New York, NY – The United Transit Leadership Organization [UTLO] represents collective bargaining units within the New York State Metropolitan Transit Authority representing superintendents, deputy superintendents and assistant general superintendents within the MTA Department of Buses, Department of Subways and Department of Support Services.
The relatively new union recently negotiated a contract with the MTA that will add much-needed improvements to the conditions of workers. LaborPress spoke with UTLO President Mario Bucceri, Senior Vice President Cassius Pryce, International President Mike Carrube of the National Association of Transportation Supervisors, Vice President of Support Services Fernando Salomons, and union attorney Howard Wien of Isaacs Devasia Castro & Wien to learn about the contract.
LP: When was the contract ratified?
MB: The contract was ratified by the MTA Board on Wednesday, December 15. It’s fully ratified, we’re just waiting on some dates as far as general wage increase and the compression raise, etc.
LP: So what’s in the contract?
MB: Just a note, first – November 29, was the member ratification – and it was ratified by an absurd number: 97.5% of the voters ratified the contract. The contract calls for two 2-percent raises over 30 months, general wage increases fully retroactive, one for 2020, one for 2021. The big thing in this contract is we raised what’s called the “compression floor,” which is every salary level has a minimum and a maximum and we’ve raised all the minimums, which will result in significant additional increases for anyone who’s below the new minimums. And that was big because they haven’t done that in about 15 years and it’s never been contractual because the last time they did that there was no union. This union’s relatively new, this is our first collective bargaining agreement for our members in the Subway Division of the MTA and it’s our second for our members in the Buses Division. And Support – Support would be first. The ratification numbers really speak for themselves but that compression increase that we talked about is something that hasn’t happened in a long time and that we hope is going to result in better lives for not only the membership, but for the Authority and the riding public as well, because the Authority has had a heck of a time trying to get its supervisory staff to move into the managerial ranks. Our union is a managers union. We believe we’re the only managers union in the country. And we think that this compression will encourage people at the supervisory level in the MTA to move into the managerial ranks. Right now, they’re having a very difficult time filling the managerial ranks with internal promotees. They keep having to hire from the outside, which is far from ideal because they’re getting people who don’t really understand the MTA’s corporate culture and they’re having some real problems with that. I think this is going to benefit not only our members, but the members in subordinate unions and other managers and the riding public.
LP: Anything else in the contract?
MB: Generally, the compression floor, and we’re getting commuter passes for our members, something we’ve been advocating for a very long time, so that our members that live in Long Island can take the LIRR for no cost. Our members who live north of the City can take MetroNorth at no cost. This is a huge benefit that other unions have, that has not been provided for the managers we represent – that’s a very big deal. We’ve improved our grievance and arbitration procedures by a large amount. As a new union, I am the only full-time employee of the union. We’ve been able to add two full-time union positions paid for by the Authority. That’s going to enable us to really reach out to our members and process their grievances and complaints better and to strengthen the union as a whole. There were no real givebacks that were requested, so we really didn’t have to give anything back and were able to get a lot of things that we think will improve the lives of our members. One other important thing is that the contract, which goes back to July of 2019, is going to expire at the end of the month, which is advantageous to us because we hope to go back in next year and get another contract with continued enhancements. We want to be on an equitable basis with other unions. We have one-thousand members right now.
We have an International and we’re part of the International and we’re actually getting other transit entities, facilities – we’re trying to get them unionized, and they’re actually going ahead and looking on our website. Quite a few states – Chicago…we’re involved with them, we’re trying to appeal one of the court orders that’s in place over there, and we have New Jersey Transit which [International President] Mike Carrube can tell you a little bit more about, Hudson Bergen Light Rail, Houston Texas, Houston Rail reached out to myself, Miami Transit. So, we’re going International with this to get supervisors, managers, superintendents, whatever managers they have there to get them represented so they have a union, too.
There was really no incentive for supervisors to move up to the next level and the MTA went ahead and they did this basically for themselves so that people would move up – not that they were trying to be our friends, because this is long overdue and we haven’t gotten a minimum compression raise and it’s been quite a few years a lot of the supervisors didn’t want to move up to the next level. There’s a lot of vacancies at this point – a lot of people are coming out of the woodwork because now we got a higher raise, compression, and we’re going after a lot of other things. We’re going to be sitting back at the table probably March or April.
MC: We at the International level, we provide guidance and support to the locals and like Mario said, we’re on an organizing frenzy, we’re trying to organize the unorganized in the country as fast as possible with the support of the other locals in the International, and this first contract for the department of subways for Mario’s group was an unprecedented contract. Mario and his team did a fantastic job for their membership and we look forward to seeing what he does next year in contract bargaining on their next go round at the table. I’m proud of them.
CP: This was long overdue from the MTA. They have been treating their managers as second-class citizens for far too long. They have denied us raises between 2007 and 2014, to which they have yet to make up the difference. What they did here with the increase and the compression floor is a step in the right direction, but there’s much more to be done. We’re grateful for what happened and we hope to continue the good relationship and hope to have more gains as we move forward.
FS: Yes it is long overdue and this compression rate where it’s getting raised with several salary grades will improve the quality of life for the managers.