New York, NY – President Wayne Joseph of the Bridge and Tunnel Officers Benevolent Association is open about the fact that he came up the hard way. His early environment was challenging, and it led to him making some wrong calls at an early age. But his brilliant career in union service, as is shown by his status as a fourth-term president, is evidence that strength of character can overcome the most difficult circumstances. On May 4th, 2023, he will be honored by LaborPress. In advance of that recognition, LaborPress endeavored to learn more about what made him what he is – an inspiration.
LP: Where did you grow up, and did your surroundings influence you in any way?
WJ: I grew up in Bushwick Brooklyn. My surroundings led me down a road of self destruction, that I had to adjust to and overcome. I was a troubled youth but because I was smarter than most kids my age I was able to get away with things that I’m not proud of, yet avoided the most tragic of events from hindering my future.
LP: Did you experience any adversity in your young life that may have in the long run made you stronger?
WJ: Believe it or not, being raised in a single parent home from the age of 11 or 12 and experiencing poverty were the two things in my life that proved to be most beneficial in my development. Having to adapt to the realities of life will either make you stronger or break you. For me it made me stronger and more responsible. Becoming a father at 15 was a huge eye- opener and set me on the right path.
LP: Can you tell us a bit about your career trajectory in the field?
WJ: Hired in March of 1990 as a one-year Temporary Officer. I was hired as a permanent Officer in August of 1992. I served as an Officer at the Queens Midtown Tunnel (QMT) since that time. After an unsuccessful run for the President spot, I was appointed as an Alternate Delegate at the QMT in December of 1999. In 2002 I unsuccessfully ran for the VP of the Executive board. In 2004 I was appointed Chief Delegate of the QMT, due to the Chief Delegate having been diagnosed with a medical condition. In 2005 I was elected Chief Delegate at the QMT. In November 2008 I was elected to the executive board as the Grievance Chairman. That term commenced on 1/1/09. In November 2011 I was elected as the President of the executive board. That term commenced on 1/1/12.
LP: How many terms as President have you served?
WJ: I am currently in my 4th 3-year term and have been unopposed for each, with the exception of the 2011 election. I have an upcoming election in November of 2023, which term will commence in January of 2024. If I am successful, that will most likely be my last term.
LP: How many members does the union currently represent?
WJ: In 2012 I had approximately 680 active members. Due to Open Road Tolling (ORT) I currently only have 280 Active members, and 637 retirees.
LP: What are their duties and titles?
WJ: Duties consist of Law Enforcement functions across the 7 bridges and 2 tunnels of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, to fare evasion within the MTA Subway and Bus system. As NYS Peace Officers we do everything from handling minor traffic infractions up to making arrests.
LP: How do they cope with the day-to-day difficulties of working in such high pressure environments?
WJ: Everyone copes with situations in their own way. There is no boilerplate way to deal with the complexities of being a Law Enforcement Officer. Anyone that answers
that question with specificity has obviously not experienced much out in the field and may not be as in tune with their members as I am. The luxury for me is that with such a small membership I can interact with my members more so than other labor leaders may. My members perform their duties to the best of their abilities based on their training, all while exhibiting the utmost professionalism.
LP: What are some of the most challenging issues with which you have had to deal?
WJ: I would have to say that dealing with the executive staff of a grossly mismanaged agency would be the most challenging for me. Second I would say that trying to keep the ship afloat, with no new hires since March of 2009 has been challenging as well. Overall just the disingenuous nature of the individuals within managerial positions and the fact that they are never held accountable for their actions no matter how egregious.
LP: What are your biggest accomplishments for the members?
WJ: Biggest would be saving some of the membership from being furloughed once ORT was implemented in 2017. Next I would say were the terms of the agreement that was reached in June of 2019 in which we were able to negotiate an additional 6033.00 in salary above the Gross wage increases for the 2012-2019 period as well as language that we now have to be negotiated with as law enforcement officers, which was not the case since the mid-1970’s, when the then union opted to follow the TWU pattern rather than patterns that represented more comparable duties. This was a feat that was attempted since the late 70’s that no one before me could accomplish.