Digging Deep: How Unions are Making New York’s Subway Suck

March 16, 2018  ·  10:23 pm

Increasing delays are tormenting millions of subway riders every day. The leaders entrusted to expand New York’s regional transit network have paid the highest construction costs in the world, spending billions of dollars that could have been used to fix existing trains, tracks, and tunnels.

New York Times exposé

In December 2017, a New York Times investigation exposed the “excessive staffing, little competition, and generous contracts” plaguing the MTA—while subway riders and taxpayers foot the bill.

Trade unions, which have closely aligned themselves with Governor Cuomo and other politicians, have secured deals requiring work to be staffed by as many as four times more personnel compared to similar subway construction jobs in Europe and Asia.

Another example: Staffing of tunnel-boring machines weighing over 1,000 tons are largely run automatically. Other cities typically man the machine with fewer than 10 people. New York unions often use 25 people.

But it’s not just tunneling machines that are overstaffed. A dozen New York unions work on tunnel creation, station erection, and system setup. Each negotiates with the construction companies over labor conditions. And each has secured rules that contractors say require more workers than necessary.

Why does it all matter?

When unions negotiate wasteful contracts and inflate construction costs, they take valuable resources away from long-overdue subway improvements. The MTA already faces a $1 billion budget deficit, which is only compounded by expensive union work rules.

If LaBarbera’s unions have less power, New York’s subway will be less dirty, less delayed, and less dangerous.