New York, NY — TWU Local 100 is the union that organized the workers on New York’s subway lines back in 1934 under the leadership of the great Mike Quill. The organizing fight took years, but it was successful because of Quill’s conviction that industrial unionism – organizing every trade and craft working for a company – made more sense than organizing piecemeal, by title.
Eighty-five years later, Local 100 is at its largest membership ever, with 45,000 transit workers under the union umbrella, along with many other units in transport, including school bus properties in Westchester, Tour Bus drivers in Manhattan, an MTA Access-a-Ride call center, and Citibike. The TWU has won steady increases for its members since its inception, beating the rate of inflation and adding increasing benefits including two weeks of paid maternity/paternity leave, spousal coverage for retirees until Medicare eligibility, free Metro North and LIRR passes for its MTA workers, and the right to pick jobs by seniority on a regular basis.
Taking the helm at Local 100 is Tony Utano, a 37-year union veteran who rose through the ranks from the Power Division to become Vice President of Maintenance of Way, the union’s largest MTA Department, and then president in 2017 following the departure of longtime leader John Samuelsen, who became International President of the TWU in that year. Brother Utano is the union’s first Italian-American President.
This year, he faces an MTA claiming austerity, which is nothing new. Most transit workers say that whenever a contract is about to be negotiated the MTA claims poverty, and 2019 is no exception. Local 100’s current contract expires on May 15, and the Union’s Contract Policy Committee, under the direction of President Utano, met last weekend to digest and discuss bargaining demands handed up by rank and file members through the chain of command to their respective departmental vice-presidents.
“The strength of Local 100 comes from unity across all divisions and titles,” Utano said. “And because we have an open process where each department considers all submissions by our members to improve wages, working conditions, and benefits. We have a rigorous process in preparing for bargaining, and as a result, we are well informed, smart, and passionate at the negotiating table.”