Workers’ Correspondence

A year after a major victory at the bus lines that connect Westchester County to Manhattan, a similar battle tested the leadership, membership and organizing staff of Transport Workers Union Local 100. The Westchester victory was achieved with a careful, two-day strike coupled with aggressive political action; this time, the negotiation took over seven weeks.

Despite an attempt by conservative leadership within the union to sabotage the effort, the members and riding public were put first and, as in the Westchester struggle, a victory was achieved. About 3,000 union members were involved in both of these struggles with thousands more participating in support actions on the picket lines, collecting food, raising money and doing public outreach.

These struggles are going a long way toward steeling the union in its upcoming crucial labor contract negotiations with New York City Transit. In this instance over 35,000 members will be involved. The contract deadline is December 15, but negotiations are scheduled to start very shortly. Health and pension benefits, respect and dignity around discipline and grievance issues, wages and job safety and health safeguards will be key negotiating points.

Saving the transit fare will be a major drive of the union. The public, once again, will be as important to our negotiations as members’ needs. Regular updates on these contract negotiations will take place during the coming months.

The 27-month contract that resulted from the Queens Bus strike has increases of 4 percent each year, retroactive for 2001 and 2002 and a 1 percent increase for the first three months of 2003. New York City will put up $3.75 million to subsidize the health benefit package. This was a main bone of contention, with Mayor Bloomberg originally balking at any payment, but after massive public pressure brought on by the union’s outreach program, he yielded.

The contract also provides for increased contributions to the Health Benefit Fund, based on the wage increase and Consumer Price Index. Pensions were also increased. The vote to ratify the contract was very wide. The agreement was ratified by a margin of better than ten to one, with over three-quarters of the workers covered by the agreement voting.

In addition, and equally important, The Council of the City of New York passed a veto-proof resolution on July 24, protecting the job rights of all bus workers in the event of a likely change of ownership of the bus lines.

– A Transit Worker