Tag Archive | "MTA"

Subway MTA Workers Protest Planned Layoffs and Silent Union

By Amber Benham, Jacqueline Linge and Heather Chin

Update (May 11, 2009): Following approval from the New York State Legislature for a $2.26 billion bailout of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the agency’s board voted today to raise subway fares and road tolls by 10 percent instead of the proposed 23 to 30 percent. The commuter and subways/bus hikes will take effect on June 17 and June 28, respectively. The compromise also reduces service and staff cuts to only those coming from retirement and workers quitting.

Hundreds of transit workers – train conductors, bus drivers, track inspectors and station agents – joined average New Yorkers outside the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s Midtown headquarters last Thursday to protest everything from transit layoffs and budget cuts to fare and tuition hikes. Their massive presence and loud cries punctuated a campaign that began over six months ago when the MTA announced a budget shortfall of 1.2 billion dollars. Since then, the deficit has ballooned as tax revenues fall.

Proposals for closing the budget gap include a 23 to 30 percent fare hike effective June 1, the reduction of commuter bus, subway and train service, and the elimination of up to 3,000 jobs, 1,100 through immediate layoffs and the rest after workers retire or quit, according to the MTA. Transit Workers Union Local 100 estimates the removal of at least 819 bus operators, over 700 station attendants and 317 managerial administrators.

The proposed hike would mean one-way subway fares of $2.50 from the current $2. A 30-day unlimited Metrocard would cost $103, up from $81.

Protesters said that these cuts would negatively affect service on all levels, the fewer number of station attendants and conductors reducing response times for commuter problems and potentially increasing safety risks.  They said that in addition to saving their own jobs, they want to also ensure there are enough workers and financial support to safeguard public safety, as Lance Hill, a station cleaner, stated. “We want the safety for the public,” Hill said. “We don’t want them to cut back, taking clerks out of booths and things like that.”

At an emergency MTA board meeting in March, MTA Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger called the situation “dire” and maintained that negotiations with union leaders were ongoing.  Besides trying to alleviate a huge budget deficit, the MTA is also selling the MTA Dedicated Tax Fund and various bonds for over $1.25 billion in order to finance existing transit and capital projects.

Workers present were part of MTA Transit Workers Union Local 100, which is led by Acting President Curtis Tate, who is working with union arbiter Roger Touissant on negotiations and the penning of a new collective bargaining agreement with the MTA.

“It seems like every year the contract is up, transit is losing money. And the other three years before that they’re making billion dollar profits. So we just find it strange that every time it comes to us there’s nothing for the workers,” said bus driver Hiram Vidal, who works on the M4 bus line. “Ridership for the buses are up 500 percent, but yet … they say they’re losing money. I don’t know what sector of the transit is losing money, but it’s not the working class.”

While New Yorkers are fed up with the union leadership, calling for more member input and influence in contract negotiations, Touissant, as arbiter, and Local 100 are holding out hope for the city, state and federal governments to provide financial support.  In a statement on the union’s website, Touissant says he hopes President Obama will “address pressing national and international issues in a manner that offers longer term solutions rather than short term or knee-jerk reactions to just cut cut cut,” and that Albany do the same and secure long-term funding. However, how they are to do that is not addressed.

Posted in City Proposals, Manhattan, Multimedia, Politics