Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Transport Workers Union: The New 1%?


John Samuelson - TWU President

The Transport Workers Union ("TWU") are currently negotiating a new five year contract with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority ("MTA").  Among other things they are looking for wage increases pegged to inflation while the MTA is seeking higher health care contributions, fewer paid vacation days, and no overtime until after 40 hours on the job. 

Currently the average city transit worker makes over $69,000 a year while the average LIRR employee takes home almost $85,000.  This is of course in addition to health insurance and retirement benefits that  most can only dream of.

Much has been written about the 99% versus the 1% and whether they are paying their fair share, whatever that may be, but taxes aside, the average American does not resent an individuals' financial success.  Generally very high earners create wealth by doing something productive that benefits society in some way as well as making them rich (bankers being the potential exception although they represent a small component of the 1%).  

However, unlike with the 1%, where the only question is are they paying the 99% enough in the form of taxes, the 99% should be asking why they are allowing the TWU, and other unions, to enrich their own members largely at the expense of the 99%.  As average New Yorkers struggle to to make ends meet in a very difficult economic environment the TWU continues to seek compensation packages and work conditions that cannot be found anywhere else except the public sector.  Clearly there is a relationship between how much they get paid and how much New York City strap-hangers have to pay for having the privilege of riding New York's crowded and antiquated transportation system.

One day the 99% will wake up and  wonder why they, through the cost of their subway and train tickets, are paying TWU members salaries that by any measure are extraordinary.  For example, according to, in 2010 the average pay for an LIRR conductor was almost $96,000; the average pay for an engineer was over $102,000.  Even an assistant cable splicer (whatever that is)  on Metro North made over $78,000 and a track foreman took home just shy of  $97,000.

The question of whether the 1% pays the 99% enough taxes is still being determined.  An equally important question the 99% should be asking is why are they paying another small minority such lavish compensation.


  1. This article looks like it was written by MTA management. The biggest problem I see here is we're always ready to attack workers when one appears to have more than anyone else instead of fighting for everyone in the middle class to have similar benefits. You only look at salaries and make judgement instead of looking to why they make so much and there are a lot of factors that come into play. I'd wish you'd do a little more research on mta workers than just reading a chart of what workers make a year

  2. Theo,

    Please let me know why they make so much money. That would be very helpful