Home MTA Absurdity ABC Report: MTA workers not really working

ABC Report: MTA workers not really working

by Benjamin Kabak

An MTA worker, shown here in 2006, rests on the job. (Photo by flickr user pixxiestails)

A quick joint through flickr reveals a whole series of photos of MTA employees asleep on the job, and it’s no secret that MTA station workers aren’t known for their bedside manners and even demeanor. Now, with budget cuts looming, the MTA is going to have to start cutting workers. While the Transit Workers Union will push hard to make sure their members don’t lose their jobs, the MTA is going to have to trim the bloat.

To that end, Jim Hoffer at ABC’s Eyewitness News did some digging this week and found a whole of bunch of underperforming MTA employees. While the authority had no comment for his story, Hoffer paints a picture of agency ready to face an internal gauntlet. While the MTA will need more money than that available from internal cuts, paring down a large bureaucracy is beneficial for streamlining operations as well.

The tale of the employees, though, is a classic. Reports Hoffer:

He’s supposed to be working, instead a transit track inspector is headed home after a little grocery shopping. Other transit employees caught on tape should be working too, instead they’re using the MTA dump truck to drive 30 miles to a beach on Long Island to hang out, chat and catch an ocean breeze. Other transit workers have so much free time during their 8-houir shift, they set up an outdoor gym where they can exercise at all hours of the work day.

“How many hours do you actually work on the track in an 8 hour shift?” I asked a track worker, who asked not to be identified.

“Typically it’s about 1 hour, an-hour-and-a-half of actual work,” he responded. Fed up with what he calls a culture of waste and abuse at a time when the MTA threatens record fare hikes, this worker said the problem starts high up.

“The supervisors are the problem. The supervisors allow this type of behavior. There is a system that allows the workers to slip out to go an do whatever they want,” he said.

Hoffer’s tales are endless and amusing. He has one about a worker who checks out his bar every hour or so and another about a team that works about 90 minutes a day. The workers, though, get $25-$30 an hour for their eight-hour shifts and benefits too. Sign me up!

The TWU, of course, denies the allegations. Roger Toussaint told Hoffer that the 90-minute work days are exceptions and that crews loiter, for hours on end, on platforms because they’re not allowed on the tracks during rush hour. But this seems to me to be a tale of bloat.

I can’t say where the responsibility for this issue lies. Hopefully, soon, the MTA will release a response to Hoffer’s story. But for now, I will raise a skeptical eyebrow. From circumstantial evidence, I’m inclined to believe the report, and I have to think that, with funds tight, the agency will soon crack down on this waste. Only after they do so can they ask the government for more sources of funding.

You may also like


Matt Singleton November 14, 2008 - 7:44 am

This is incredibly angering, but not surprising. The TWU (as with most other unions) have always protected their members from accountability, even as they feel the need to boost salaries and benefits. What this country needs is to wake up and realize unions are an institution of the past and only hinder progress and efficiency. Maybe if MTA workers felt they needed to fight for their own job, they would be more responsible. And I’m sure it’s not going to be easy for the MTA to get rid of these lazy employees under union rules either. We need to get CBTC installed on every train and then not replace workers as they leave.

To go off on a tangent, the UAW is also what has been behind the inability of Ford, GM, and Chrysler to react to their problems. Forced to maintain ridiculous levels of production to keep workers ’employed’, these companies have been unable to shut down excess capacity and downsize like they so desparately need to do. Instead, GM and Ford are selling vehicles at huge discounts of $6000-$8000 below MSRP to move inventory (because inventory cost is so expensive in the auto industry). Even if they sell vehilces at MSRP, they are still losing money. Because of this mess of unions and benefits that comes along with these companies, foreign buyers have all walked away from even really ‘cheap’ deals. Well guess what, the unions are going to get a nice surprise soon. I bet we will see GM or Chrysler collapse in the next month and wouldnt be surprised if there is a domino effect. The short-sighted union presidents will then realize that maybe these companies and workers have aligned interests afterall….

Alon Levy November 14, 2008 - 5:43 pm

What this country needs is to wake up and realize unions are an institution of the past and only hinder progress and efficiency.

Except that Sweden, Norway, and Denmark have almost Soviet levels of unionization, and very high efficiency.

herenthere November 14, 2008 - 9:50 pm

I don’t think the high efficiency is b/c of the unions. I think it may be b/c of better work ethics and accountability instead.

rhywun November 14, 2008 - 8:25 am

“…crews loiter, for hours on end, on platforms because they’re not allowed on the tracks during rush hour…”

That’s funny. When I’m blocked on one project, my boss tells me to work on another one. Imagine that!

Anyway, it’s nice to see some independent corroboration of my belief that this union is a pit of waste and corruption. And that one worker is right: the problem goes all the way up to the top. It’s a public agency; nobody takes responsibility for anything. As for the budget… in any business, the first thing you do is cut costs, not throw more money down a sinkhole. Especially when the money comes out of my pocket.

Mr. Eric November 14, 2008 - 8:50 am

It’s also the same thing with teachers. They don’t teach a class for every minute of there 6 hour work day. Some teach as little as 2 classes a day. That doesn’t mean that the’re not doing there jobs because they also have down time.

rhywun you seem like a very disgruntled either ex city employee or someone who wishes thay could have a union job but can’t pass the test or couldn’t handle the job.

Julia November 14, 2008 - 10:14 am

There’s a big difference. Teachers don’t teach classes every minute of the day because their job covers more than class time. During the time when they’re not teaching, they are preparing for the next class, grading, doing other paperwork, etc.

What we’re talking about is MTA workers doing absolutely nothing during the equivalent time.

(I don’t believe for a minute that this phenomenon is unique to government employees or union labor, BTW.)

Mr. Eric November 14, 2008 - 11:03 am

Julia you make a fair point but I have a very good friend of mine who is a highschool gym teacher he has 4 classes a day and that’s it. He grades no tests and after developing a routine in his first year on the job now just follows it year after year.

Alon Levy November 14, 2008 - 6:03 pm

I honestly don’t know about gym teachers. But academic teachers spend at least as much time working outside class as in class. It’s entirely possible the gym teacher got a break because of union rules that mandate the same pay and in-class work hours for all teachers, based on the needs of academic teachers.

rhywun November 14, 2008 - 11:25 am

you seem like a very disgruntled either ex city employee

Wrong. I am happily employed in the private sector. I have had union jobs in the past and would not care to repeat the experience. I’ll negotiate my own terms with my employers, thanks.

What I *am* disgruntled about is the oversized power this union has over my wallet, and our elected leaders who do almost nothing to keep costs down but instead cave at every demand of the union.

That doesn’t mean that the’re not doing there jobs because they also have down time

Teachers grade papers when they have down time. Firefighters train, clean the house, and maintain the equipment when there’s no fire. Down time does not mean doing your grocery shopping or driving to the beach with your buddies.

Mr. Eric November 14, 2008 - 12:09 pm

You say this union has oversized power but yet it is the ONLY major union to have taken a 0% pay increase over the last 10 years.

It is the ONLY of the major unions to have to pay a percentage of it’s GROSS earnings toward medical coverage.

It’s the ONLY major union that has a major title “train operator” that is the lowest paid for that job in the entire country.

It is the ONLY of the major unions that doesn’t have a 20 and out retirement.

Costs are out of control mostly because of the city and states lack of funding over the entire Pataki administrations years in office. Plus the skyrocketing construction costs that help OTHER unions.

rhywun November 14, 2008 - 12:51 pm

I’m supposed to feel sorry for this guy snoozing in the picture up above because he can’t retire at the age of forty?! At MY expense?! That’s just not going to happen, ever.

Yes, the union has oversized power. They can cripple the city, causing millions of dollars of lost revenue, and get away with a relative slap on the wrist. There’s no competition to the MTA, so it’s not like taxpayers have any say in the matter of how their money is being spent.

Plus the skyrocketing construction costs that help OTHER unions.

Yes, the transit union is hardly the only one that is a sinkhole for tax dollars.

Mr. Eric November 14, 2008 - 1:30 pm

How is a pension YOUR expense the worker pays between 2-8% of there wages to receive these pensions. How do you come up with the age of 40? Every TA worker starts the job at 20? No most start in there 30’s.

I guess your anti-police also but cry if the crime rate goes up in your area. Youd be shocked at how many police spend there days sleeping in TA crew facilities. BUT when they get a call on there radios that they are needed they attend to business.

I never said anthing about feeling sorry for anyone. I just simply stated facts that you have no rational reply to.

rhywun November 14, 2008 - 6:07 pm

You yourself said that they can retire at 55. A 2% to 8% contribution is not enough to cover today’s average lifespans. Therefore I suspect that the 2% to 8% is just that, a contribution. A portion of the total cost. Also, the meaning of the word “pension” is that you’re covered for life. It’s not based on what you put in. When I retire (and it will probably be around 70), I only get back what I put in, plus interest. That is not a pension.

Youd be shocked at how many police spend there days sleeping in TA crew facilities

No, I wouldn’t.

Look, I am not “anti-police” or “anti-transit-worker” for that matter. But as the one who pays their salaries, I expect an honest day’s work. I am sure many or even most do. But it makes my blood boil to read stories like this.

Alon Levy November 14, 2008 - 6:10 pm

Cops who sleep on the job are one rung above cops who shoot unarmed civilians. But again, public perception of NYPD is based on the conventional wisdom that cops are bums.

Mr. Eric November 14, 2008 - 8:37 am

Day tours for maintenance workers are mostly for emergecies. When there is a broken rail, tree on tracks, or other problems these workers get called to fix it and that’s what they do.

The majority of work is done at night but you still need employees during the day in case of emergencies and to do a few inspections that can be done during the day.

It’s the same thing as firefighters hanging out in the fire house shooting pool, drinking beer, sleeping BUT when there is a fire they spring into action and take care of business. When theres no fire they too have down time. Thats how alot of jobs work, but in a contract year it’s typical to blame the mismanagement of millions of dollars by the MTA management on the hourly employees that keep the system running 24/7.

Alon Levy November 14, 2008 - 6:12 pm

I’m pretty sure firefighters who drink on duty don’t last very long. At least, if they do, I have a new explanation for why so much of the Bronx burned down in the 70s.

Mr. Eric November 14, 2008 - 1:40 pm

rhywun you work non stop for every minute of your work day but have plenty of time to read and post on the internet? Do us all a favor and shut your mouth becasue you don’t know what your talking about.

If you work for the MTA you pay the exact same taxes, fares, and tolls as everyone else it’s no different so to say it’s your money is a joke.

rhywun November 14, 2008 - 6:18 pm

If you work for the MTA you pay the exact same taxes, fares, and tolls as everyone else it’s no different so to say it’s your money is a joke.

When I say “my” money I mean taxpayer money. And yep, MTA employees pay taxes too but of course they don’t agitate for lower taxes, because it might put them out of a job. Those of us who don’t work for the MTA see things a little differently, however.

Marc Shepherd November 14, 2008 - 2:21 pm

How do you come up with the age of 40? Every TA worker starts the job at 20? No most start in there 30’s.

Even if that’s true (which seems unlikely), you are still apparently arguing that these guys ought to get full retirement in their 50s. I don’t know of many careers where that is possible. Why should that gift be bestowed upon transit workers?

Mr. Eric November 14, 2008 - 2:53 pm

police, corrections, sanitation, and FDNY retire after 20 years no matter what the age is. Transit workers who are operating personnel deserve the same. You wouldn’t believe how many TA workers die early due to work place pollutants that are being breathed in like diesel fumes for 25 years.

Pensions are the reason people take these jobs and work crazy hours, all weekends, all holidays, all summer, and all over the system.

Duke87 November 14, 2008 - 10:31 pm

Fact of life: all union blue-collar workers are lazy.

I had to deal with it all last summer when people working for the highway department of the city of Stamford (CT) would do things like take two hour lunches, quit work at 1:30 in the afternoon, go hang out in the parking lot in front of CVS and goof off at about 10 in the morning, say they had done work which they hadn’t… basically, whenever me or someone else working for the engineering bureau wasn’t directly keeping an eye on them, not much would get done.

jk November 14, 2008 - 10:42 pm

Plenty of snoozers in mamagement too.

harold Kirkpatrick November 15, 2008 - 9:42 am

While there may be possibly some element of truth in this, I am quite skeptical because of the enormous pressures break the union. I have had 2 friends that were briefly union organizers and neither they nor I could believe the relentless character assassination and harassment they were subject. Management hires experts (including public relation experts who plant stories in blogs like this) to do this and they stop at nothing.

Folks, we need to expand unionization not to break it.

Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog » Blog Archive » » With pink slips rumored, TWU takes the offensive November 17, 2008 - 12:06 am

[…] Personally, I’m not quite sure what the MTA stands to gain with the current red-vest station assistance program. While these workers lend subway stations a modicum of safety, the vast majority of reports have these employees refusing to offer assistance when asked, and of course, a good many of them seem to sleep on on the job. […]

The Secret Conductor November 20, 2008 - 5:14 am

Wow, what a dicussion we are having here.

Let us not forget why unions came into being: because employers tended to abuse their employees.

The bigest reason why so many people feel safe with their jobs even though they are not in unions is because they THINK they can sue and win, but the reality is that many states fall under “at will” employment. The first thing a lawyer will ask you is if you are in a union and so will the unemployment office if your case goes into arbitration for unemployment.

If you do not have a contract to work with your employer then for the most part you work “at will” and your employer can let you go for “any reason”. They don’t because he cost of being sued is high but they will most likely win most cases.

With all of that said they are many employees who take advantage of their union status and just do not work and even feel ENTITLED to not working. I have met some of them and boy they can get really mad when they have to work when someone of a “lower rank” should be sent out first of “found” to do the job.

I am not sure what they plan on doing about this especially considering that management not only allows this but does it themselves. There are reasons for people not being able to work whether its a Firefighter, Police or Transit Track Worker, due to what ever they need to do that can’t be done and still get paid for 8 hours of work, but sleeping on the job in a public space is a no-no.

I am not surprised that Transit wants to cut the token booth clerks probably because of what you see pictured above. Token booth cllerks should have train maps, street maps, bus maps, people who can read them and people who are willing to help those who are lost.

Thoughts on the Tracks « abzME.com November 22, 2008 - 1:29 am

[…] we NYer’s take for granted.  That it’ll just work.  And for the most part it does.  Even if employees sleep on the job.  Even if the smell is awful.  Even if it drips in weird places water tainted with rust.  Bill […]

Jane Doe December 30, 2008 - 1:49 pm

None of this matters. The MTA is still going to raise rates, and the workers are protected by the unions. So in the end you pay up and shut up!

Obama knows best | Daily Danet July 23, 2009 - 10:28 am

[…] those doctors a lesson.)  Instead, we should trust healthcare decisions to hard working federal bureaucrats and honest politicians like John “Gimme Gimme” Murtha, Ted “Chappaquiddick” […]

MTAIG Reports: Emergency response teams, track worker efficiency :: Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog December 3, 2009 - 1:25 am

[…] dedicated emergency response team. In November 2008, ABC News tracked a bunch of MTA workers who weren’t really working. In both instances, Barry Kluger, the MTA Inspector General, decided to investigate these […]

UTAH ONER June 29, 2010 - 9:49 pm

[…] especially considering my generous donation to them… perhaps it has something to do with this.  Or […]

Ad Wrapped Wholetrain « I Love Graffiti DE July 1, 2010 - 8:47 am

[…] tönt der NYC Blog, Inspiration gabs ja in den letzten 40 Jahren genug…wahrscheinlich deswegen, oder es liegt daran […]

NYC : Target whole train July 4, 2010 - 1:01 pm

[…] whole train des MUL ? Ou alors ils sont vraiment fauchés… c’est peut-être à cause de ça.  Ou […]

Bellagio on 34th Street « September 24, 2011 - 12:00 am

[…] of lights and music that should be completed over the next 17 weekends by way hard working, not lazy, union […]

godchromosome August 26, 2013 - 9:48 am

I know of an mta worker that I see on a daily basis and I’m just blown away at the level of laziness I witness from this man!He has not worked a monday since I’ve known him which has been about two years.He only goes to work two days a week and often ZERO days a week AND he was recently presented with a plethora of “awards” and certificates for his”outstanding service”!!!Could SOMEbody tell me how this man still has a job,AT ALL?
Imagine being able to go to work when you FEEL like going.Imagine being able to say “I have not went to work on a monday in over two years and I still have a job!Hell,they even gave me an official certificate of appreciation for NOT doing what I was hired to do”
Of course he brags about the fact of that since he’s a union member and only has a year or two to retire he can get away with not working UNTIL he retires!..today is monday and his car is in the driveway…..again!


Leave a Comment