TWU to GCS: Time's Running Out

MTA Board is all ears as TWU Rep Dylan Valle discusses the situation at GCS.
MTA Board is all ears as TWU Rep Dylan Valle discusses the situation at GCS.

It’s the 9th inning with two outs for the hired-gun operator of the MTA’s Access-A-Ride Call Center.

Global Contact Services has been running the call center like the owner of a garment factory in the early 1900s. In less than two years, it has fired about 1,200 workers for minor - or simply bogus - transgressions. Some have been canned for supporting the union. Others have been disciplined for reporting late to work – even though they take Access-A-Ride because they have a disability and are unable to ride the subway, which has to be one of the most surreal, ironic and cruel situations you could dream up.

That’s like a cop offering grandma a ride home, and then giving her a ticket for hitchhiking. And by the way, grandma is a crossing guard – and in a wheelchair.

There is hope, however, that this Twilight Zone saga will have a good ending. After aggressive advocacy by TWU Local 100, the MTA chairman two months ago directed NYC Transit’s top executive, the MTA inspector general and the MTA auditor general to conduct thorough analysis of the North Carolina-based company. Speaking Wednesday at the board’s November meeting, Prendergast said the review would soon be completed.

“Time is of the essence,” Prendergast said. “We have heard from the workers about the conditions under which they are working and their urgent need to have these issues resolved.” This is lightning-quick for the MTA. The bureaucracy usually moves at a pace somewhere between a dead turtle and a glacier. The second reason for hope can be found in a statement about GCS that Local 100 President John Samuelsen released to the media Wednesday.

“TWU Local 100’s Executive Board unanimously voted on Nov. 10 to authorize a strike in response to the company’s abject refusal to respect the basic rights of call center workers for more than two years,” Samuelsen said. “I met GCS’s chief executive, Greg Alcorn, last week and we started a dialogue. Based on that meeting, I believe there’s a chance to improve the deplorable working conditions and reach a contract settlement. But if the dialogue breaks off again, we will resume organizing and planning for a strike.” The Call Center workforce is overwhelmingly minority women. After slashing wages after being hired by the MTA a few years ago, GCS now pays them between $9 and $11 an hour. That’s simply not acceptable in NYC in 2015.  GCS faces the possibility of having its contact terminated by the MTA and faces a possible strike.

Ninth inning. Two outs. No room for error.