week or two.

The MTA and its largest union opened contract talks on Tuesday at the Sheraton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. Both sides acknowledged tense times ahead.

The MTA said it is counting on its workers to accept a three-year wage freeze like the one Governor Andrew Cuomo extracted from the Public Employees Federation. But John Samuelsen, president of Transport Workers Union Local 100, said he and his members won't buckle if the MTA tries to do the same. Samuelsen told WNYC's Brian Lehrer, "We're certainly not going to be bullied into accepting wage freezes by threat of layoff."

The current contract expires January 15.

Negotiations began with addresses by Samuelsen and MTA executive Joe Lhota to a conference room packed with TWU members. Lhota started with a compliment: "My first message to you is that I know the MTA employees are our most valuable resource."

The remark was in some ways pro forma. But its reception by the workers — hearty roars filled the room — seemed to signal something new between the authority and the union: a measure of mutual respect. Samuelson said he never felt that from Lhota's predecessor, Jay Walder, who fought with the union and laid off 1,000 workers in 2009. When Walder announced his resignation this past July, the TWU constructed its official reaction around the phrase "good riddance."

Lhota, who started on the job Monday, shrewdly made his first act in office to join the union's call for aggressive prosecution of attacks on bus drivers. The union says someone assaults a bus driver an average of three times a week in New York. Lhota reiterated the stance at the Sheraton, to more applause.

He then switched to the matter at hand and declared, "As we begin the collective bargaining process, you have my commitment that the MTA will listen to your demands and that we will negotiate in good faith."

On the surface, the two men anchoring each side in the contract talks are opposites: Lhota wears an executive's suit and looks owlish behind thick glasses; Samuelsen is a bear of a man in an untucked union polo shirt.

But they seem to have gotten off to a good start. When Samuelsen brought Lhota to the podium at the Sheraton, he asked his members not to boo. They didn't.

And when the meeting was done, the union chief made another unusual request of the crowd as Lhota and his deputies were leaving. "Please show respect for the bosses who are walking out of here right now," Samuelsen said. "We'll save our fight for another day."

Fighting there will be. Lhota cautioned that the MTA's budget was "fragile" due to "the ongoing economic crisis." Samuelsen countered that its members increased productivity in recent years and deserve a raise. Talks begin in earnest in a week or two.

Read More

Comment

Transportation Nation

New NY MTA Chief Sends Warm Signals to Union on First Day, in Contrast to Predecessor

Monday, November 14, 2011

(Photo: Stephen Nessen)

On his first day as Executive Director of  the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Joe Lhota made a symbolic gesture of solidarity with transit workers, according to the union that represents them.

Lhota co-authored a letter along with Transport Worker's Union Local 100 President John Samuelson to be sent to the District Attorneys of the five boroughs of New York City. It calls for a tougher crackdown on crimes against transit workers.

"We are writing today to urge you to prosecute these cases to the fullest extent of the law,” Lhota and Samuelsen wrote in their letter, which was first reported by Pete Donohue of The Daily News.

The letter comes as negotiations  are set to begin Tuesday afternoon over a new TWU contract agreement.  The current contract expires January 15, and the TWU has said it does not intend to accept three years of no pay raises, the deal that Governor Andrew Cuomo has wrested from other major state unions.  When one union, the Public Employees Federation, rejected that deal, Cuomo threatened 3500 layoffs.  The union revoted,  and accepted the "triple zeros" with a few modifications.

But the TWU is known as one of the more militant unions, and as protesters occupy both Wall Street and Albany, pressure is mounting on Cuomo not to let a so-called millionaires tax expire.  Samuelson has already said his union won't take a pay freeze unless "millionaires pay their fare share."  In 2005, TWU workers struck just days before Christmas, bring the city to a standstill for three days as temperature dipped well below freezing.

Lhota 's predecessor, Jay Walder, had a a toxic relationship with the union.  Among other actions that were seen as as anti-union, Walder cut hundreds of station agent jobs, which were seen as an entry into the middle class by the mostly minority workers that held the job.  The union retaliated by mocking Walder for owning a country home in the south of France. When the otherwise admired Walder quit for a job in Hong Kong, the union issued a statement essentially saying "good riddance."

“For the workers to see that Lhota actually seems to care about them, that will go a long way,” TWU spokesman Jim Gannon told TN.

Lhota has already met several times with Samuelson Gannon tells Transportation Nation, adding that the joint letter was Lhota's idea. “It was interesting that he would reach out in such a fashion, because that’s such a statement.”

A draft of the letter obtained by Transportation Nation bears the logos of the MTA and TWU Local 100 side by side as the letterhead.

Lhota took the Lexington Line in from his home Brooklyn Heights and spent most of his first day in meetings.  He observed the MTA board's finance committee meeting where he heard his first official update on his new agency's balance sheet — one of many hard truths he'll have to reconcile if he is to succeed. The former Cablevision executive and deputy mayor under Rudolph Giuliani takes over as executive director with pressure from all sides for fiscal reform.

In addition to the looming TWU bargaining, riders are demanding more service, speedier construction and fewer disruptions just as several upstate Republican State Senators want to repeal a payroll mobility tax on suburban commuters that raises 1/8 of the MTA's operating budget each year.

Add to that, a $10 billion budget gap in the authority's capital plan, which pays for everything from new trains to the Second Avenue Subway.

Lhota still needs to be approved by the Republican-led state Senate before he can officially take the top spots of CEO and Chairman of the MTA.

Read More

Comments [2]