Transit Workers Union Balks At MTA’s Decision To Pull Living Wage Ads

October 20, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco

New MTA rules make advocating for a living wage out of bounds.

New MTA rules make advocating for a living wage out of bounds.

Brooklyn, NY – The MTA’s decision to remove Amalgamated Bank ads from the subway because they advocate a living wage and supposedly violate the agency’s six-month-old “no politics” advertising policy isn’t sitting well with the union representing mass transit workers.

TWU Local 100 President John Samuelsen told Laborpress this week that the MTA’s opposition to bank ads supportive of a $15 an hour minimum wage is off the rails. 

“The governor supports a $15 minimum wage,” Samuelsen said in an email. “We support the push for a $15 minimum wage. There’s no reason why these ads shouldn’t be in the subway system.”

Amalgamated Bank President and CEO Keith Mestrich has already called the MTA’s actions “outrageous.” 

"It's outrageous that the MTA would ban an ad that promotes giving New Yorkers a living wage,” Mestrich said in a statement. “The #RaiseTheWage campaign is not about politics, it's about giving the people of New York a fighting chance and Amalgamated Bank is very proud to support and promote this important campaign.” 

This past summer, Amalgamated Bank became the first bank in the nation to establish a $15 an hour minimum wage for all of its employees. 

According to a National Employment Law Project study on wages in the banking industry, nearly 40 percent of New York State bank tellers must rely on public assistance just to survive. 

Earlier this year, the Fightfor15 Movement successfully pushed Governor Andrew Cuomo to support raising the minimum wage for fast food workers. 

“This kind of commitment to people is part of who we are at Amalgamated Bank,” Mestrich said at the time. “We hope our colleagues across the banking industry will see that a livable minimum wage is not only the right thing to do – it’s also good business.”

That kind of "revolutionary talk" is apparently too much for the MTA to bear, however. 

The agency only instituted its so-called “no politics” advertising policy last spring.

MTA spokesperson Adam Lisberg recently went on record saying that the Amalgamated Bank ads — purchased for six-figures — “clearly violates” that fledgling policy.  

October 19, 2015

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