Local 100 is a local (or chapter) of the Transport Workers Union of America, a union that represents transportation workers in bus and subway lines, and several airlines nationwide. The Local primarily represents 41,000 workers and 26,000 retirees in the New York City public transportation system and at some private bus lines serving the New York City metropolitan area. In the City’s subway lines, Local 100 represents virtually all employees including those who operate trains, maintain the trains and tracks, staff the token booths, clean platforms and subway cars, and service and repair mechanical equipment such as elevators and escalators. Local 100 represents most of the men and women who drive and maintain public buses in New York City under the umbrellas of MaBSTOA in Manhattan and the Bronx, NYC Transit Surface Division in Brooklyn, and MTA Bus in Queens and the Bronx.

The job of president of a Local of this size and reach must by definition fall upon the shoulders of someone who can oversee the myriad of tasks and events that are a part of the system’s daily functionality. Add to that the demands of the thousands upon thousands of daily commuters and other passengers who rely on the subways and buses in New York City, and it is clear that an outstanding commitment to the Local and its work is required.

Richard Davis, president of TWU Local 100, is just such a man. LaborPress was privileged to have an opportunity to learn about his background, why he become involved in the union, his goals, and what he has already put in place to better the members’ lives.

LP: Where did you grow up and what were some of your early experiences?

RD: I grew up in two places: Guyana and New York. The earlier part of my childhood was spent living in Guyana. When I recall what life was like in Guyana, some of the fondest memories that come to mind are being free to run around barefoot while holding my oversized pants up. I also remember climbing trees and enjoying freshly picked fruit right from our backyard. To think I went from an island lifestyle to living in the concrete jungle is kind of crazy. It was 1982 when I moved to Brooklyn, New York with my father and happened to be the first time I experienced racism. I was about 12 years old, and one of the first things we did upon our arrival was get my vaccinations for school. We were standing on the corner of Coney Island Avenue and Cortelyou Road, but we were lost. I watched my father asking a passerby for directions but once she heard my father’s thick West Indian accent her face was overcome with such a disturbance. She didn’t even help us. She just scoffed and walked away as if we had some unwarranted audacity to bother her with a question as simple as getting directions. I was shocked. I was confused. So, I asked my dad, ‘What was that about?’ And he simply answered— ‘Don’t worry about it.’ This was my first experience with racism. It didn’t stop there. I experienced racism and prejudice for many years but that’s a story for another day.

LP: When and how did you first become interested in the transit field as a career?

RD: I first became interested in the transit field as a career because I had a child on the way. At the time I was working independently as a chauffeur for an Italian man in the restaurant district and I was making great money, and I really couldn’t complain. But with a child on the way I had more to consider. A union job with financial security, medical benefits, and a secure retirement [came up]. I can still hear my mom’s voice shouting ‘You better not pass up that opportunity!’ So, I didn’t. I applied for the job and began my career as a bus operator out of Mother Clara Hale depot in 1996 at the age of 26.

LP: Could you expand on your career trajectory?

RD: I rapidly became involved in the union and steadily rose through the leadership ranks holding many elected positions over the years. My union career began in 1998 when I was elected as chief line steward. I later continued my education at the Cornell Labor Institute, in preparation to run for another union position. In 2004, Local 100 members elected me to be the MaBSTOA Division 1 Chair, where I represented all Local 100 Bus Operators and Maintenance workers in Manhattan and the Bronx. I remained the Division Chair for 10 years before I was elected for Vice President of the department in 2014. In those positions I was instrumental in increasing the number of reps in every depot and creating the Leadership and Support Program with a vast Shop Steward program, bringing younger workers into the Department. As MABSTOA VP, I put special focus on empowering women in the Department to take on a more active role in leadership. Nine years later, I was appointed to be the Secretary-Treasurer of the Transport Workers Union Local 100 in May, 2023, following the retirement of Earl Phillips. In December of that same year, the executive board then promoted me to the Presidency after Tony Utano, the President emeritus, retired from NYCT.

LP: What inspired you to assume your first union position?

RD: I was inspired to assume my first union position as Chief Line Steward for a few reasons. One of those reasons happened during one of my routes out of Mother Clara Hale Depot. I had a long bus shift, and because the president was in town, there was a gridlock alert. I called the dispatcher, the dispatching supervisor on duty, and let him know that I was not going to be able to return to the depot in time to have my break and I was advised to complete my route and take a break upon my return. Unfortunately, when I returned to the depot I was informed that the supervisor who gave me that advice had already left for the day without notifying the command center. So, I worked 10 hours with no break that day. The following day I attempted to address this with the supervisor and for some reason he found humor in my circumstances and began to laugh. The previous day was a rough day and his response to my adversity insulted me. Ultimately it led to an argument for which I was written up. Similar incidents that could have been resolved with a little compassion and respect drove me to represent myself in my own hearing one day. When I managed to effectively represent myself and secure my job, that’s when I knew I would be running for Chief Line Steward.

LP: What are you most proud of accomplishing since your tenure began?

RD: Throughout my career, I have focused on building strong organizational structures, training, and educating younger workers to be effective union representatives. I am dedicated to increasing the number of women in union leadership positions and addressing safety and quality of life issues. Securing better wages and benefits for the membership is also a top priority for me. As the vice president of MaBSTOA, my experience has been marked by substantial achievements and improvements for our members. During my tenure, we prioritized consistent development of new leaders among our interested members to ensure that we deliver the best possible leadership. Some notable accomplishments during my time as vice president include: 1. Increased Artic Pay: Successfully raised artic pay from $0.25 to $2.00 per hour, addressing the need for fair compensation for our members. 2. Uniform Selection Improvement: Implemented changes to enhance the uniform selection process, providing our workforce with improved options. 3. Extended Swing Times: Successfully negotiated for longer swing times, extending them from 40 to 50 minutes for the benefit of our members. 4. Lead Chief Shop Steward Program: Initiated and led the Lead Chief Shop Steward program, organizing rallies against assaults on our members to ensure their safety and rights are protected. 5.Sick Cash Out Guarantee: Secured a guaranteed 50% Sick Cash Out, prioritizing the well-being of our members. 6. Sleep Apnea Pay: Negotiated a 90-day Sleep Apnea pay, recognizing and addressing health concerns within our workforce. 7. Increased OT Cap: Successfully increased the overtime cap by two RDOs, providing additional compensation for our members. 8. Safety Program Implementation: Established a safety program with a 24-hour hotline for major accidents on buses, emphasizing the importance of safety in our operations.  9. No Salary Cap Advocacy: Actively advocated against a salary cap, ensuring our members’ compensation is not limited. 10. Revised Cell Phone Stipulation: Successfully revised cell phone stipulations to guarantee job protection for our members. 11. Positive Outcomes in Discipline Cases: Maintained an unparalleled record of positive outcomes in discipline cases, defending the rights and interests of our members. 12. Kronos Arbitration Defense: In arbitration proceedings such as Kronos Arbitration, defended members’ privacy and negotiated road reliefs. 13. Leadership & Support Program: Implemented a comprehensive Leadership & Support Program, offering multiple training classes to empower and facilitate the professional growth of our members.

Building on these achievements, I am fully committed to continuing our progress and advocating for the rights and well-being of our members in my role as president. Together, we will navigate challenges and work towards a stronger and more resilient MaBSTOA.

LP: What new contract highlights are particularly valuable to your members?

RD: First off, we’ve locked in solid annual raises, along with $4,000 in essential worker cash bonus payments. Additionally, we’ve implemented a record-setting 3 months of paid maternity leave, which is a significant improvement for our members. Importantly, we’ve managed to keep healthcare costs stable, preventing any increase in expenses. We’ve also ensured that therapy for children with autism is covered under the contract. On the negotiation front, we stood firm against certain MTA concessions. We successfully defeated proposals to double healthcare payroll deductions, eliminate conductor jobs with OPTO expansion, change overtime rules to kick in only after 40 hours, and reduce vacation for new hires.

These victories reflect our commitment to securing tangible benefits and protections for our members. It’s a testament to our unity and determination as a union, and it’s something our members can count on moving forward.

LP: What challenges must be met, and what is your strategy in approaching them?

RD: I have a comprehensive commitment that encompasses protecting jobs, fighting for equity and pay parity, addressing Tier 6 concerns, cracking down on system safety, and prioritizing member and officer education.

First and foremost, protecting jobs is fundamental. We advocate against layoffs, outsourcing, and automation to ensure our members’ employment security remains intact. Equity and pay parity are equally vital. We strive for fair treatment, equal opportunities, and closing wage gaps within the union and workplaces we represent. Addressing Tier 6 concerns is a priority. We work to improve retirement benefits, ensuring all members have sustainable futures. System safety is paramount. We implement rigorous protocols and training to uphold the highest standards, safeguarding both members and the public.

Member and officer education are integral components of our commitment. We provide ongoing training in union principles, collective bargaining, workplace safety, and leadership development. This empowers our members to navigate challenges effectively and contribute to a stronger union. Our comprehensive approach ensures the well-being, security, and advancement of all TWU Local 100 members.

LP: What are your primary goals for the union?

RD: To ensure members’ well-being is protected and enhanced. With system-wide assaults and crime on the rise, one of our primary goals is to convene meetings with key stakeholders such as the MTA, NYPD, City Officials, Mental Health Professionals, and Organizations specializing in assisting the homeless. We recognize that addressing the complex issue of homelessness and its impact on transit safety requires collaboration and expertise from various sectors. By bringing together these experienced players, we aim to develop meaningful and well-thought-out solutions to enhance the well-being of our members and the community. This undertaking is critical in reducing the number of incidents and creating a safer environment for everyone. While these initiatives are still in the early stages of their development, we are confident that our approach acknowledges the multifaceted nature of the problem and emphasizes the importance of comprehensive strategies. It’s a significant endeavor, but by leveraging the expertise and resources of these stakeholders, we believe we can make meaningful progress toward our goal of protecting and enhancing the wellbeing of our members and the community at large.

TWU Local 100 President Richard Davis


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