Friday, December 19, 2014

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Transit Workers Weigh Tentative Contract Terms

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They've been without a contract for two years, and now, the city's transit workers will have the chance to vote on a deal that would give them more money and more benefits. But will they go along? NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.

Sure, the bosses and the union chiefs like it, but what about the rank and file?

On Friday, a day after Governor Andrew Cuomo pushed through a new contract between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Transport Workers Union, John Samuelsen, the head of the TWU, began selling the deal to the workers who will vote on it over the next few weeks.

They'll get raises totaling 8 percent over five years and what Samuelsen bills as "precedent-setting" gains, even if it means paying a bit more for health care plans.

"The new benefits constitute tens of millions of dollars of economic benefits for transit workers over the life of this contract that did not exist before," Samuelsen said. "Paternity leave, maternity leave fully paid for the first time ever. Lifetime spousal benefits."

Some transit workers said they liked what they heard, especially after going without raises since 2011.

"I'm glad we got one. I really am," said one worker. "Hopefully, it'll do everybody good."

"I've had two children since I've been on the job, and I've had to exhaust all my vacation, my sick days, so the maternity leave was a good factor for me," said another.

One part of the proposed contract that's sure to please New York City transit workers who don't live within the five boroughs is that they won't have to pay to ride the Long Island Rail Road or Metro-North.

The MTA isn't saying how much that will cost, and it's waiting until its board votes on the deal before saying much of anything.

However, Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast insists it won't add to the fare hike that already awaits riders next year and again in 2017. That's after claiming for the last two years that raises were out of the question without significant worker concessions.

"The union had rejected that position all along, and finally, there was an indicator that the MTA was backing off that position," Samuelsen said.

Transit advocates said that's because more tax revenue has been flowing to the MTA.

"The economy's slowly, steadily been improving for these many months, and they have greater resources to address the needs of the workers and the riders," said Gene Russianoff of Straphangers Campaign.

It led to a contract agreement. Now, if only the 34,000 TWU members go along.

Got A Transit Tip?

Do you have a news tip or story idea about the city's transit systems? Send an email to NY1 Transit Reporter Jose Martinez. ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP