Home Transit LaborTWU The TWU doth protest much

The TWU doth protest much

by Benjamin Kabak

TWUProtestPoster As the MTA continues to work on its appeal of the TWU’s arbitration victory, the union is fighting back. Although the transit agency claims it cannot afford to give its workers a mandatory 11 percent raise over the next three years, the union is urging the authority to respect the law. Until now, protests have largely been directed at MTA headquarters and Mayor Bloomberg, who supports the appeal, but next week, Straphangers will begin to fill the effects of a disgruntled TWU.

On Wednesday, Oct. 14, TWU members are going to participate in what leadership is calling “A Day of Outrage.” Union heads are calling for the participation of “all divisions, all members,” and the transit slowdown could make for a messy commute. The TWU says they are not asking their members do anything illegal or even anything at all, but that excuse seems far too convenient to me.

Pete Donohue has more about the potential protests:

Straphangers beware: your commute could take longer next Wednesday because of the simmering contract dispute between transit workers and the MTA. A text message urging bus drivers to “slow it down” during a “day of outrage” circulated among drivers in at least four depots on Thursday. “Do everything by the book,” the text message making the rounds urged. “Slow it down. Pass it on.”

Some subway workers told the Daily News they hadn’t received the call to action – but said it wouldn’t take much for underground workers to go on the offensive. “There’s an awful lot of anger out here right now,” a motorman said…

A spokesman last night said the union is not involved in the current texted call to action. “These texts are either made up or intended to misrepresent,” the spokesman said. “They did not originate from TWU directly or indirectly.”

Still, track worker and TWU presidential candidate John Samuelsen said he wouldn’t be surprised if there’s “a spontaneous fight back against what transit workers see as an attack by the MTA. I think the MTA underestimates the resolve of transit workers to take action into their own hands.”

I’ve said this before, and I will say again now: If the TWU starts making life miserable for commuters, they will quickly lose any public support they may have right now. Although I don’t believe the arbitration ruling was a fair one for the MTA and I firmly believe in the MTA’s procedurally and substantial right to seek an appeal, the TWU can make a strong case for public sympathy. The decision, after all, was supposed to be binding. Yet, once the TWU starts messing with the public, riders will respond in turn.

For now, I’m not buying the TWU’s argument that this direction for a slow down didn’t come from the union. They’re actively promoting it on their website. I see that, and I assume a connection as most people would. This is a dangerous game the TWU and MTA are playing against each other, and no matter who wins, the straphanging public may be the biggest losers.

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oscar October 9, 2009 - 1:24 pm

You are right. Any sympathy and support the TWU may have (and IMO they have very very little) will vanish in a heartbeat

bring it on

Kid Twist October 9, 2009 - 1:44 pm

So the trains and buses will run backwards on Wednesday?

Tony October 9, 2009 - 4:04 pm

The TWU has zero public support already so what do they have to lose? It’s disgusting that Ben agree’s with the MTA’s decision to break the law by no following the BINDING arbitration ruling.

What would have happened if the union refused to accept the worst contract in it’s history which was awarded by a BINDING arbitrator in 2005? They would have faced penalties and screams of protest from everyone. The Taylor law needs to be instantly abolished now that the MTA has showed that it is a %100 one sided law and it’s purpose has been destroyed by the authority!

Kid Twist October 9, 2009 - 4:12 pm

Sorry — but you can’t accuse the MTA of breaking the law on the one hand and support a union that struck illegally on the other.

Tony October 9, 2009 - 4:26 pm

What I’m saying is that the union paid INCREDIBLE penalties for the strike while the MTA is breaking the law and facing no repercussions. The Taylor law is no longer a valid law, it is a joke.

It should never have included non uniformed personnel anyway because they aren’t treated as though they are as imortant or vital to the city and/ or state’s well being.

Alon Levy October 9, 2009 - 6:41 pm

What you’re saying is that the TWU is excused because it broke a law you disagree with, whereas the MTA is bad because it’s appealing a decision you agree with.

Benjamin Kabak October 10, 2009 - 2:03 am

Tony: I’m sure you’re a very loyal union man, and I’m sure you feel strongly about the TWU’s side of this issue. But to suggest that is illegal to appeal a binding arbitration ruling is simply wrong. As the link in the post explains — or click here — it is perfectly legal to appeal a binding arbitration arguing for a narrow set of circumstances that would allow a judge to overrule the arbitration decision. The MTA is simply doing its due diligence here and is not breaking any law or code in appealing the arbitration decision.

That’s why I support their appeal as much as I support this “Work to Rule” campaign. Both are perfectly legal grounds for labor action whereas an illegal strike is, by definition, illegal.

Anon October 9, 2009 - 5:18 pm

Check out the Video at http://www.twulocal100.org/

Anon October 9, 2009 - 5:34 pm

JoshKarpoff October 9, 2009 - 8:04 pm

This is what is called a “Work to Rule” campaign. Everyday, in order to meet the schedule demands that management demands, the Transit workers feel compelled to violate MTA and union contract policies to get the job done and get passengers to their destination as fast as possible.

More often than not, the first policies that go out the window are the ones that are intended to protect the safety of the transit workers themselves. Whether it’s a high voltage electrician doing work hot to save downtime, or a bus driver not wearing their seat belt so they can get up to load and unload handicap passengers faster (on those older GM buses), these are choices that make commuter’s lives faster, but worker’s lives more dangerous.

In a “Work to Rule” campaign, the workers do everything by the book. They follow every little needling, possibly contradictory policy, to show the customer what it would be like if they weren’t putting the customer first and to hit management in the pocketbook.

If you think that work actions by the TWU will piss off commuters, you haven’t been paying attention to the political mood on the street. Working people are feed up and they flock to any occasion where other working people are standing up for their rights. For example, take the struggle of the Republic Windows & Doors factory workers last December. Thousands of people came by to donate food and other necessities to the strikers who were illegally occupying their factory to the benefits that their boss was legally obligated to provide. The factory occupation gained so much popular support that even Obama felt he had to come in on the side of the occupiers.

Just because there’s a law against something, doesn’t mean that law is just. The Taylor Law infringes on government employees’ right to use all available bargaining chips to ensure a fair contract. The right to strike is the penultimate bargaining chip held by working people, while firing employees is the penultimate chip held by the bosses. Without that balance, bargaining is one sided and heavy handed.

I support any actions of the TWU Local 100 workers now, just as I did during the strike, when I went and joined them on their picket line.

Alon Levy October 10, 2009 - 1:17 am

Where it counts the most, the workers don’t violate rules to help passengers. For example, some buses in Staten Island are timed to miss the ferry. Occasionally, the bus is ahead of schedule coming to St. George, and the passengers could get to the ferry in time. However, if the driver pulls into the terminal too early then he’s considered to have violated the schedule, so the drivers intentionally slow down before they pull in, ensuring all the passengers miss the ferry and get half an hour added to their commute.

This could be blamed on management. The TWU’s resistance to OPTO and other efficiency-boosting technologies can’t. New York is now one of the few cities in the world where subways have two operators each, where it’s considered inappropriate for the driver to also push the “open doors, make announcement” button.

Tony October 11, 2009 - 10:07 am

The NYC subway system does NOT have 2 operators!!!! The trains have ONE operator and one conductor. They are two completely different job titles and descriptions.

The problem is poor management and way too much of it. These new general managers make over 150k a year and they are not and were never needed unless all of the superintendents were going to be removed but they were not it just added 2 more layers of high paid managers.

Alon Levy October 11, 2009 - 4:02 pm

That’s two operators. Trains are capable of running with one operator, who both drives and presses the “open doors” button. They can even run with zero operators, but that requires expensive technological upgrades except on shuttle lines; OPTO doesn’t.

Working Class October 11, 2009 - 5:02 pm

So what you’re saying is that each train on the LIRR and MNR have at least 6 operators? The answer is no they have ONE operator the engineer and the rest of the crew are conductors, brakemen, ect. It’s the same on the subway the T/O does the same job as a locomotive engineer on the commuter lines they move the train safely and according to rule. The subway conductors make announcments, open and close the doors, and deal with the public. They do NOT operate the train in anyway!

Alon Levy October 11, 2009 - 8:12 pm

Yes, each train on the LIRR and MNRR has 6 operators, of whom 5 are redundant.

Believe it or not, but rail systems in more rational cities, like Berlin and Paris and Washington, are run with one operator per train and no conductors. Tickets are sold on a proof of payment basis or with fare gates at each station, and the announcements are prerecorded and done with the press of a button, just like on the subway.

The steam-era safety rules in New York don’t actually promote safety. Paris doesn’t have fatal accidents any more than New York does. It’s just rational enough to put the brake control in the engineer’s cab, just like on every subway system, instead of paying someone a full salary just to hit the brakes.

Erik October 12, 2009 - 12:07 am

Comparing the operation of an NYC subway train to one in Paris is idiotic. NYC trains/platforms are substantially longer, the stations are less ergonomically and less safely designed (pillars often near edge of platforms, which are sometimes curved), the ridership far more unruly and unpredictable. OPTO might be possible on lines that have had technical & physical upgrades to bring them to Paris’ standard of safety & efficiency, but that would cost BILLIONS – far more than just keeping a conductor as well as a train operator on the trains.

Erik October 12, 2009 - 12:30 am

Locomotion, including brakes, are all handled by the train operator, on both commuter rail and the subway. All the extra personnel on commuter rail is to collect tickets and operate doors. Multi-unit trains could indeed have doors operated by the train operator, but this would be impossible on a train with a separate locomotive, and it’s not done ANYWHERE in the world. Ticket-taking on commuter rail is antiquated and not cost-efficient, but it would cost billions to re-fit all the stations in the commuter-rail networks to install turnstiles and seal off non-paid access to tracks and platforms. PS – suburban rail in Berlin has at least 2 employees per train.

Alon Levy October 12, 2009 - 12:49 am

Okay, then don’t fit faregates. Do proof-of-payment. You’ll save money on the conductors – you’d replace about five conductors with one ticket inspectors, which means four fewer salaries to pay per train.

If you think Paris is too different, then go to other cities. Moscow Metro trains range from IRT length to IND length; they’re all run with OPTO. Singapore MRT trains are about IRT length; most are run OPTO, and some are run automatically. Washington Metro trains range from IRT to IND length, and are driven automatically with just one operator who opens and closes doors. Hell, New York successfully ran the L with OPTO and the shuttle automatically, until the TWU raised hell about it.

I’m willing to buy that New Yorkers think they’re more unruly than Singaporeans. The stereotype is false, especially when the government doesn’t explicitly ban things (and there’s no ban on door-holding) but most New Yorkers couldn’t even tell you where Singapore is. But Paris, Moscow, and Washington are as chaotic as New York.

rhywun October 9, 2009 - 8:43 pm

They follow every little needling, possibly contradictory policy

I don’t suppose they’ll follow rules intended to help the customers that they currently NEVER follow and which won’t slow down anyone’s commute. Such as announcing bus stops? Testing the volume of in-car speakers? Didn’t think so.

Without that balance, bargaining is one sided and heavy handed.

What happened to, if you don’t like the contract, find another job…? That’s what I do. But I suppose it’s easier to collect dues and spend them on lobbying activist politicians who have no qualms about running the city’s finances off a cliff (again).

paulb October 11, 2009 - 11:45 am

My major (but not exclusive) gripe against Bloomberg: He didn’t use the 2006 strike to break the TWU. That would have been a start in restoring some sanity to the NYC economy. Now the TWU will make the rest of us pay.

phil October 11, 2009 - 2:17 pm

someone put a bullet through the union leader’s head, see if that stops their self righteous attitudes

Alon Levy October 11, 2009 - 4:03 pm

Yes, let’s kill people, just like in the 19th century, or in Pinochet’s Chile. That’ll show those workers who’s boss.

Erik October 12, 2009 - 12:19 am

Hundreds of thousands of workers in the private sector lost their jobs, and hundreds of thousands more had their pay frozen or cut in New York over the past 2 years, and the transit union wants an 11% raise?! Along with the rest of the city employees’ unions, they should ALL BE REPLACED BY THE PEOPLE THEY SUPPOSEDLY WORK FOR. And thank goodness for the metrocard machines finally replacing the token clerks: the RUDEST, WORST-TRAINED and WORST-MANAGED group of clerks this side of Albania.

But, as someone else noted: the TWU already knows it has nothing to lose – they know the riding public resents them almost as much as we loathe the MTA’s own bloated management and corruption. Literally 95 percent of LIRR workers retire 10 years early, with full pensions, due to “disability”. Disgusting – throw them all out, along with the politicians (and executives) who agreed to these contracts!


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