February 4, 2013
Neal Tepel, LaborPress Publisher
Traffic and sanitation enforcement agents represented by CWA Local 1182 mainly cheered at the union's accomplishments while some jeered the local's leadership. The members of the union gathered recently for the first general membership meeting in the new year.
The agents have the thankless job of enforcing the city's vehicle and traffic laws, as well as ensuring the city is kept clean by issuing summonses for recycling violations.
Robert Cassar, the local's newly elected president, welcomed the membership and thanked them for their herculean efforts to report to work in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The meeting was originally scheduled for the first week in November, but was rescheduled for January because the agents were ordered by the city to report to work despite no public transit in the early aftermath of the storm.
Before traveling to Washington, D.C., newly elected U.S. House of Representative, Hakeem Jefferies, told the agents that despite the unrelenting attacks on unions and working people throughout the country, he's looking forward to pushing back in the 113th Congress.
"I look forward as a member of Congress to continuing to stand up for the rights of unionized workers, public employees who are the backbone not just of the city and the state but certainly in the country," said Jefferies.
Cassar talked about his own journey to the presidency, and the hard fights the union had to endure in order to improve the members' economic livelihoods. For example, the agents weren't entitled to overtime pay when they formerly worked for the Department of Transportation. But Cassar and the union's leadership persuaded the city council to pass legislation that transferred the agents to the NYPD where they are eligible for overtime pay.
"Assaulting a traffic agent is a serious crime and is now treated as a felony. But for decades our members faced a major problem of on-the-job assault and harassment without felony protection. For years we lobbied for a state felony bill that would provide protection for the members of CWA Local 1182. Finally on July 22, 2008 this important legislation became law. A felony bill covering sanitation agents followed," said Cassar.