Deafening shouts of “We Move this City,” “No Contract, No Peace” and “We’ve Got the Power” echoed down Broadway as TWU International President John Samuelsen led a rogue march of hundreds of transit workers from New York City Hall to MTA headquarters on October 30.
Waiting for them and taking over the street for blocks in front of 2 Broadway were nearly 8,000 transit workers and their allies, rallying for fair contract for TWU Local 100.
“For the first time, the International and Local are in lock-step. Standing together, nothing can stop us now,” Samuelsen said. “Local 100 has seen this movie before – but this time, we are going to chew up Pat Foye and spit him out! Nothing is going to get our way. Our fight is your fight and you won’t be betrayed. We are going to win a fair contract and steamroll our opponents – we can’t lose!”
TWU Local 100 members have been without a contract since May. MTA Chair Pat Foye stepped away from the negotiating table two weeks ago. The company is proposing a concessionary contract – demanding that transit workers cough up more for health care costs. Wage increases and changes to overtime pay don’t make the cut either – as Local 100 members face dangerous working conditions and regular assaults and harassment from riders.
TWU International Secretary-Treasurer Jerome Lafragola and Transit, Universities, Utilities and Services Division Director Curtis Tate were in attendance, as a show of unity with TWU Local 100. Members from TWU Locals 100, 101, 241, 252, 501,502, 591, 1400, 2001, 2005 and future locals for Bikeshare and JetBlue also came out – along with allies including the Amalgamated Transit Union, 32BJ SEIU; City Controller Scott Stringer; Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer; Brooklyn NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams; Anthony Simon, general chairman of SMART (Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Union, the LIRR’s biggest union); Vinny Alvarez, president of the NYC Central Labor Council; Mario Cilento, president of the NY AFL-CIO; Chris Silvera, president of Teamsters Local 808 and Henry Garrido, executive director of DC 37.
The media, which rarely covers rallies, swarmed the event from all the major outlets in TV, radio and print giving the rally and its message of fairness for transit workers universally positive coverage. N.J. Burkett from WABC Channel 7 called it “one of the largest and loudest union rallies I’ve seen in New York in a long time.” The rally was also covered by The New York Daily News, The Wall St. Journal, The New York Post, Newsday, television channels NY1, WNBC4, WPIX11, ABC 7, and WINS and CBS radio.
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‘It’s Our Future’
Oscar Reyes is a bus operator. He explained that he is 22, and his future depends on a good contract.
“If we don’t come out here now, where will I be in 40 years?” he asked. “I plan to work for this company for a long time.”
Evelyn is a construction maintainer. She said she just returned from her maternity leave, which was only two weeks – but if it wasn’t for the TWU, she may not have had any paid time off.
“We need to get a fair contract,” she said. “Without the union, we wouldn’t get benefits.”
Larry Deao, a bus operator, agreed. “It’s important for all of us to have a good contract. I support my coworkers and fight for all of our livelihoods. We need a change.”
Karyne Volmar, also a bus operator, added, “We need a fair contract!”
Laura Holder is a conductor who was assaulted. “We need a better contract,” she said. “If you don’t belong to a union, they will walk all over us.”