TWU roundup: A legal fight, bus mirrors and dirty stationsBy
I’ve been sitting on a few TWU-related stories over the past week, and none of them are long enough to warrant a separate post. So in the grand style of the link roundups we post periodically at River Ave. Blues, I present a TWU link roundup.
‘Pushy’ conductor wins legal fight
Our first story comes to us from Pete Donohue. He reports that the New York Court of Appeals ruled that a subway conductor who was accused of pushing a passenger after a heated exchange of words in 2006 cannot be fired. The MTA had initially tried to fire Jack Grissett after he fired a homophobic slur at a passenger and then, in Donohue’s words, “‘forcefully’ put his hands on the man.” At the time, an arbitration panel had recommended a two-month suspension without pay, and the Court determined that the arbitration ruling should stand and that the MTA owes Grissett backpay as well. The MTA had won at both the Supreme Court and Appellate level.
While Donohue and his sources portray this to be an example of wasteful MTA expenditures on legal fees, I have a different take on it. It reaches more to the power of the unions and the MTA’s inability to fire its employees acts most workplaces would not tolerates. As PSAs throughout the system remind us, if a rider assaults an MTA employee, the penalty could be up to seven years in jail. Yet, if an MTA employee is found to be guilty of similar behavior, a two-month suspension is a sufficient punishment.
Bus mirrors inadequate, says drivers
According to a Heather Haddon report in amNew York, a few express bus drivers say that replacement mirrors are inadequate and could put pedestrians at risk. Union leaders claim that the MTA’s decision to replace broken mirrors with “a more affordable model” is a flawed one because the mirrors do not allow drivers to see people on the streets or those running for the bus. While Transit officials say the mirrors “meet or exceed” safety specifications, one bus depot in Brooklyn fielded 20 complaints last month alone.
With funds tight, station cleaning shifts go unfilled
For the last few years, the MTA has threatened to eliminate station cleaning crews as a way of saving money. The current setup, Transit officials have claimed, is an inefficient use of manpower. Now, TWU leaders say that cleaning shifts are going unfilled. According to another Heather Haddon article, Transit has let cleaning shifts go unfilled when workers call in sick. She writes, “On a Monday earlier this month, 138 cleaning shifts had vacancies, with less than a fifth of them getting filled through overtime, according to transit documents.”
For the MTA, this is one way to save on overtime pay, but for the rest of us, we’re left with stations dirtier and grimier than usual. Meanwhile, despite promises from MTA heads to improve station cleanliness, the agency plans to save $6 million by eliminating 83 cleaners this year. Perhaps those naming rights deals should resemble Adopt-a-Station plans instead with the money going toward cleaning efforts.