With the City still in mourning over the death of FDNY Battalion Chief Michael Fahy, a dedicated firefighter, husband and dad who coached little league baseball and basketball, TWU Local 100 P&E workers at Kingsbridge Depot lowered the depot’s huge flag to half mast Wednesday morning as at every public building in New York City. The veteran firefighter died just blocks from the Kingsbridge Depot the day before, at the Allen Pavilion of the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. He was killed by falling debris from the now notorious house explosion in the Bronx.
But the “brainless bureaucrats” at MTA-NYCT incredibly ordered the workers to raise the flag back up to full mast. Why? Because, they said, they didn’t get a go-ahead to do so from higher-ups. They also threatened to suspend the workers if they didn’t comply with a “direct order.”
With the backing of TWU Local 100 President John Samuelsen, OA Maintenance Director Tom Lenane and Division Chair Mike Rehn, the workers refused to raise the flag back up. A tense stand-off ensued between the workers and the bosses. As word of the threatened suspension filtered out to the media and other TWU depots and TWU Locals, our brothers and sisters throughout the city and throughout the country demonstrated incredible solidarity. Local 100 members at depots across the city began lowering flags to half mast in solidarity with Kingsbridge and in defiance of the MTA threat. Then our brothers and sisters at ATU Local 726 on Staten Island joined in by lowering their flags to half mast at the Yukon and Castleton depots in respect to the fallen FDNY hero.
TWU Local 101 members employed by National Grid in Brooklyn did likewise at the company’s Greenpoint facility. TWU Local 501 (JFK Airport) and 513 (Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas) American Airlines workers joined in. So did TWU Local 525 members at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Despite the growing swell of opposition to the MTA’s idiotic and disrespectful position, bosses at Kingsbridge raised the flag back up to full mast IN FRONT OF ASSEMBLED NEWS MEDIA. TWU’s Lenane, under direct authority of President Samuelsen, told workers to lower it back to half mast. Lenane and Division Chair Mike Rehn then stood guard to make sure bosses wouldn’t try to raise it again. After several hours of this stand off, the MTA finally backed down blaming the controversy on a “miscommunication” at the depot level.
TWU’s Lenane thinks differently. He told the press: "I’m happy that it got done, but I’m really disheartened that the transit authority would have taken this position in the beginning. I mean, why did it have to go to this length in order to honor someone?" President Samuelsen agreed. He said: “This incident was the result of the disrespectful decisions of brainless bureaucrats at NYC Transit, but when workers stand shoulder to shoulder we win.”
Flags now rest at half mast on all MTA buildings in New York in honor a firefighter who gave his life in service to the City of New York and New York’s working families. Rest in peace, Battalion Chief Michael Fahy.