Contract talks devolve between MTA, transit union

TWU Local 100 Union Vice President JP Patafio rallied in Brooklyn in October calling for the recusal of MTA Chairman Pat Foye from future talks. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Bitter contract negotiations between the transit workers’ union and the MTA appear to be devolving further as time passes.

Operators, conductors and other members of the Transport Workers Union Local 100 unleashed tirades against MTA Chairman Pat Foye during a board meeting Wednesday, calling for his recusal from the talks going forward. One high-ranking union representative threatened the authority head if he were to show at a rally outside authority headquarters planned for next week.

“We’ll have some tar and feathers for him right?” said John Paul Patafio, a vice president at Local 100. “Because that’s what you do to a fool—you put tar and feathers on him.” 

The roughly 40,000-member workforce has been on the clock without a contract since May. The MTA since has is tasked with negotiating a new agreement while also attempting to navigate a grave financial crisis; execute an agency-wide reorganization and placate disgruntled executive staff. 

Other members lamented unsafe working conditions at construction sites and women workers described the authority as barely making strides to accommodate them at the workplace—especially pregnant workers who have found it difficult to still work in train cabs or behind the wheel of a bus.

“The question is now posed, do you want a strike? Is that what you really want? Because that is the message you are sending by your actions to transit workers,” said John Ferretti, a Local 100 shop steward.

Wednesday’s worker furor stemmed from a 1,000-word email Foye sent to TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano over the Columbus Day weekend, obtained by amNewYork. 

Foye in his email attacked Utano for suggested the MTA meet with an outside firm to save healthcare costs—a proposal Foye referred to as the “Utano Specialty Drug Scam.” Foye alleged the concept was discriminatory against lower-earning workers as well as African Americans, arguing the latter point because the coverage concept wouldn’t cover chronic diseases like Sickle Cell Anemia. 

Utano has refuted those claims, describing the email as “packed with lies” and an attempt to wedge a divide among workers. Workers have planned a large rally for a new contract outside MTA offices next Wednesday, Oct. 30. The union has jabbed the authority over recent weeks and months, publishing internal materials on contract proposals and launching a new contest for riders of the city’s dirtiest subway trains. 

The MTA chairman and CEO declined to comment on the negotiations and said he didn’t take offense to the tar-and-feather threat. 

“If I wanted a job where I was universally loved, I would have done something else,” Foye said after the meeting.

Vincent Barone