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No Zeros for Heroes: MTA Contract Stance is a Slap in the Face to ATU Workers on the Front Lines of the COVID-19 Pandemic

June 24, 2020

By Marc Bussanich

New York, NY – Hundreds of Amalgamated Transit Union [ATU] members rallied in front MTA Headquarters Wednesday because they’ve been working without a contract since May 2019, even though the union that represents the largest number of employees at NYC Transit, TWU Local 100, negotiated a new contract in December 2019.

“To tell us they have nothing for us now, after TWU got a contract back in December, is a slap in the face. Through this whole pandemic we were heroes, and now [the MTA is] treating us like zeroes.” — ATU Vice-President Raymond Greaves.

According to Danny Casella, president of ATU Local 726, the numerous ATU locals are seeking the same type of contract that TWU Local 100 negotiated, no more, no less.

“We’re here to ask Pat Foye [MTA Chairman] why is he treating us different than TWU. They have a contract that they negotiated in December, and now the MTA doesn’t want to negotiate with any of the ATU unions or any other unions in the Transit Authority, which is 26 of them,” said Casella.

“We want the same exact thing that the TWU got, and we also want hazard pay, that our members deserve.”

In January, TWU Local 100 ratified a new labor contract for more than 37,000 employees, which covers the period from May 16, 2019 to May 15, 2023. The contract provides for wage increases of 2 percent on May 16, 2019; 2.25 percent on May 16, 2020; 2.25 percent on May 16, 2021; and 2.75 percent on May 16, 2022 for a compounded total of 9.8 percent.

According to Casella, ATU represents some of the same job titles as TWU Local 100 represents at the MTA, such as mechanics, cleaners, maintenance department and operators that drive buses for NYC Transit. 

As to why the MTA doesn’t want to negotiate with the ATU, Casella said that the state agency is using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse.

“A lot of businesses are doing that, they’re trying to steal people’s pensions, steal their benefits and steal their wages.” 

Raymond Greaves, appointed ATU International vice-president in December 2019, was at the bargaining table just last month, where the MTA leadership was mum about negotiating a new contract. 

“It’s a lot of crickets, they came to the table and I was there with the four locals here in New York City, and they couldn’t put anything on the table. They wouldn’t discuss money, even though they just got stimulus money, over $3 billion to the MTA and they want to give us zeros,” said Greaves. 

“To tell us they have nothing for us now, after TWU got a contract back in December, is a slap in the face. Through this whole pandemic we were heroes, and now they are treating us like zeroes.”

The MTA received $3.8 billion in stimulus funding from the CARES Act back in March, but just two days ago during an appearance on Bloomberg Television, the MTA’s Foye said the agency will run out of money in August if the U.S. Senate does not approve an additional round of economic stimulus that would provide another $3.9 billion.

The Democrat-controlled House passed The Heroes Act on May 15, a $3 trillion measure that would provide about $1 trillion to state and local governments to offset continuing economic hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

But the Republican-controlled Senate has vowed to block it because they say that the government has already spent more than $6 trillion and they want to take a wait-and-see approach to see how the money already spent improves the economy. 

But Foye said that the federal government must recognize the ongoing emergency and the vital role of transit infrastructures as economic drivers, but also as agencies that transport first responders and essential workers during the pandemic. 

Still, ATU members say they have been sacrificing so much since the onset of the pandemic to keep New York moving. 

“I’m out here to fight for what we deserve, and we deserve hazard pay. We work in these conditions, risking our lives daily, and there’s no reason why we can’t be compensated for it. We move New York,” exclaimed ATU Local 1056 member and MTA bus driver Barbara Washington-Smith.

June 24, 2020

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