International President John Samuelsen
Sworn in as the 10th TWU International President in May of 2017, John Samuelsen is also President of TWU Local 100 in New York, representing 40,000 members at the nation’s largest public transit agency. Prior to being elevated to the office of the President, Samuelsen served as Executive Vice President since 2013.
A Brooklyn native, Samuelsen was hired by the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) in 1993 and was assigned to a track gang in Brooklyn, where he and his fellow union members worked under difficult and unsafe conditions. Managers ignored safety regulations, disciplined workers who spoke up, and had no respect for the workers or their union. While still in his probationary period, Samuelsen’s co-workers elected him shop steward of their local union, and he fought vigorously for their rights. By winning small battles against management abuse, the local was able to slowly turn things around.
From 2001 to 2006, Samuelsen served as chair of the Track Safety Committee, and chair of the Track Division. From 2002–2005 he was Acting Vice President of the Maintenance of Way Department, representing 7,100 workers providing essential services to NYCTA in Track, Line Equipment and Signals, Power and Structure. During that time, he also served as lead negotiator for all safety-related issues during contract bargaining between Local 100 and NYCTA, and authored the Comprehensive Track Safety Bill, passed by both houses of the New York State Legislature.
He was elected President of Local 100 in December 2009 and was elected overwhelmingly in 2012 and 2015 and continues to serve in that role, taking an active public role in New York politics and advocating on behalf of all TWU members.
International Executive Vice President Alex Garcia
Alex Garcia has previously served the union as International Secretary-Treasurer, COPE Director, as well as director of the combined COPE and Government Affairs Department.
Garcia was only 19 when he was first hired by American Airlines in Miami’s Fleet Service division in 1989. He quickly rose to power in his local, and by 1992, he was an experienced shop steward representing ramp workers at Miami International Airport. He also served as chief steward and chair of the local’s election committee. In 2002, at the age of 32, Local 568 members elected him President, and he was re-elected in 2005. In 2007, TWU International lured Garcia away from Miami to bring his extensive union and political experience to the national level.
At the International, Garcia has worked effectively as a legislative representative, field representative, and political coordinator, using the first-hand experience he gained while working for U.S. Senator Bob Graham (D-Fla.) from 1998–2003. Garcia assisted the senator’s successful campaign for a third term and his bid for the presidency in 2003, and also worked on the election campaign of Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).
In 2010, Garcia was elevated to COPE Director, and director of the combined COPE and Political Field Department, now Government Affairs. He was instrumental in creating the TWU State Conference program which combines the power of TWU locals in a geographic area to strengthen grassroots activism on the local and national level.
As Secretary-Treasurer, Garcia kept the union on sound financial footing and brought his expertise to local leadership by conducting Secretary-Treasurer trainings around the country.
International Secretary-Treasurer Gary Maslanka
Gary Maslanka’s TWU career began in 1974 when he was hired as a carman at Penn Central Railroad; he soon became an active member of Local 2020 in Buffalo, New York, and was appointed Vice President in 1978. The following year he was elected to his first term as Local 2020 President and was re-elected for five consecutive terms. In 1998, Maslanka became an international staff representative for the Rail Division. He was named Director of the Rail Division in 2004 and was elected as an International Vice President in 2005. In September 2013, Maslanka was elected to his current position of Administrative Vice President.
Throughout his career, Maslanka has been active in the negotiation of contracts with both freight rail and Amtrak. He has been a longtime advocate on rail safety issues and carmen training initiatives. Prior to joining the Rail Division, Maslanka was assigned to work on several Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) rulemakings with implications for TWU members, and was assigned as a member of the FRA’s Railroad Advisory Safety Committee at its inception.
Maslanka has also worked extensively with the Railway Workers Hazardous Materials Training Program; he was instrumental in the development of a comprehensive Hazardous Materials Peer Training Program on Conrail, and assisted with the development of a similar program on Union Pacific. He has testified before Congress on both rail safety and security issues and before Presidential Emergency Board 242 relating to carmen skills and training issues.
Maslanka currently serves as Chairman of the Joint Council of Carmen, Helpers, Coach Cleaners and Apprentices (JCC), Vice Chairman of Amtrak Service Workers Council (ASWC), a member of the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee, an Advisory Board member of the Railway Workers Hazardous Materials Training Program, and is active with the Rail Labor Division of the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department, where he served a term as Chairman of the Rail Labor Division.
International Administrative Vice President, John Bland
With nearly more than 50 years as a member, union activist, and elected official, John Bland is TWU’s most seasoned officer. He was elected Administrative Vice President in September 2013 and later appointed Director of the Department of Human and Civil Rights.
Bland’s commitment to civil rights began early while attending Texas Southern University, Bland was one of the founding members of the Martin Luther King-inspired Progressive Youth Association that battled segregation-era laws through peaceful demonstrations. His activism played a key role in facilitating the racial integration of lunch counters, movie theaters, and other businesses in Houston. He also fought for the hiring of African Americans at major department stores in Texas.
After serving in the U.S. Army, Bland found a new avenue for activism as a member of TWU Local 260 in Houston when he was hired as a bus operator. His commitment to civil rights quickly extended to a commitment for workplace respect and equality for his fellow Houston transit workers, and he rose through the ranks of the local, serving as shop steward, Vice President, and Secretary-Treasurer.
Throughout his career, Bland has organized thousands of transportation workers and school bus drivers in and around Houston and as far west in Texas as El Paso.
Promoting diversity in the labor movement, civic arena, and politics at all levels remains his life-long passion.
Bland has also served as Vice President of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, President of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, and is currently a Vice President of the Texas State AFL-CIO.
International Administrative Vice President Jerome Lafragola
Jerome Lafragola was elevated to Administrative Vice President of TWU in 2017 , a position he holds alongside his duties as Administrative Assistant to President Samuelsen and Director of the Transit, Universities, Utilities, and Services Division (“TUUS”).
Lafragola began his career with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in 1985, working as a Crew Chief in charge of the Lincoln Tunnel Emergency Response Garage. A proud member of TWU Local 1400, Lafragola has been elected by his co-workers to various positions including shop steward, Division Vice-Chairman, Division Chairman, Recording Secretary, and Vice-President. In 2000, he was elected President of Local 1400, a position he still holds today.
As Director of the TUUS since 2013 Lafragola oversees TWU’s largest unit, monitoring contract negotiations, organizing drives, and legislation affecting the members across the country. Lafragola also leads an annual conference designed to empower local officers within the division and to encourage cooperation across the entire union membership. Prior to his Directorship, Lafragola had been a TUUS staff representative since 2006.
In addition to his other duties, Lafragola has served as a TWU Vice President since 2013 and as an International Executive Board Member (“IEB”) since 2005, conducting trainings for staff and Local leadership across all divisions of the union, as well as participating in annual conferences to help to further the mission of the TWU.
In 2015, the IAC created the International Campaign Unit—positioning TWU to lead strategic contract and political fights—and tapped Lafragola to manage these efforts, which he continues to do today under the leadership of President Samuelsen and the IAC
Lafragola is skilled in negotiations, grievance and discipline handling, and union administration.
He holds a BA in Labor Studies from the National Labor College and a MS in Human Resources and Labor Relations from the New York Institute of Technology.