As the subject of our TA/OA Line-of-Duty death benefit recently received mention, some background and update would be useful. The line-of-duty death benefit was establised in the 2002 TA/OA contract. Of course, Transit workers had been dying for decades, but, unlike the uniformed services across NY State and NYC, no such benefit existed for us.
We viewed such a benefit, along with a Local 100 Widows & Orphans Fund, as priority items and as part of a conscious program to establish recognition and respect for Transit workers. An increase in the line-of-duty benefit is a good and welcome thing, but still overall, Samuelsen has been woefully neglectful. It should first be noted that it was our Safety rule changes and initiatives that brought Transit workers fatalities down to its lowest since 1946, when records began to be kept, or are available.
Mr Samuelsen loudly denounced those changes at the time. He saw safety as a political football and cared less about reducing member fatalities. Interstingly, those very changes created the longest fatlity-free years in Transit history, making it easier, or less costly, to up the Line-of-duty death benefit.
But, the ongoing monies to support the families of our members who die or will die on the job comes from the Local 100 Widows & Orphans Fund. The Fund pays for full continuing family health benefit coverage and an annual stipend to all school age dependents of members who die in-the-line-of-duty. It covers all Local 100 members, regardless of division and outside the MTA. It’s monies come from active members’ contributions though voluntary charitable payroll deductions, all established under my administration.
Fact is, Mr Samuelsen and most of his closest supporters, purposely boycotted contributing to this Fund for many years prior to his winning office and over the past 6 plus years of his leadership. Mr Samuelsen has been far more personally active enrolling members to sign up for costly and questionable Insurance schemes through payroll deductions, than to The Local 100 Widows and Orphans Fund.
This payroll deduction, which should be dearest to our hearts and to any sense of loyalty to the surviving families of those co-workers who gave their lives on the job, would greatly benefit from as little as 50 cents a paycheck, is almost like a hidden secret in Local 100 under John Samuelsen, especially compared to his attention to Insurance schemes.
The Widows & Orphans Fund also depends on fund raisers such as annual dinners, where we personally honor the families of members who had given their lives -in-the-line-of-duty. Samuelsen has had to be pressured and dragged kicking and screaming each year to continue these annual events, which has not been held for the past two years now and each and every year, the surviving families of members killed have had to go though humiliation, rudeness and disrespect from Samuelsen, Earl Phillips and their staffers where they are treated as ungrateful beggars to get their annual stipends.
That is what happens when you are doing something you have been forced to do, instead of doing it from the heart, from personal commitment and devotion. It becomes difficult to sustain, and that shows. The real heart always does and theirs are dark or missing places.
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– Roger Toussaint