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It’s the 40th Anniversary of TWU’s 1980 City-Wide Strike

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It was April Fools Day 1980, but the TWU Local 100 membership was not joking.

Thousands of New York City transit workers hit the picket lines on Tuesday morning, April 1, 1980, in the first City-wide transit strike in 15 years. The strike would last 11 tumultuous days.

New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who did more harm than good during the strike, lamented to the press: “The unthinkable has happened and now we have to figure out how to live with the unthinkable and we will.”

The man at the center of this watershed moment in TWU’s history was John Edward Lawe, a rugged Irish immigrant who had labored in a road repair crew and in Ireland’s peat bogs before arriving in America in 1949 at the age of 30.

Lawe, one of ten children to Luke and Kate Lawe from Strokestown, County Roscommon, Ireland, worked as an elevator operator in a Manhattan high-rise for one year before finding work as a Bus Cleaner for the old Fifth Avenue Coach Co. at the 132nd Street depot.

He became active in the union as a Shop Steward.  During the 29-day bus strike in 1953, he served as a picket captain for maintenance.  Later that year, Lawe switched to transportation and quickly rose up the union ladder.  He was elected Transportation Section Chair in 1955 and then Chair for all of Fifth Ave. Coach Transportation.  After the historic 1962 bus strike that led to the creation of MABSTOA, Lawe was elected Division 1 Recording Secretary immediately, and then Division 1 Chair in 1964.

Lawe served on the negotiating committee during the union’s first citywide transit strike in 1966.  In 1968, he was elected Division 1 Vice President.  Then in 1977, Lawe succeeded Ellis Van Riper as President of Local 100.

The decade of the 70’s was a turbulent financial period for New York City, which in 1975 teetered on the edge of bankruptcy.  Who from that generation can forget the famous October 30, 1975 front page of the New York Daily News that blared “Ford to City: Drop Dead.”  President Ford, the day before, had vowed to veto any Congressional bailout for the City. 

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It's the 40th Anniversary of TWU's 1980 City-Wide Strike

Thousands of New York City transit workers hit the picket lines on Tuesday morning, April 1, 1980, in the first City-wide transit strike in 15 years. The strike would last 11 tumultuous days.

Big Bus Local 100 Member Dies of the Virus

APRIL 1 -- TWU Local 100 has lost another good union Brother to the Coronavirus scourge. Brother Raul Clarke was a Bus Operator for the Big Bus Tour Bus company. Brother Clarke passed away on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. He had been with the company since 2016 and was a well liked, well respected man and Union Brother.

James Hoffman, a Local 100 Shop Steward at Big Bus, said that Brother Clarke was “a friendly warm presence at the company. I always looked forward to working with him He was quick with a laugh, reliable with the safety of everyone on his bus, and a joy to do a loop with. We will all miss him very much.”

Local 100 President Tony Utano said that all of Local 100 feels this loss. “Our hearts and prayers go out to this fine man’s family. I offer my deepest condolences to all of our Local 100 members at Big Bus here in New York and across the country. I can only hope and pray that this dark cloud over our country passes quickly.”

International President Samuelsen Interviewed on Good Day NY

John Samuelsen, International President of the Transport Workers Union, praised Local 100 members transporting soldiers fighting the war against the Coronavirus – nurses, EMS workers and other healthcare professionals – to the front. But he criticized the MTA for belatedly providing masks to transit workers and only after being compelled to do so by the union.

“Our people are the most dedicated workforce you can ever imagine,” Samuelsen, a former Local 100 President, said Monday on the Good Day New York news television program. “We recognize that we are the front-line transportation network that is really transporting the soldiers fighting this war against COVID-19. But we’re not going to be used as cannon fodder. We don’t want to be used recklessly. Unfortunately, I think the fatalities that you are seeing, and the amount of infections you are seeing among transit workers, could have been mitigated against if the PPE came a lot earlier than it did.”

Local 100 President Tony Utano thanked Samuelsen for securing tens of thousands of masks for transit workers to supplement those the MTA began distributing Sunday. Utano, Secretary-Treasurer Earl Phillips, TWU International staff Rep. Angelo Cucuzza and Samuelsen helped transport those union-obtained masks, along with thousands of others donated by Councilman Justin Brannan, to Local 100 Vice Presidents and Chairs Monday morning.

33-Year CED Veteran, Patrick Patoir, Dies of the Virus

A seventh Transit Worker, Patrick Patoir, a Maintainer Helper B at the Pitkin Barn, has passed away of the dreaded Coronavirus.

Brother Patoir was a 33-year veteran of the Car Equipment Department. He worked for more than 25 years at the Coney Island Overhaul shop, and for the past 6 years at Pitkin.

His family told the union that Patrick first called out sick on March 21, 2020. His condition worsened and he was admitted to the hospital on March 25th where doctors placed him on a ventilator, and later put him into a medically induced coma. His wife called today to say that her husband had died.

Local 100 Administrative Vice President Nelson Rivera said that he worked with Patrick years ago when he first started in CED as a Helper. “He was a wonderful person, and a great union Brother who always stepped up to the plate for Local 100.”

CED Vice President Shirley Martin, who has known Patrick since she first started 29 years ago, echoed those sentiments. “Patrick was one of the most beautiful souls I have ever known. He was always the first to help. If you wanted something done, ask Patrick,” she said. “Everyone at Pitkin is in mourning. Many of his co-workers where in tears when they found out.”

Patrick’s brother, Wendell, is a Machinist at the Coney Island Wheel and Axle Shop. He leaves behind his grieving wife, and four children.

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