TEA Agent

DEFINED BY NYPD BLUE: While some advocates have demanded major cuts in the Police Department budget as a message that for too long the rights of minority citizens have been abused, a petition submitted by activist Traffic Enforcement Agents to Mayor de Blasio urging that he not transfer them to Department of Transportation jurisdiction argues that it is only because of their status as NYPD employees that they are no longer routinely assaulted and harassed by motorists irate at being ticketed for violating city traffic laws.

Syed Rahim knows the job first-hand.

The president of Communications Workers of America Local 1182, which represents Traffic Enforcement Agents at Levels I and II, has written parking tickets in the searing heat and the bitter cold. He’s had his share of, well, “disagreements” with drivers.

But as head of the local, he has other duties. Foremost among them is securing a contract for his 3,000 members. He and the city’s outgoing Labor Relations Commissioner, Robert W. Linn, have been negotiating since last February.

Seeking Major Raises

The last contract, ratified in early 2016, contained the civilian pattern of a 10-percent pay boost over seven years. That brought starting salaries for Level 1 TEAs, whose chief duties are to issue parking summonses, to $30,706. After 10 annual salary steps, Level I Agents would earn a maximum of $41,200. ­Level II TEAs, who direct traffic, start at $38,625, and rise to a maximum of $43,187 after eight years.

As with all city unions during then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s last term, Local 1182 members prior to that deal were working under terms of a contract that had expired years before, in this case six years prior. The contract expired last year. “We have been negotiating with the city for almost a year,” said Mr. Rahim, who started as a Traffic Enforcement Agent in 2005.

He is seeking increased starting salaries of $41,000, maxing out at $48,000 for Level 1 TEAs; and of $43,000, maxing out at $50,000 for Level 2 TEAs.

He said city negotiators had countered with salary offers he called too low and not in a range acceptable to members.

“People working 35 years won’t accept $18 an hour,” he said during a Jan. 23 interview.

Mr. Linn declined to detail the state of negotiations with the local. “We don’t comment on collective bargaining,” he said during a brief phone conversation. “We basically conduct negotiations at the bargaining table.”

Wants Uniformed Status

More than salary increases, Mr. Rahim also wants something he said is just as tangible. As he did during the last negotiating go-around, Mr. Rahim, who was re-elect-president of the local last July, is seeking uniformed status for his members, saying they now have duties that were formerly the exclusive province of Police Officers.

TEAs are now sometimes tasked with responding to emergencies, such as during severe storms and serious traffic accidents, with the latter duty begun as a pilot program designed to free up police to concentrate on their law-enforcement duties. They also issue block-the-box tickets, fill out stolen-car reports and respond to water-main breaks.

“We demand a title change from Traffic Enforcement Agent to Traffic Enforcement Officer,” Mr. Rahim said. “The job description has totally changed...We are side-by-side [with Police Officers.] We can do it, but give us more money.”

Despite their expanded portfolios, TEAs do not receive additional training, he said.

Sal Albanese, the former City Councilman and three-time Mayoral candidate who works as Local 1182’s spokesman, said the TEAs are not the meter maids of the popular imagination. He said that if they were within the private sector, both their status and salary would have been reassessed long ago.

“The job has to be reclassified and upgraded,” he said. “The job has evolved. That is the case that is compelling.”

High Attrition Rate

TEAs often work six or even seven days, and that workload, coupled to low salaries, makes retention exceedingly difficult, Mr. Rahim said. “The attrition rate is very high. No one wants to work for minimum wage,” he said, adding that many TEAs leave to become Police Officers or Correction Officers after just a few months on the job.

TEAs, he said, bring in about $1 billion to city coffers annually, he said.

“We are generating a lot of revenue,” he said, adding that “productivity pressures” come with the job. For instance, he said block-the-box citations, with a fine of $115, more than doubled to 77,000 in 2017 from the year before.

While he said that his members are appreciated by both Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill—whose department oversees TEAs—he wants the praise translated to increased income. Since TEAs have assumed those additional tasks, Mr. Rahim said, “the city is saving a lot of money.”

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