Thousands of transit workers rallied on Tuesday evening outside of MTA headquarters on the first day of contract negotiations between the union and the agency.
More than 3,000 bus operators, train conductors and other MTA staffers from TWU Local 100 flooded Broadway, from Bowling Green station to Bridge Street, with endless hoots from train whistles and air horns.
Union President John Samuelsen projected contract demands onto the windows of the agency’s 2 Broadway offices. Inspired by what he described as an improved economy and financial outlook for the MTA, Samuelsen held a strike over the heads of MTA brass unless demands were met.
“Without us, the city grinds to a halt. We make this city go, and we can make it go in the other direction too,” Samuelsen said, calling for an agreement before the current contract expires on Jan. 15. “There is no economic calamity this time. The MTA is actually working with a slight surplus. We demand a fair contract. We demand that they negotiate in good faith so that we get that agreement by Jan. 15. No more waiting. We want an on time contract.”
The crowd cheered with signs that read, “We’re the working class!” and “You move because we move.” Twelve contract demands were presented to the MTA, including increased wages, stronger pensions and better worker equipment and facilities. There were also calls for improved safety — an issue that’s galvanized many since track worker Louis Gray was killed after being struck by a G train two weeks ago.
Bus operator Justin Cordero said he’s been priced out of his Brooklyn apartment and needs a higher wage to continue living in New York City.
“Our salaries have remained stagnant compared to inflation,” Cordero said. “We’re in one of the most expensive cities in the world and we need to make sure we can live here to work here. I went from Park Slope to Bed-Stuy. And now in Bed-Stuy, it’s the same thing.”
David Marin, an MTA technician from Midwood, said the new contract must reflect a level of respect for the workers, who are subject to assault and injuries as part of the job.
“We don’t want to inconvenience the general public. We have children and grandparents that rely on us too,” Marin said. “We just want to be treated with respect.”
Looking out at the crowd, Marin said he’s confident that the two parties will come to an agreement.
“Everyone here — it shows concern for our livelihood, our security,” Marin said. “We need to come together as one voice and this certainly sounds like one voice to me.”
The MTA had no comment.