Subway workers protest contract negotiations

In late October, the streets outside of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) headquarters were far from quiet. Manhattan can have its fair share of personality, but this was a different case. Filling the streets were workers from the Transport Workers Union Local 100. They carried signs and they demanded change, seeking a contract that would bolster their way of life. The MTA offered them a contract earlier in the year which they had rejected.

Since then, there has been no follow up contract. As such, the two groups have engaged in gridlock, a stalemate in the process of what unions and employers know as ‘collective bargaining.’ The bargain was not going well, as the MTA wanted to take away benefits that the union believed that they had rightly earned. And those union members gathered in the streets, making the whole scene look like something out of a movie. Question is, will it have a Hollywood ending?

What benefits were they losing?

The key points of interest and anger were the reduced healthcare benefits and changing overtime policy. While previously workers had gained overtime if they worked over eight hours in a single shift, the MTA wanted to alter the policy so that union workers had to work over 40 hours that week.

What is collective bargaining?

Collective bargaining is simple by definition but complex by execution. Whenever a new contract comes up between employer and union workers, everything needs to be put into writing during negotiations. Everything from pay to policies, benefits to leave. With such a wide umbrella of coverage, it’s no surprise that something might garner disagreement.

So, when the employer and the employees are on different pages, the result is something like the street protests. When expectations meet reality for either side, calm voices can become argumentative, at times for totally justified reasons. And while it might be intimidating to stand up to an employer and demand more, making a case for the way by which you make a living is crucial.

The disagreement between the MTA and Worker’s Union is not the first time there has been difficulty in collective bargaining and likely will not be the last. While something can be learned by examining history and current events, there is value in talking to a legal professional to learn more about the ins and outs. While both sides have power in collective bargaining, being able to call on legal resources could make a significant difference.

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