TWU International President Harry Lombardo joined International Executive Vice President and Local 100 President John Samuelsen at New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) December Board meeting yesterday, addressing the body about the importance of equitable wage increases and additional worker safety measures. Local 100’s contracts for TA/OA and MTA bus members are set to expire in just over a month, and the entire union is standing in solidarity with those members, highlighting the precedent-setting nature of New York’s transit contracts for other locals around the country.
The leaders were joined by International Vice President and Director of the Transit, Universities, Utilities and Services Division and Administrative Assistant to the President Jerome Lafragola, along with the entire Transit Division staff, as well as representatives from the Air and Rail Divisions. And in a dramatic showing of support, all of Local 100’s Executive Board and more than 250 rank-and-file members, packed the board meeting room to capacity and forced an even larger overflow crowd into the lobby.
Many members carried poster-sized images of co-workers who were beaten and slashed on the job and held them high so Board members would see the kind of daily pressures and dangers that face transit workers. Members also produced a TWU version of the Union Square Subway “therapy wall” (where New Yorkers stuck thousands of “post-it” notes to express their post-election feelings) by taping letter-sized “post-it” notes on the lobby wall at 2 Broadway. Their contract demands included messages like, “COLAs Don’t Cut It”, “Don’t Touch My Health Benefits”, “Improve Our Longevity”, and many more.
President Lombardo addressed the MTA Board, “I stand with Local 100 and its bargaining team in solidarity today. I have pledged to them the International’s support as well: financial, legal, political, and of course our moral support. Their fight is our fight; their goals for this contract are our goals.”
Five Local 100 members also addressed the Board to put faces to the union’s messaging throughout the contract campaign that the dangerous, pressure-filled jobs transit workers perform warrant a fair contract.
Train Operator and Executive Board member Janice Carter talked about the importance of a transit worker’s job. “We move New York City,” she said, to shouts of “Yes we do,” from the crowd.
It was an incredible show of solidarity for the entire union, and a demonstration of TWU’s power in working across divisions. It was also a representation of the convention promise to join forces and create a more cohesive, militant organization that shows up for every member’s fight, regardless of employer, city, or industry. As President Lombardo concluded, “You can see that TWU has influence beyond public transportation and our power and experience is brought to every contract battle we fight, including with the MTA. The International union is ‘all in’ with our members. We are United Invincible.”