Archive for ATU
The Amalgamated Transit Union, the city’s biggest bus driver union, has voted one of New York’s own as their next president. The ATU announced yesterday that Larry Hanley, a 32-year New York City Transit veteran, has been elected head of the ATU International. Hanley, one of the founders of the Keep America Moving coalition, is billed as a reform candidate, and shortly after his election yesterday, he spoke with Labor Notes’ Mark Brennan about his plans for the union.
The interview touches upon a variety of topics that impact New Yorkers and Americans in general. Hanley talks about the need for better legislative action that keeps transit agencies afloat and talks about working with T4America to promote green jobs and transit expansion. He recognizes that unions have earned a bad rap these days but seems to understand that car culture, particularly in New York City, is bad for our community and our environment. “If we can organize and convince the users of mass transit and the workers of mass transit that they have a common interest, and if you carry that forward into different areas in the labor movement, that is a long, hard battle but it’s in reach. It’s also an imperative,” he said. “If we don’t do it we’ll cease to exist.”
Staten Island bus drivers have a snow day problem, according to New York City Transit. Based upon data from a few snowy days this February, more divers are calling in sick on snowy days, the Daily News reports today. According to Transit, more drivers than usual called in sick on February 9, the day of a major storm in the New York City area, and by the time the snow had settled, 88 drivers out of Castleton – or 21 percent of that depot’s drivers – had filed for a sick day, and 15 percent of drivers from Staten Island’s Yukon depot had done the same.
To fill these service gaps, the MTA had to turn to workers who collect overtime, and the cash-strapped authority isn’t too pleased with the potential sick-day abuse. “Clearly there are cases where people are taking advantage of sick-day policies, and when and where we are able, we’re going to go after those cases in a very serious way,” Jeremy Soffin, MTA spokesman, said to Pete Donohue.
Vinnie Serapiglia, a vice president at Amalgamated Transit Workers Union Local 726, defended drivers who life outside of the city and could have faced “tough commutes” back to their suburban houses in Pennsylvania or New Jersey. “I don’t understand the thinking of the transit authority. The guys come here and put their all into the job,” he said, “and it seems like they are constantly under attack by management.”
Recently elected TWU Local 100 President John Samuelsen poses outside of MTAHQ on Wednesday. (Photo via the Daily News)
As part of the MTA’s planned service cuts, the authority is trying to spread the pain around. We know that Transit is trying to minimize the disruptive nature of their necessary cuts. We know that the MTA’s administration budget will be reduced by 10 percent and that everyone will have to take a paycut. We also know that the agency is going to try to eliminate 700 union jobs. The TWU will not, according to new president John Samuelsen, go down without a fight.
Speaking in front of MTA Headquarters on Wednesday shortly before the authority’s board met to discuss the service cuts, Samuelsen lobbed some charges at the executives. “This document was obviously written by accountants, bean counters, people who obviously don’t ride our system and who don’t understand that these cuts are negatively impacting hundreds of thousands of New York’s working families and their children,” Samuelsen said. “They’re clueless.”
Samuelsen, according to Pete Donohue, also called upon the MTA to eschew their countdown clock program in favor of covering operating deficits. It is this attitude that will result in a transit policy and a transit system stuck in neutral, and as we know, the agency as no plans right now to shift any capital money to cover its operating deficit.
At a time when the MTA is suffering in the eyes of a skeptical public, his rhetoric rings a certain bell. He knows that the MTA’s proposed service cuts were written by people very much in tune with the system. That’s why the proposal is designed to limit the number of passengers and riders it impacts. He knows that MTA officials aren’t clueless. But he also knows that he’s going to have to fight for the jobs. Right now, despite the fact that wage increases for TWU workers is contributing to the MTA’s deficit gap, Samuelsen is clearly winning the war of the words.
On a more practical level, though, Samuelsen and new MTA CEO and Chair Jay Walder are going to try to work together to address the MTA’s deficit. City Hall News’ Chris Bragg profiled Samuelsen yesterday, and his piece adds a level of complexity missing in the Daily News’ coverage of the TWU head’s public comments.
Samuelsen and Walder recently met for the first time, and the two have pledged, according to Bragg, to work together. Walder — known for being hard on labor during his days in London — had a more optimistic assessment of the potential relationship between the two men. “He has pledged to [work together], and I have pledged to do so,” he said. “But we’re both new to our jobs, so we’re finding our way.” But Samuelsen countered, “We have diametrically opposite positions on a whole array of issues. It’s not going to be personally hostile. But we’re not going to just roll over, either.”
Samuelsen is taking over the TWU after a few tumultuous years of labor relations with the MTA. Roger Toussaint’s decision to strike in 2005 cost the union dearly, and Samuelsen vows to avoid making the same mistakes of capitulation. Still, some observers think the two new heads will see a thaw in their early discourse. “Roger Toussaint came into office with a reputation as a firebrand kind of guy too,” Bill Henderson, executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA, said to Bragg. “Eventually, the relationship changed.”
Right now, Samuelsen’s job is to save 700 of the 37,000 workers over whom he is in charge from getting the axe. He’ll try everything in his power to save 1.8 percent of his workforce from the unemployment lines because he knows what giving into the MTA will mean. As the authority fights for its money, the war — one that will probably end on a reconciliatory note — is just getting started.
Over the last few months, the MTA’s generally tenuous relationship with its union workers — and in particular, the Transport Workers Union — has become strained, and it’s starting to fray. The trouble started when an arbitration panel awarded the TWU 11 percent in raises over the next three years, and although the process was called “binding arbitration,” the MTA could legally appeal the decision on certain grounds. When the agency opted for this path, labor peace started to deteriorate, and things are slowly coming to a head.
We start first with a non-TWU story and with a follow up to last week’s tragic accident that left a pedestrian dead after getting struck by a bus while he was cross the street. On Tuesday, I reported that this bus driver had been suspended for texting behind the wheel. Protests by the Amalgamated Transit Union, though, led to a simple suspension.
Yesterday, the Daily News added a shocking twist to this sad story. The driver had been posting nasty notes about passengers on his Facebook page. According to the report, these notes were about “killing, committing suicide and beating people.” Now, the MTA Inspector General Barry Kluger has initiated a probe to find out why Transit did not initiate a psychological evaluation of Jeremy Philhower and why the agency faced such fierce resistance when they it tried to dismiss this driver. This accident — seemingly avoidable — should lead to a change in the way these cases are handled by both the unions and the MTA.
Next, we arrive at an Op-Ed by Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute. She takes the MTA to task for its role the TWU arbitration process:
Arbitration likely was a ruse, although we don’t know for sure. We can guess that neither Gov. Paterson nor the MTA thought that awarding huge raises would fly publicly, especially when the MTA needed a multibillion-dollar bailout.
But nobody wanted to annoy the TWU. It seems likely that the arbitrators were brought in to insulate the pols from public anger. Just two weeks ago, Paterson maintained this fiction, saying that, though “we don’t have the money,” the arbitrators “probably made the correct ruling technically.”
And the MTA wasn’t exactly careful, on behalf of the taxpayers, to assure a pristine process. It was almost unbelievably outrageous, as we learned long after the fact, that the “indepen dent” arbitrator on the three-man panel — former Deputy Mayor John Zuccotti, who represented the public — agreed, with the MTA’s support, to fork over his $116,000 “fee” to a TWU-controlled charity.
That is, the MTA used a supposedly independent process to wash a payment back to its “adversary” in the arbitration.
Gelinas calls for the state legislature to fix the way the MTA negotiates with its unions. She wants to see an end to what she terms “backroom deals,” and she wants the authority, going through some lean economic times, to be able to exert pressure on the unions to get more out of their workers. The politics of Gelinas’ Manhattan Institute may be more to the right than those of many New Yorkers, but she raises some questions here for the MTA that need to be aired.
Finally, with the MTA Board set to meet next Wednesday, the TWU will host another Day of Outrage protest in front of MTA headquarters. Meanwhile, the Union has appealed to the U.N.’s International Labor Organization in an effort to get New York State’s anti-strike Taylor Law repealed. Although the United Nation’s labor commission has no binding authority over New York state law, a statement against the Taylor could, in the words of one labor expert, “influence decisions by local lawmakers.”
I get the sense that, if the law allowed them to do so, the city’s transit unions would be on the verge of a strike. As the MTA’s appeal continues, as cost-cutting measures come into play, these labor wars will only grow more acrimonious.