The official “no lunch” grievance and its interpretation and why its AGAINST THE LAW for the MTA not to provide us a lunch break.


As conductors and train operators we all know that when you get back to the terminal with less than 20 minutes before your lunch period, you are entitled to a “no lunch”. This no lunch should actually be called “delayed lunch” because you are still legally entitled to a lunch.

However the provisions of the “no lunch” in our collective bargaining agreement say nothing about taking away our legal right mandated by state law to have an uninterrupted 30 minutes for lunch. In fact, for jobs beginning after 1pm until 6am the next day, employers are required to give you 45 minutes for lunch!

Employers may indeed cut back these 45 minute lunches to 30 if there is no hardship to the employee, however with all the discipline going around and us having safety sensitive titles, how can one argue that there is no hardship to the employee???

An employer also has the right to cut lunches to 20 minutes but only after an investigation by the NYS Labor Dept. and a special permit is issued by the Commissioner of the department of labor. This permit must be placed conspicuously in the employer’s place of business.

Has anyone seen this permit on the walls of our crew rooms or dispatchers’ offices? I haven’t. But I have sure seen the mandated safety notifications for public employees all over the place.

The MTA will probably try to claim that because they are a “political subdivision of the state”, that they are not beholden to New York State labor law. But while the MTA is a “political subdivision”, our actual employer, New York City Transit Authority is not, as evidenced in the legal case Ronan v. Levitt.

Also at issue here is when does lunch actually begin and end? If you listen to dispatchers it would be from the time our train is clocked in (when they see your train enter the station in most cases) to the time of our next departure.

However we are doing a lot of work in between these times. First of all, from the time they clock you in to the time the train dumps is about 2 minutes because most terminals require you to creep in at about 5 miles an hour. Then we are either required to key open the doors for the next departure or clean out the train if it’s a layup, both of which take about 5 minutes.

You may not know this but when we take a comfort en route it is recorded by the rail control center for purposes of disciplinary action if you take “too many” comforts in their opinion, therefore we are really not allowed to use the bathroom unless we are at a terminal without repercussions.

That takes about another 3 minutes. As per bulletin we must be on our trains 2 minutes prior to departure for cab safety checks. In addition, the transit authority provides 0 cafeterias at our terminals and bringing food from home is not an option because you may end up having lunch at a different terminal from where your food is if it has to be refrigerated! We should be given additional time to go outside to buy our lunch.

When it comes to scheduling lunches we believe that an additional 5 minutes should be added due to the fact that a train that’s 5 minutes late is considered to be “on time”, and anyone who operates according to rule and is routinely 5 minutes late without any outside delay (train traffic, signal problems, sick passenger, etc.) is being punished unfairly for simply following the rules to keep our passengers safe.


– Ben Valdes

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