The PATH Labor Council, which represents workers who run the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s commuter railroad, took its eight-year-old contract case directly to the agency’s Board of Commissioners at its June 27 public meeting.
The unions charged they were stood up by Gary Dellaverson, the Port Authority’s outside labor counsel, at three separate meetings in Washington D.C. with the National Mediation Board.
‘Wasted Time, Resources’
“I tell you this because the unions feel they wasted not only their time but their resources,” Tom Malone, General Chairman of Sheet Metal Air Rail Transport Local 1413, told the Commissioners.
He said that the Labor Council, which includes eight of the 10 PATH unions, was particularly perturbed because officials initially got support from Mr. Dellaverson.
“The coalition was formed with the encouragement of the carrier’s outside counsel Gary Dellaverson, who after two meetings with the coalition abruptly left, instead telling the National Mediation Board that he wanted to hold talks with the individual unions,” Mr. Malone recounted. “When talks were held over the last few weeks in Washington D.C. with three individual unions, he was not in attendance.”
The PATH unions are covered under the National Railway Act and their contracts don’t lapse, instead remaining in effect until a new pact is reached.
Trouble Follows Him?
“The Port Authority has hired a consultant [Mr. Dellaverson] who was hired by the Long Island Railroad and New Jersey Transit and he brought both of those railroads to the brink of a strike,” said Brian Diego of the American Railway and Airline Supervisors Association. “It is ironic to us that PATH has announced an ambitious one-billion-dollar plan to improve service for our patrons while the employees who will implement that plan are still paying their bills on wages from 2010 and 2011.”
“The truth is I don’t go to every bargaining session,” Mr. Dellaverson said in a phone interview. “If it is an important session, I am likely to be there.”
He added that since the PA’s public board meeting last month, he attended a session before the National Mediation Board with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, a member of the Labor Council.
Mr. Dellaverson, a solo practitioner, was formerly chief negotiator for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Complaint Got Action?
Joseph Dominczak, General President of the Railway Independent Transit Local 1107, said in a phone interview that Mr. Dellaverson’s attendance at that meeting was a validation of the Labor Council’s strategy of using the Port Authority’s public-comment period to draw attention to the outside counsel’s tactics. “He was there because someone on the board or in upper management told him to be there,” he said.
Mr. Dellaverson contended that he was first approached by PATH’s International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers with the concept of the railroad unions forming a coalition as a “matter of convenience,” which he said he initially supported but subsequently found it to be “unproductive.”
The PATH Labor Council and its eight constituent unions represent about 75 percent of the 1,200 represented PATH workers. The two unions that opted not to join are the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which covers clerks and public-information agents, and the UTU-SMART, which represents the system’s conductors.
The labor delegation asked the Commissioners to keep in mind that the lack of progress at the bargaining table came even as the unionized workforce achieved several major milestones for the agency. They cited post-Hurricane Sandy reconstruction, the introduction of a new fleet of rail cars and a signal system, as well as being the first railroad in the nation to fully implement the federally mandated positive train control anti-crash system.
Daniel Lacey of the American Railway and Airline Supervisors Association said that the agency’s last offer of 1.25 percent pay increases for the years 2013 and 2014 covered a period of time when the union workforce “slept in the locker room on benches for weeks at a time to ensure that PATH was the first to restore service after Super Storm Sandy. Many of these employees were dealing with family emergencies and the devastation of their own homes, yet sacrificed and put our passengers and the railroad first.”
The stagnation of wages for PATH’s unionized workforce coincided, the union delegates said, with the railroads’ non-unionized workforce being granted significant raises.
Mr. Lacey added the PATH Labor Council agenda was also concerned about the erosion of pension and health-care coverage benefits “even though there exists a cancer cluster, much of which is 9/11-related and is rapidly growing.”
At a press conference after the monthly meeting, Rick Cotton, the Port Authority’s Executive Director, told reporters resolving outstanding labor contracts was a top priority.
Last year, after an aggressive campaign by the Service Employees International Union, the PA committed to substantial raises for thousands of airport workers, culminating in a $19-an-hour wage by 2023.
Traditionally, membership on the Port’s Board of Commissioners was dominated by major campaign donors.
But over the last few years, Governor Cuomo has diversified the board’s makeup by naming people like Rossana Rosado, New York’s Secretary of State and the former publisher of El Diario La Prensa, as well as Leecia Eve, formerly a state economic-development official who’s now an executive with Verizon.
He also added Gary LaBarbera, who is president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York.
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