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Union, MTA at odds over slowdown after conductor's slashing

Local 100’s Davis calls on agency to double-down on safety


The head of TWU Local 100 deflected accusations that the union encouraged an illegal work stoppage following a brutal early morning slashing of a subway conductor in Brooklyn last week. 

“There was no union-issued slowdown. We are allowed to initiate safety procedures on behalf of our members,” the local’s president, Richard Davis, said during a press conference a few hours after last Thursday’s incident. 

The union said the vice president of the local’s rapid transit operations division, Canella Gomez, initiated a contract clause known as “the safety dispute resolution process” shortly after the 3:40 a.m. incident that calls for work to be “held in abeyance pending a response from management.”

But while Richard Davey, the president of New York City Transit, called the attack on Scott “unacceptable, he also rebuked Local 100’s leadership for what he called “some kind of a work-stoppage charade.” 

“We have evidence that union officials were standing in the doors, preventing the trains from moving,” he said during a press conference at which he and the MTA’s chair and CEO, Janno Lieber addressed the assault on the conductor. Davey said the union’s action slowed the commutes of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers through the morning rush and later. He said “trains moved” after he spoke with union leaders.  

Davey said the agency would seek a conversation with the union regarding the alleged slowdown. He added that agency attorneys are looking “at the conduct that occurred.”

Public employees are prohibited by the state’s labor law from engaging in work slowdowns, stoppages or strikes, and their unions are forbidden from encouraging them to do so.

Legislation introduced nearly a year ago, at the behest of Local 100 and the Transport Workers Union of America, that would amend the so-called Taylor Law to permit work stoppages by MTA subway and bus workers appears to have stalled. 

Surge of cops on subway

The conductor, Alton Scott, needed 34 stitches to close a deep neck wound after he was slashed by an assailant at the A line's Rockaway Avenue station as his westbound train pulled out of the station in the Ocean Hill neighborhood. Alton, 59, had his head out of his conductor’s cabin to ensure the track and the platform was clear. He was taken to Brookdale University Hospital where he received 34 stitches to a gaping wound, including 25 to the deep end, and another nine sutures to help close it up.

Davis said he teared up when he saw a picture of Scott getting medical attention. “We need more to be done by everyone,” he said. “The MTA has to do their part to protect our members from workplace violence.”

He called for better protections for his transit worker members, including by having the MTA redeploy its police personnel. “An attempted murder was committed this morning, not just a slashing. We are confident that the NYPD will catch this assailant. But MTA Chairman Janno Lieber has his own police force that can be reassigned in the subway system to protect conductors and station agents. Right now that can be done.”

The assailant appears to still be at large. The NYPD did not reply to specific inquiries regarding the slashing. But the department has not announced arrests in connection with the attack as of this Wednesday, nearly a full seven days following the incident. 

Governor Kathy Hochul on Wednesday announced that 750 members of the National Guard and 250 State Police officers would be deployed at the entrance of the subway system's busiest stations to check straphangers' bags for weapons. 

The NYPD redeployed 1,000 officers into the subway in February following a spike in crimes on the subway system in January. Although crime declined and arrests increased in February, major crime in the subway system had increased 13.1 percent through March 3 compared to last year, with felony assaults up 15 percent and grand larcenies up nearly 18 percent, according to police statistics.

Lieber said the cycle of violence on MTA workers “has to stop.”

“People who come to work got to be able to come to work and serve the public — these are public servants — and know they’re going to come home to their families. This cannot go on,” he added. 

Lieber  said police officers were on the scene of the assault on the conductor within two minutes, despite the time of night when the attack took place. And while he said he welcomed the “significant surge” of cops into the subway system, he noted that of the 43 arrests of 38 people arrested for assaults on MTA workers last year, just 11 resulted in indictments. “That doesn’t sound right to me,” he said. 

The union said the violent incident is evidence for additional measures to ensure the safety of transit workers. "The law is clear: our safety is in the hands of our employer. But we need better protection now, before we lose one of our own. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: statistics mean nothing until the violence stops,” Davis said in a statement. 

The attack followed a Feb. 16 assault on a station agent at the Wall Street station on 4 and 5 train lines during the morning rush. The union at the time said the agent was punched and kicked after she tried to wake the man, who was sleeping under a station bench.


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