Transit union chief Richard Davis accused of assaulting girlfriend in new lawsuit

Transit Union leader Richard Davis
TWU Local 100 President Richard Davis in Feb. 2023.
File Photo by Ben Brachfeld

Richard Davis, the head of the powerful Transport Workers Union Local 100, was accused by his ex-girlfriend of assault in a lawsuit filed last week.

Davis, who as head of TWU Local 100 represents some 40,000 subway and bus workers, was accused of two separate assaults on his ex-girlfriend Nicole Hecker, a bus operator herself, in 2015 and 2016, according to a lawsuit she filed against the union boss in Brooklyn Supreme Court on Thursday.

Hecker says in her suit that she met Davis in 2009 and began dating him in 2011 as they worked together on her worker’s compensation case. Within a few years, she would learn that Davis, already a union official by then, allegedly carried on relationships with other women also working for the MTA.

In June 2015, Hecker says she and Davis were leaving a party in a U-Haul truck when she asked him about his relationship with another female bus operator. In response, Hecker alleges Davis punched her in the face repeatedly and put her in a headlock. She suffered a busted lip and swollen and bruised face.

“Part of being a female in this relationship, meant that Ms. Hecker was not allowed to question Mr. Davis’ ‘authority,’ his actions, or his behavior with other women,” Hecker wrote in her complaint, “lest [they] face the wrath of his violent assaults.”

After the alleged assault, Hecker says she freed herself from Davis and fled barefoot to the car of another union official right behind them, who took her home.

By the time of the next alleged assault in the summer of 2016, Hecker had been promoted within the union to lead its childcare trust fund. She and Davis had been dating for five years, but Davis had still not finalized his divorce, she says.

When Hecker raised Davis’ divorce status and their household finances at the Garden of Eden supermarket, across the street from the union hall on Montague Street in Downtown Brooklyn, Davis allegedly grabbed her hair and attempted to drag her down to the floor by it, before allegedly grabbing Hecker’s arm and digging his nails tightly into her skin, causing her to bleed.

Hecker went back to the office across the street, where she says the blood on her arm was questioned by another employee at the childcare trust fund. Afterwards, Davis wrote a letter of apology to her where he acknowledged his actions, Hecker says.

The relationship would come to a conclusion by the end of 2016, and Hecker says she has not had “non-professional communication” with Davis since May 2017.

Due to Davis’ powerful stature in the union they were both part of, and what Hecker says is TWU’s “history” to “rescue and sanitize their members who commit wrongs as opposed to rightfully subjecting them to the disciplinary process,” she never reported either of the alleged incidents.

Davis’ alleged history of questionable behavior towards women is well known within TWU, Hecker alleges. Harassment complaints were lodged against him in 2009, 2011, and 2012, but no action was taken, she says. In fact, she says complaining seemed like a futile gesture and expected the only result would be retaliation against her.

Davis’ purported track record of sexual misconduct was detailed in a December 2022 email circulated among union officers and throughout the MTA and even Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office, Hecker says, with her name and photograph included in the email.

The following month, Hecker says Davis remarked at a meeting that a different female employee is “smart, can type 100 [words per minute], and I like the way my penis feels inside her vagina.” She says this demonstrates Davis feels “very comfortable and emboldened in his position” atop the union.

Hecker alleges that as a woman, Davis sees her as “subservient” and “utilized physical punishment as a form of control and exertion of power.”

A TWU Local 100 rep said that Davis will not be resigning from his position, and claims the president still enjoys the support of union officers.

“Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a violent person,” Davis said in a statement. “I will defend my name and character in court.”

The MTA declined to comment. The lawsuit was first reported Friday by the Daily News.

Davis, who joined the MTA nearly 30 years ago as a bus operator and gradually rose to the ranks of union leadership, was elected president of the powerful TWU Local 100 in Dec. 2022, replacing Tony Utano.

The union reps all manner of employees keeping New York City Transit in motion, including subway and bus operators, track maintenance crews, mechanics, shop and yard workers, signal tower controllers, cleaners, and station agents, among others. In June of this year, the TWU negotiated a new contract with the MTA that bumped up rank-and-file pay by nearly 10%.

Davis has not been without his critics, though. One of those is subway conductor Tramell Thompson, who leads the splinter caucus Progressive Action and this year was involved in a brawl with a TWU vice president working under Davis, sustaining severe injuries that required hospitalization.

“Reading the lawsuit, it was very difficult to fathom that this is what is representing us at the highest level of Local 100,” Thompson said in a livestream on his YouTube channel Friday. “This is pretty wild and crazy. The violence that’s described in this lawsuit is unforgivable.”

The nearly decade-old alleged assaults would normally fall outside the statute of limitations to bring an action. But Hecker filed her case under the city’s Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Law (VGMVPL), which in March opened a two-year lookback period where victims can file actions regardless of when they allegedly occurred, similar to the state’s Child Victims Act and Adult Survivors Act. The lookback period expires in March 2025.

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