The TWU won a major victory in New York City on Tuesday when officials announced plans to hire 2,400 additional transit workers as part of a massive investment into the struggling subway system there.
The unprecedented infusion of new workers will boost TWU Local 100’s ranks at the New York City Transit Authority to more than 40,000 – an increase of more than 6 percent. Total membership will now surpass 45,000 – the highest ever in Local 100’s history.
While fiscal conservatives and outside consultants had been urging transit executives to farm out some of the union’s traditional work to private contractors, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joe Lhota rejected the idea as risky.
He doesn’t want to start a rumble with TWU, Lhota told reporters at a jam-packed press conference.
“We not only defended our turf but we greatly expanded it,” International President John Samuelsen said afterward. “We were organized. We had a strategy and we carried it out successfully. We engaged management , we engaged the riding public , we put forth our own plan, stayed on message and in the end we prevailed."
Subway riders in New York have endured increasing numbers of delays and equipment breakdowns. Trains full of riders have been stranded in tunnels. Trash fires have caused evacuations. Trains regularly sit idle between stations because signals have failed and caused traffic to back up along the rails. Rider frustration has become so intense this is being billed as the “summer of hell.”
After New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency and ordered transit officials to draft a plan of action, TWU got to work drafting its own series of initiatives, based on one indisputable truth: nobody knows the workplace better than the workers.
The “TWU 10-Point Work Boots on the Ground Plan” called for more – of everything. More frequent inspections and maintenance of signals and trains. More frequent replacement of train parts, components and systems. More emergency response teams to fix problems delaying trains and causing overcrowding on station platforms. More training and train crews on standby to be deployed when gaps in service occur.
While print and television stations reported on the Work Boots plan, Samuelsen and other TWU officers worked the corridors of power in NYC and Albany. The result: many of TWU’s labor-intensive recommendations were adopted and included in the MTA’s official Action Plan.
Transit officials have placed the price tag of the program at nearly $900 million. Gov. Cuomo has pledged to provide half the funding. TWU remains on the front lines to help secure the balance from the New York City, which has a $4 billion surplus. The first blasts from the union include a full-page newspaper advertisement showing Mayor de Blasio sitting on a pile of money. Check out the ad here.
“Come on Mr. Mayor,” the ad states. “No more political games. No more shirking responsibility. It’s time for you to pay your fair share! Get off your Cash!”
Another ad calls out the mayor for delaying trains and allowing his staff to lie about it. "Stop holding up trains," the ad says. "Stop holding up the subway repairs that will end the summer of hell!"