The union representing more than 30,000 subway and bus workers in New York has a new president.
Through a 42-to-4 vote, with one abstention, Transport Workers Union Local 100 elected Tony Utano to serve as its next president.
Utano has spent more than three decades as an elected union official, most recently serving as vice president for the union’s Maintenance of Way Division. He’ll replace the boisterous John Samuelsen, who on Tuesday was elected to serve as the union’s international president.
In his acceptance speech, Utano spoke of his closeness to Samuelsen and outlined the most pressing tasks for the union. The first order of business, he said, would be joining unions in rallying against a New York State constitutional convention, which opponents fear could threaten labor protections.
“I want to thank John for his support and his belief in me to carry on the remarkable work that he has done to rebuild Local 100 into the strongest, most militant, and most respected union in New York City, New York state and beyond,” Utano said after the vote held in Las Vegas. “With me here in Local 100 and with John as our international president, working together, I know that we’re going to become even stronger and more able to represent this membership.”
Samuelsen had served as president of TWU Local 100 since his first election in December 2009. He took the position after years of “vicious infighting,” as Samuelsen described in his resignation to the local.
During his tenure, Samuelsen led negotiations for two contracts between the union and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority; the opening of the union’s current hall in Brooklyn and expansions that included the representation of bike share workers.
He doggedly fought Mayor Bill de Blasio on Vision Zero safety enforcement and MTA funding, which some outside critics have described as misguided.
“While all other unions took at least one zero, and in some cases multiple zeros, on top of painful givebacks in health benefits,” Samuelsen continued in his letter, “we won raises in every year of the agreements, with full retroactivity, and major new breakthrough benefits including paid maternity and paternity leave, lifetime spousal health benefits, free rides on Metro-North and the LIRR and much more.”