December 16, 2011
By Marc Bussanich, LaborPress City Reporter
Outside the MTA’s offices at 2 Broadway about 2,000 TWU Local 100 members and a host of leaders from different unions in solidarity rallied after the union and agency finished their day’s negotiations. Apparently, the two sides still have a lot of negotiating before the contract expires in one month, as the union demands fair wage increases and the agency demands none.
Local 100 is taking a strong stand against concessions, and perhaps nobody has been as vocal and resolute against expectations that working families, transit workers and riders should bear the brunt of the country’s economic malaise while the very wealthy prosper, than its president, John Samuelsen.
He’ll be damned if the agency seeks to balance its deficit on the backs of transit workers. He told the crowd, “The MTA hierarchy doesn’t have to worry about where will their next meal come from or whether they’ll be able to send their kids to college, but they expect us to eat three zeros,” referring to the agency’s demand for no wage increases for each year of a new contract.
As reported previously in LaborPress, one day after the union and the MTA executive board exchanged greetings on the first day of bargaining at the Sheraton Hotel, the agency released its 2012 Final Proposed Budget calling for $323 million in “Net Zero” wage savings in the next contract to prevent ballooning deficits.
But Samuelsen bellowed to the assembled, “I’m not signing that contract.” He doesn’t think there’s additional pressure on the local to concede after the state Public Federation Employees union and Civil Service Employees Association agreed to Cuomo’s giveback demands worth $450 million. “We’re going to fight for a wage increase, despite what they did.”
Joe Sclafani, an executive board member of Local 100, said the agency’s ultra-aggressive demands resemble that of a private sector company. In addition to demanding no wage increases, the company is insisting on 9-day furloughs that could cost members $1,800 to $2,200 annually. It wants to remove the seven-day notification to inform members of a transfer to another bus depot and it wants to increase from one hour to three hours before members call in sick. And the dental plan is horrible, according to Sclafani. So horrible that Samuelsen remarked, “The greatest conspiracy of the MTA is to render the TWU toothless.”
A day after marching and rallying along 6th Avenue as the possibility of a strike looms, Kyle Bragg, VP for SEIU 32BJ, joined the rally in solidarity with TWU Local 100. 32BJ and the Realty Adviser Board (RAB) that represents the building owners met yesterday and Braggs said the two sides are talking, although “we haven’t achieved any advancement.”
The RAB, in response to 32BJ’s rally, wrote that “Our owners want a deal that helps the industry grow so that we can create more jobs for unions like 32BJ and help support New York’s middle class ranks.”
Bragg said that’s admirable of the industry. “We welcome it and look forward to working with them to create middle class jobs.” But he and the Local’s bargaining committee want to ensure that the industry’s definition of middle class is the same as theirs. “We don’t believe that creating a two-tier wage structure that lowers wages sustains a middle class. We have to make sure we move standards forward and not backwards.”
A call to the MTA’s press office yielded no statement on TWU Local 100’s rally.