Transport union fights for fair contract
Published Jan 28, 2012 11:09 AM
Transport Workers Union Local 100 represents 34,000 bus and subway workers who move over 3 million New Yorkers every workday. As its contract expired on Jan. 15, the union held a rally that evening to both mark the Martin Luther King Jr. birthday anniversary and to press for a new contract.
According to TWU Local 100’s Facebook page, there are only two wage proposals on the table. The one from the bosses, the Metropolitan Transit Authority, offers a five-year contract with 0-0-0-2-2 percent increases each year, that is, nothing the first three years. The other is from the union for raises matching inflation.
The MTA is also pushing for major concessions from the workers: five unpaid vacation days; to have on staff bus drivers who work only part time; station cleaners working at two different pay rates, that is, two tiers; higher co-pays for the workers’ health insurance; and changes to overtime rules that would cost workers $8 million a year.
The MTA has taken the position that if TWU workers want a raise in wages, they have to pay for it by giving up other benefits. The union considers this totally unacceptable.
The MTA released its bargaining position to the press before it gave it to the union bargaining team on Jan. 19. The union then suspended negotiations because the MTA’s publicizing its position violated the procedures that both sides had set up previously.
State persecuted union
In 2005, TWU Local 100 challenged the anti-union Taylor Law, which outlaws strikes by public workers, by striking for 60 hours. The state government imposed draconian penalties on the union: the fines, prohibition of dues check-off and other penalties were so severe that the union had to sell its headquarters to pay them; the individual workers who struck were fined two days’ pay for each day they were out, plus the wages they lost because they didn’t work.
The union president at the time went to jail. All the elected leadership of the local could have been imprisoned, although they weren’t.
The International Labor Organization, a U.N. agency which seeks to protect human and labor rights, declared on Nov. 28, that the state of New York’s treatment of TWU Local 100 was a violation of ILO Convention No. 87 on the “Freedom of Association and the Protection of the Right to Organize” and called on the state to rescind the penalties and make the union and its members whole.
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