January 13, 2011
By Kismet Barksdale
TWU Local 100’s annual Widows & Orphans Gala on January 11 brought out both City and State Comptrollers, as well as Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio to honor the dozen train and bus operators who have fallen in the line of duty over the last decade.
The event raised about $50,000 for the Fund, which covers medical expenses and college tuition for beneficiaries.
Local 100 President John Samuelsen, as a former Division Chair for Track, responded to many of the subway fatalities himself, and knew many the deceased workers personally. He was joined at the head table by Renee Byfield McPhaul, the widow of former track worker Samuel McPhaul, who died in 2001 when he fell onto the third rail in a dark tunnel. Also at the table were State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, and TWU Local 100 Secretary Benita Johnson, who acted as the evening’s Mistress of Ceremonies, and Local 100 Adminstrative Vice President Angel Giboyeaux.
Local 100 members grieved recently at the trial of the man who murdered Bus Operator Edwin Thomas in 2008. The assailant, Horace Moore, received a sentence of 20 years in prison. Thomas’s daughter, Edley, celebrated her birthday on the same night as the gala event. She cried while speaking of how much she missed her father, and then quietly closed her eyes before blowing out a candle on a cupcake.
Samuelsen told the crowd: “Danger hangs over transit workers’ heads on a daily basis. The threats come in all forms of job-site hazards as well as intimidation and attacks from the riding public. Too many pay the ultimate price. The benefits we have painstakingly negotiated for surviving families simply don’t go far enough. That is the purpose of the Widows and Orphans Fund; to supplement those benefits as best as possible. The Fund pays for health insurance for the surviving spouse and dependent children. It also helps pay for an education for the children.”