They’re seemingly everywhere, often to motorists' frustration.
But traffic enforcement agents’ ubiquity adds up to about $1 billion in revenue for the city, according to their union’s president, Syed Rahim. And Rahim, in his third term as head of Communications Workers of America Local 1182, says TEAs have long deserved a larger share of that coin.
The local’s 2,700 traffic agents, who are NYPD employees, have been out of contract since September 2021 and Rahim wants a fairer shake for his members, particularly, he said, since their responsibilities have greatly expanded from just writing parking tickets and directing traffic.
Rahim argues that they have for years been tasked with duties formerly the exclusive province of police officers, such as responding to emergencies and enforcing some aspects of Vision Zero, without being adequately compensated.
For now, TEAs start at $41,493 and max out at $47,874, but only after 10 step increases. Rahim said a fair top salary would be $65,000, at minimum, reached after seven steps, with pay increases timed from the date of hire rather than any promotion dates, as has been the case.
“The position of traffic enforcement agent deserves to be upgraded and the compensation reflect the duties and responsibilities of this important position,” Rahim said earlier this month.
The comparatively low pay guarantees continued attrition, he added. Rather than recruit, test and train a new class as often as every three months, he said, the city should increase compensation and ensure greater retention. “They're leaving the job sooner rather than later,” Rahim said.
Sal Albanese, the former Brooklyn City Councilman and three-time mayoral candidate who works as Local 1182’s spokesman, said the traffic agents' portfolios have greatly expanded in recent years, which is what makes the local’s argument for higher pay different — and more compelling — than those of other unions negotiating contracts.
“They're directing traffic, they're handling block the box, they’re used as force multipliers in parades and demonstrations, they’re called as first responders,” he said. “So we're asking the city to take all that into consideration and really upgrade this job and upgrade the salary because the salary is totally unfair and we want to make sure that our traffic agents are treated fairly.”
Not seeking uniformed status
The two sides have met just once, on April 26, with a next negotiation session scheduled for mid-June. The local submitted its proposals to the city's Office of Labor Relation officials May 3.
While the local sought uniformed status in the last contract go-around in 2019, Rahim said that was not among the union’s top demands this time.
But he noted that his members, whose uniforms denote them as NYPD workers, are subject to some of the Police Department's Patrol Guide’s rules and regulations, including discipline protocols, despite being civilian employees. The nature of their tasks also leads to all manner of confrontations with the public, some of which turn violent, both because and despite their NYPD status.
"It's also in the interest of the city to maintain a well-trained, faster enforcement agency, because you want to keep these people on the job ... especially now with all the transportation issues that are coming up,” Vision Zero enforcement in particular, Albanese said. “All of that involves traffic agents. And it's not only in the interest of the members, but it’s in the interest of the city to keep folks on this job by paying a fair wage.”
Rahim, who started as a traffic enforcement agent in 2005, writing parking tickets in the searing heat and the bitter cold and having his share of disagreements with motorists, cited Mayor Eric Adams’ assertions of his blue collar background and called on him to do right by his members.
But he also suggested a troubling reason TEAs’ salaries and standing could be lagging.
“Traffic enforcement agents are all minority and immigrant,” he said. “And that’s why maybe the city doesn’t treat us fairly.”
The city’s Office of Labor Relations did not respond to an email seeking comment on the union’s contract proposals.
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