NYC’s transit workers fight for hazard pay

| Jun 22, 2020 | New York Labor Law Blog |

New York City’s public transportation system is a key component of the city’s beating heart. Subways, buses and trains run day and night, shuttling millions of people to and fro so they can go about their lives.

Making all of this possible are more than 41,000 transport workers, union members who operate, maintain, clean, repair and oversee the city’s subways and buses. After a rash of illnesses and deaths, they’re now fighting for hazard pay.

The reality on the ground

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) workers have faced real dangers in recent months. Thousands have become sick and at least 188 have died. Despite being hailed as “essential” and “heroic,” these workers are still fighting for a simple benefit: hazard pay.

The president of TWU Local 100 has been vocal about this issue. He has said publicly the organization will make hazard pay part of upcoming negotiations, even though the MTA has rejected such proposals previously, citing budget constraints. The union is also looking to federal lawmakers for possible funding.

“So fast they forget what we do and so fast do they get on the phone and say, can you do this?” the president of Local 100 said, panning the MTA for regularly claiming to have no money once they reach the bargaining table.

Still, union workers did secure one recent victory: An increase in work-related death benefits, which doubled from $250,000 to $500,000.

Protecting workers

Unions are one of the ways in which workers can wield their collective power in order to improve working conditions. Wages, benefits, work safety, health care, time off and other employment matters can all be strengthened through a union.

Some employers may try to prevent workers from organizing, but these types of activities are generally protected by law. When your rights are challenged, it may be time to consider legal help.