Thousands of TWU Local 100 members, joined by representatives from TWU International leadership, flooded the streets of lower Manhattan Tuesday night, as the local prepares to open negotiations with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).
An estimated 7,000 members armed with signs, songs and chants made their voices heard loud and clear in front of MTA headquarters—even projecting their demands on the building itself: workplace respect and safety, wages, pensions, and enhanced training. These issues and more will be on the table as negotiations open, and Local 100 will be fighting for their members every step of the way.
But it’s not just the city and people of New York that have their eyes on this fight. When TWU International President Harry Lombardo addressed the crowd, bringing greetings from all the locals and divisions of the union, he remarked that “Every local in the TWU family is watching this fight closely. Why? Because every local in our great union, especially our TWU transit locals, is affected by the outcome of this negotiation. In fact, every transit local in the country is watching this negotiation closely.” President Lombardo spoke of the recently-settled Local 234 strike in Philadelphia and commended International Executive Vice President and Local 100 President John Samuelsen as he introduced President Samuelsen to the fired up crowd.
Samuelsen declared that it’s time for transit workers—who toil in a dangerous environment—to be fairly compensated for their work at a time when the MTA is carrying a surplus and on-the-job injuries and assaults have been increasing. He also spoke of the power the union has built in New York.
“Without us, the city grinds to a halt. We make this city go, and we can make it go in the other direction too,” he said, calling for an agreement before the current contract expires on Jan. 15. “There is no economic calamity this time. The MTA is actually working with a slight surplus. We demand a fair contract. We demand that they negotiate in good faith so that we get that agreement by Jan. 15. No more waiting. We want an on time contract.”
Lombardo and Samuelsen were joined by International Vice President and Transit Division Director Jerome Lafragola, who spoke as well. “I look out into the crowd and I see the strength of this union. As always I am proud to be TWU,” said Lafragola.
The crowd roared and were buoyed by the other speakers during the evening, including supportive New York politicians and public advocates.
Labor support came in the form of strong statements from Danny Cassella and Mark Henry, who represent other transit locals in New York, as well as from New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento and New York City Central Labor Council Vincent Alvarez.
At the conclusion of the rally, Samuelsen and a delegation of top officers walked into the lobby of the MTA building where officials were waiting to formally accept the union’s bargaining demands, kicking off Local 100’s “contract countdown.”