Transit union calls for ‘around-the-clock’ bargaining for new MTA contract

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)

TWU Local 100 is kicking up the pressure on the MTA to hammer out a new labor deal.

On Thursday, the union’s president, Tony Utano, called for “around the clock bargaining” with the MTA to secure a new contract with the tens of thousands of MTA workers who keep the subways and buses moving citywide. The union says its workers have been working without a contract for “172 days and counting.”

He also sent a letter to MTA Chairman and CEO Pat Foye, the MTA board of directors, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio charging that talks with the MTA, up to this point, “have not been constructive.”

Utano claimed that Foye is taking a hardline approach, alleging that the former Port Authority executive director “allowed contracts to languish for years unresolved,” according to the TWU Local 100 statement.

“We do not believe that you have thus far made any good faith effort to settle our contract,” Utano stated. “As Chairman and CEO of the MTA, you must have the capacity and the willingness to negotiate a fair contract with employees. The episodic and sporadic meetings you have held thus far have been wholly superficial and counterproductive.”

Although the union’s president maintains that they’re working to “negotiate in good faith,” a source familiar with the situation said that the TWU postponed its most recent meeting with the MTA.

Another source confirmed to amNewYork that was the case, but it came after Foye sent an email in October accusing Utano of corruption. The source indicated that the union cancelled the scheduled main table meeting “in light of that insulting email.”

The MTA, on the other hand, maintains that it’s ready, willing and able to meet the TWU Local 100 at the bargaining table.

“The Chairman’s focus since day one has been on reaching a fair contract and we invite TWU Local 100 to our offices tomorrow to negotiate in good faith a mutually acceptable agreement,” MTA Chief Communications Officer Abbey Collins said in a Nov. 7 statement. “There’s no reason to wait and we accept the offer to remain in the room until a deal is done.”

A spokesperson for Governor Andrew Cuomo also said Thursday that both parties should get back to talking to each other.

“The governor received the letter from the TWU regarding ongoing contract negotiations, and will advise his board members that he believes they should sit at the bargaining table until an agreement is reached,” said Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor.

The MTA and TWU Local 100 have had relative labor peace since December 2005, when the last transit strike occurred. It lasted two days at the height of the holiday shopping season, angering commuters and last-minute shoppers alike.

No such labor action is imminent at this point; a strike would violate the state’s Taylor Law forbidding a walkout by public employees.

But Utano had a nebulous closer in his letter to Foye indicating that the union won’t be ignored in its request for “intensive, closed-door negotiations.”

“I will negotiate around the clock until the contract is resolved – commencing as soon as Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. I would even agree to a facilitator to help the parties, if necessary, at the appropriate time,” he wrote. “Please let me know if the MTA is serious about negotiating a fair contract, or if Local 100 should consider other alternatives.”