Transport Workers Union Local 100 members have voted to ratify a contract, the ballot count today revealed. Ken Margolies, senior associate at the Worker Institute at Cornell University, discusses the New York City Transport Workers Union strategy and the current political environment.
“In many ways, I think this vote is a judgment on the TWU Local 100’s strategy to keep bargaining for the last two years rather than accept a pattern they didn’t like, go to arbitration or strike.
“When Local 100’s contract expired, the union had many obstacles to getting a contract its members would find acceptable. Most significantly was a weak economy, but there was also wide spread feeling among Local 100 members against going on strike, as in 2005, or letting their agreement be determined by arbitrators, as in 2009.
“NYC’s Bloomberg was known for demanding that all increases had to be paid for in work rule changes or other concessions from city unions. By continuing to bargain rather than go the strike or arbitration route, Local 100 leaders took a risk which seems to have paid off now that the economy is much better, NYC has a labor-friendly mayor and a governor who saw value in having Local 100 and the MTA reach an agreement now.
“I doubt that two years ago anyone would have expected that Local 100 could get an agreement with retroactivity and raises that far exceed the value of the concessions they made.
“Public-sector bargaining in New York is based on patterns set by each round of bargaining. By bargaining for two years, TWU avoided the lower pattern set prior to their contract expiration and caught the better pattern being set now in a healthier economy, stronger city budget and a friendlier political environment.”