This story was originally published on May 17, 2019 by Jose Martinez at THE CITY.

Ticked-off transit workers added some muscle Thursday to their brewing labor battle against the MTA.

The New York City Central Labor Council fired off a resolution accusing the transit agency of declaring “a war on working people” by sending MTA police officers to monitor potential overtime abuses by Long Island Rail Road Workers.

The strong words came as workers’ contract with the MTA expired this week amid threats of a strike.

“The MTA started this whole issue, this whole dispute, by making accusations against its own workforce,” Vincent Alvarez, president of the Council, an umbrella group representing 1.3 million unionized workers, told THE CITY.

“Workers are told when to report to work and they’re told when to go home,” Alvarez said. “That’s management’s decision.”

The “condemning” resolution accuses MTA Chairman Patrick Foye and board member Larry Schwartz, a confidante of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, of pulling a “raw and calculated stunt” when they called a board meeting last Friday to address rising overtime.

The contentious session followed an Empire Center for Public Policy report flagging a 16% spike in MTA overtime costs last year.

John Samuelsen, international president of the Transport Workers Union and an MTA board member, told THE CITY his strike threat is “totally serious.”

“That’s not bluster,” he said.

Governor Charges ‘Fraud and Theft’

Cuomo on Sunday railed against “fraud and theft and criminality” at the MTA, saying the authority’s management should have long ago put an end to billing for excessive overtime costs.

Samuelsen blamed the police monitoring of LIRR workers, a string of recent assaults on transit workers and “broad accusations of overtime fraud” for the cranked-up rhetoric from union leaders.

“Put all that into a cauldron where transit workers already dislike their employer and you can see how the potential is there for a strike,” Samuelsen said. “They’ve pissed off rank-and-file transit workers so much that this could easily spin out of control.”

Transit workers walked off the job for two-and-a-half days in 2005, a strike that cost the union $2.5 million in fines for breaking the Taylor Law that bars public employees from striking.

“The New York City labor movement is going to support any of our unions fighting for its members,” said Alvarez.

He added that MTA management has reduced the workforce and also eliminated overtime caps for New York City Transit workers during its last round of collective bargaining.

“So it’s the height of hypocrisy to come out and attack transit workers,” Alvarez said.

Foye has launched investigations into MTA overtime claims over the last year and also called for the MTA’s inspector general to again look into overtime abuse.

Maxwell Young, an MTA spokesperson, said in a statement: “Chairman Foye has been crystal clear that overtime is necessary for emergencies and urgent projects to improve the system, and our employees are heroes for doing this difficult work, but overtime abuse is illegal and unacceptable and should be rooted out.”

© 2019 THE CITY

This story was originally published by THE CITY, an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.

Tags:

You may also like

Faced with $10B deficit, MTA says it’s eyeing cutting overtime spending

Alfonso Castillo The financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is adding urgency to the agency’s efforts to curtail overtime numbers that critics say remain alarmingly high. The MTA said at Wed Read More

Comptroller warns of financial distress at the MTA, and the MTA goes on a hiring spree

According to Ken Girardin, a labor analyst at the right-leaning Empire Center for Public Policy, every new police officer will cost the MTA roughly $56,000, which means the new personnel would initially cost the MTA roughly $28 million a year. Those costs should rapidly increase over time, as police salaries rapidly increase. Read More

LIRR union chief blames OT on inadequate staffing levels, increased workload

“That’s one heck of an incentive,” said E.J. McMahon, research director for the Empire Center for Public Policy, the organization that publicized the MTA’s alarmingly high overtime rate in an April MTA payroll report. Read More

MTA, LIRR union relationship worse than ever; up next is collective bargaining

The MTA’s heightened focus on overtime follows an April financial report from the Empire Center for Public Policy that revealed alarmingly high overtime rates among some MTA employees, including former LIRR chief measurement officer Thomas Caputo, who made $344,147 in overtime on top of his base salary of $117,499. Read More

EDITORIAL: The MTA’s culture of fraud

Raymond Murphy, a foreman with the LIRR’s Buildings and Bridges department, was one of the MTA’s top earners in 2017, pulling in $405,021, including $295,490 in OT, according to data compiled by the government watchdog Empire Center. Read More

MTA worker on family and medical leave got married, coached baseball instead: watchdog

DeLeon — who began at the MTA in 2007 and earned $44,754, according to the Empire Center — was fired by the agency. But he still kept his pension, according to sources close to the investigation. Read More

Top MTA cop busted blowing off work, using cruiser for suspected funeral gig: report

The cop — who earned $240,926 that year, according to the Empire Center — was then busted using his cruiser to make 14 visits in eight weeks to funeral homes on Staten Island, where investigators suspected he was moonlighting. Read More

LIRR overtime ‘cheat’ hung out at home on the clock, retired with full pension anyway

Murphy was one of the top earners in the whole MTA in 2017 — making a jaw-dropping $405,021, with $295,490 coming from overtime, according to data from government watchdog group the Empire Center. Read More