Gathering for a Struggle: NYC’s Transit Workers

by By John Mineka, Occupy Wall Street Labor Outreach Committee on July 26, 2012

Yesterday’s rally for the Transit Workers’ Union (TWU) at Chase Plaza was small, but very significant.  All the transit unions of the city were represented by their leadership.  The display of unity was unprecedented.

There was no talk of “strike” (even discussion of strikes is forbidden by New York State’s Taylor Law) but repeated emphasis by speaker after speaker of the common problem of their memberships: the impasse in contract negotiations, with management offering “zero-zero-zero” raises and demanding increases in charges for health benefits.

All these unions are working without a contract, some of them for more than six years. The TWU itself has been working without a contract for six months.

For public sector unions, working without a contract means working under the terms of an expired contract. Under the stipulations of the Tri-Borough Agreement (companion bill to the Taylor Law), for public employees, the terms of an existing contract continue in force until a new agreement is signed.

The transit unions of the city, in a period of rising inflation, particularly of food costs, are faced with demands from the MTA management for frozen wage levels and increasing pay-outs for health benefits. The rally signifies a new-found unity and new currents of militancy among transit workers.

This new strength may soon be sorely tried.  There are ominous rumors of efforts in the state legislature to abrogate the Tri-Borough Agreement.  This would mean that, when negotiations stall for a new contract, management would be entitled to impose a settlement, cutting wages and benefits at will.

One may well ask, is there any limit to the demands that, freed from the Tri-Borough Law restrictions, the MTA management might make on their workers working conditions and livelihoods?  Transit workers are gathering for a struggle.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

ish July 26, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Wasn’t this at the exact same time as a rally in Union Square for Con Ed workers? That seems like a little dis-unity. The labor bureaucracies need to do a little more than just talking tough.


David Berger July 26, 2012 at 2:21 pm

(1) There were three different rallies yesterday afternoon: TWU, Local 1-2 and Low-Paid Workers. John, who is a very active member of the Occupy Wall Street Labor Outread Committee, didn’t mention that due to work by individuals in the unions and OWS, people from each of the three rallies attended each other’s rally. This was a rare and fine show of solidarity that, hopefully, will be repeated.

(2) Why bother to criticize the labor bureaucracies in you’re not part of a struggle against them? If you’re in such a struggle, ish, let us know.

David Berger


ish July 26, 2012 at 2:28 pm

1) That’s great to hear that there was cross pollination at the rallies.

2) Have you seen flyers from NYC Renegades? I reprinted two of them here.


David Berger July 27, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Without going into the details of their leaflets, I am very critical of the functioning of the NYC Renegades with regard to the Con Ed lock-out. I attended the first and only meeting that this group had. At that meeting, I engaged in a dialog with other people there. It soon became evident that: (1) the group was determined to try to work with the union workers without dealing with the union itself. And (b) they were reluctant to deal with either the solidarity committee that was being formed or the branches of OWS that were already involved in solidarity actions.

In my opinion, much of the group’s admirable energy and desire to work with the rank-and-file of Local 1-2 was dissipated because of the above.

David Berger


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