March 4, 2017
By Silver Krieger
New York, NY – C.W.A. Local 1182 Traffic Vice-President Tammy Meadows was sickened by members’ inability to obtain retirement disability benefits – and stepped up to the plate to change their fate.
Upset, and seeing a lack of compassion towards their plight, she and Traffic Chief Delegate Michael Jackson took action, and they are now seeing the results. “Traffic Enforcement Agents who got sick or disabled didn’t know where to turn,” she says. “Some had applied two or three times and were turned down, and became discouraged.”
Part of the problem comes from the fact that, according to Meadows, TEA’s, unlike police officers, are classified as civilians. As such, “the job doesn’t have early retirement or light duty. Either you are able to do the job or not. If not, they put you out.” That means that people with reduced ability to do the job have no middle ground, and Meadows stresses that the job can take a toll. “Some have twenty or thirty years walking the beat, out in the field. They are out in all the elements – snow, even hurricanes. It’s inhumane treatment – these people are not robots. And even if you are injured on the job, you are only allowed to be out for one year. During that time they get two-thirds pay, if the workers compensation case is approved, while medical coverage is no longer extended to their family members. Some come back still injured, because they can’t afford to stay out, and the injury can get aggravated.”
In October of 2016, Meadows and Jackson initiated contact with attorney Stuart Salles, who has been representing unions for more than 35 years. Salles knew that the work would be a gamble, but agreed to take on the people sent his way. The union covered the cost of his services. “There was a member who had heart surgery, and Salles got her the disability benefits.” Then there was a woman in her ‘40’s who had lost mental capacity and was let go from her TEA job. “She didn’t know what was going on,” says Meadows. “We sent her to Stuart, who got her the disability. Her mother called me and was so grateful. She was able to get a place to live also.” Another woman was using a walker and just couldn’t make it [on the job] anymore. She was struggling to come to work, and suffering with the pain. Stuart also came through for her.”
Besides these cases, Meadows has sent Salles three other members to be helped, and there will be more.“Some have lupus, or cancer, or were even impacted by 9/11. You have to know the members to understand the extent of it. I am not going to turn a blind eye,” she said. “After all these years of their service, how can you just throw them away?”