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NYC Mayor Eric Adams, OLR Commissioner Campion Announce Contract to Ensure Fair Wages, More Flexible Scheduling for Staten Island Ferry Workers

September 4, 2023

Lisa Zornberg, Chief Counsel to the Mayor and City Hall: Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for being here. I’m Lisa Zornberg, City Hall Chief Counsel, and we’re here for a great event today.

The Adams administration has detailed an ambitious working people’s agenda to lift up the working New Yorkers who keep our city moving every day. When we invest in the working people of New York, we invest in a stronger and more prosperous city. That starts with delivering fair contracts to the city’s workforce contracts with decent wages and benefits.

To date, we’ve reached agreements with DC37, the PBA, the UFT, the Uniformed Officers Coalition. And today, we are very excited to join the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association for another major announcement. With that, I’ll now introduce Mayor Eric Adams.

Mayor Eric Adams: Thanks so much, Lisa. And you know, just the entire team. And really just want to thank Renee, she gets the title of just being a beast when it comes down to settling these contracts. Job well done. I think we’re over 80 percent of the contracts of our hard-working, blue-collar workers of this city, something that I am just really proud of.

You know, we ask so much from our city public sector workers, but when it’s time to sit down and have a real conversation of the engagement on how do we give them a fair salary, how do we make sure that they’re able to provide for their families, we fall short of that. And in my conversation with Vito and your entire negotiation team, all of us are proud of the moment. Councilman Brannan is here, Ydanis Rodriguez, the Transportation commissioner.

And all of us are proud of this moment. It was a long time. You went through several administrations, and you had very difficult moments. Your union fought hard for you. Your union understood what it meant to go so long without settling a contract. I remember some of those contracts. As police officers, we would go four years without a contract, and the family would depend on that. You went far longer than that.

And we wanted to get this deal done. I was very clear: bring the ferry to the goddamned dock. Let’s settle this dea. And I would see you guys when I take the ferry back and forth. You know, you would talk about we need a contract, and I’ve told you, listen I got this. We’re going to get it done. We said it to the UFT. We said it to DC37 members. We said it to the PBA. We said it to the firefighters. We said it to over 80 something percent of our union workers.

We said it clearly: this is a blue collar mayor, probably if not the only mayor that has ever had a union card. I know what health benefits are like, I know what pensions are like. I know what it is to get the raise. I know what you’re going through. I am one of you. And I wanted to make sure we did this right. So, we celebrate people who keep our city going, moving our city in the right direction. This ferry is so significant to the Staten Island community. There’s only a few ways you’ll get on Staten Island through the bridge or through the ferry. It’s extremely challenging.

When I would walk through this terminal to speak with Staten Islanders, it was so important that they were able to get home in a very timely manner, even during inclement weather. Running a city of 8.3 million people, going a lot of challenges. You know, we have 8.3 million New Yorkers, but listen, we’ve got 35 million different opinions. New Yorkers, they let you know how they feel in a minute, and that is why they take the lead from their mayor, because you could tell by my attitude I’m from New York. And New Yorkers let you know how they feel and what they want, and they were clear: we need our ferry operated and running.

And we know, listen, it’s no secret to us, guys and ladies who are here, there’s a real shortage of marine workers. It’s extremely challenging right now. We did not want to lose our workers. We knew we had to not only attract more but we had to retain them and keep them here in the city, and we brought that to the bargaining table.

Imagine this: 13 years without a raise. 13 years without a raise. That is just hard to believe. Everything is going up around you, and you’re seeing your pay stagnant for 13 years. Unbelievable. So, what you had to wait 13 years to do, in our less than two years in office we brought it to closure. Working people can’t wait as bills pile up. They need the support they need and subsistence they need. With over 300,000 hardworking people, we were able to settle all of these contracts because we brought to the table our commitment and our dedication. And Renee will call me from time to time, and I would tell here, Renee, listen, we have to be fair. We have to be fair, because I ran on this commitment and I’m going to live up to my commitment. And my word means everything to me.

Now both our ferry workers and working people of Staten Island can continue to ride forward without worrying of interruption. And this is one of the best rides you can get. And so, I want to thank our mediator, Al Viani, you know, for a job well done. You know, you get the unprecedented designated title of being an O.G. You know, you really brought everybody together. These are tough times, and so all of our New Yorkers for doing their part of really bringing this home.

And listen, I’m excited about this. I wanted this one so bad, that we were able to do what others were not able to do, and that was to give the workers of the Staten Island Ferry and the marine industry the pay that they deserve, the benefits they deserve, the healthcare that they deserve    and so, we were able to bring these ferry to the dock. Thank you. Thank you so much.

Zornberg: Thank you, mayor. The mayor calls her a beast, I call her a cherished colleague. I’d now like to bring to the podium Renee Campion, the commissioner of the Office of Labor Relations.


Commissioner Renne Campion, Office of Labor Relations: Thanks, Lisa, and thank you, mayor, of course. Happy Labor Day. It is really a spectacular Labor Day, and I am so happy to be here. I’m pleased to have reached this significant agreement with Rex and MEBA. I want to thank the mayor for his trust in me and my team at all times. It’s been an amazing 20 months, and we just keep on keeping on. That’s what we do.

I also want to thank this leadership at City Hall: First Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright, Deputy Mayor Meera Joshi, Chief Advisor Ingrid Lewis-Martin. Also, Diane Savino, Senior Advisor to the mayor.  Jacques Jiha, the director of OMB, DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. Thank you, Ydanis, for you and your team for standing there, being there at the table with us every single session and helping me and my team get to this agreement. I also want to thank our esteemed mediator, Mr. Al Viani, who agreed one year ago… It’s actually about one year ago this week, he agreed to come mediate for a couple of days. Just a couple of days, that’s what he… That’s what I represented to him. Sorry, Al.

And he stayed with us for a year. I don’t know another mediator on the face of this earth who would have stayed with us, Rex and I, for a year; and for that, he deserves all of our appreciation. He’s a treasure, Al Viani, to New York City. He has worked in labor relations for over 50 years. I’m sure he probably also thinks that maybe this mediation lasted maybe close to 50 years, but it really didn’t, it only lasted a year.

I want to thank Rex for your leadership. Thank you so much, Rex. More than a year ago, Rex and I sat down in a private room together. We sat down together, and we said. For this we are on the same page: we need to get a contract done. We made that pledge to each other. We shook hands. We knew we were going to get it done. I don’t think we knew it was going to take another year, but we said we’d get it done, and that was what was most important. We knew we had to get it done to rebel to recruit and retain workers, that’s what we needed to do. We knew that we needed to get raises, we needed to get the money in our workers’ pockets. That’s what we needed to do, and that is what we are announcing here today.

Finally. I just want to thank a few members of my staff. My first deputy commissioner, Dan Pollock, who is not here today, he’s with his family. He worked tirelessly with Rex and members of his team, with Mr. Viani. Also want to thank my Assistant Commissioner Zach Lider, who also worked on a regular basis, Marcus Figueroa, also from our research team, had to do a lot of numbers over and over and over again for the past six months or so. So, I want to thank all of the members of my team.

In this business, you can never give up, you can absolutely never give up. Al didn’t give up on us, Rex didn’t give up, I didn’t give up, Dan didn’t give up. There’s always going to be another way to figure this out, and that’s what we did: let’s try this, let’s try that. We were smart and we were creative, and we got it done.

I want to explain a few specific details of the deal, go through some of those details. Again, as the mayor said, this is a long contract: 13 years since these workers have seen a raise. This contract is the longest contract the city has ever negotiated in the City of New York: 16 years, it’s 16 years. It will have started November 7th, 2010, it will expire January 4th, 2027. So, 16 years, two months and three days.

This contract is for on behalf of 150 workers. There are our chief marine engineers and our marine engineers. They will receive retroactive wage increases consistent with the April decision from the New York City Comptroller, the prevailing wage decision. They will receive all of those increases.

Our captains, our assistant captains and our mates will receive 16 years’ worth of wage increases starting on May 7th, 2012. They will have received the 10 percent pattern that was from 2010 to 2017. Then they will receive almost eight percent in wage increases, 2017 to 2021, that round. And now this most current round that we are bargaining that the mayor referenced as having settled, 81 percent. Those 16.21 percent wage increases for ’21 to ’26 adds up to 38 percent, a 38 percent increase.

But that’s not all. As part of this agreement, we’ve also negotiated a 40 hour work week for all of our workers. It’s effective October 1st, 2023. That 40 hour work week provides a substantial increase in salary. We were also able to negotiate for new employees and new promotees a five step salary schedule for those workers. The parties also agreed to a number of different savings and charges to the package. We were able to resolve that last issue that a lot of people heard about, which was that overtime issue, we were able to successfully resolve that. The chief medical examiners and captains will receive 1.4 to five percent for all overtime hours. Assistant captains, marine engineers and mates will receive 1.40 percent wage increases.

To give you a little perspective on the salaries that these workers will be earning and so rightly deserve. Our captain salaries in November, 2010, was almost $71,000. At the end of this contract in July of ’25 going out to ’27, the salary will be $180,000, up from $71,000. The assistant captains, the first day of this contract in 2010 were earning $63,000. they will now at the end of this contract be earning $138,000. Next is our mates. Our mates were earning in the beginning of this contract, $58,000. They will now be earning $124,400 at the end of this contract.

Now to our prevailing wage titles. Our chief marine engineers, they were earning $69,000 in 2010. they will now be earning $180,281 at the end of this contract. And finally, our marine engineers, also a prevailing wage title. They were earning $64,000. At the end of this contract, they will have earned, they will be earning $145,000 for a 40 hour work week.

I also just wanted to mention there will be the five step new salary schedule. Captains coming in will earn $137,000 after October 1st, but in five steps they will go to that top salary of $180,000. Assistant captains will start at 124, they also will be going to that top salary at 138 after five steps. Mates will be at 96 to start, only those who started after October 1st, they will be going up to their $124,000 top salary. Chief marine engineers will start at $137, they will then go up to their $180,000 top salary. Marine engineers will start at $100,000 and they will go up to their $145,000 salary.

So, with that, again, as the mayor has said already, we’ve reached settlements with 81 percent of the workforce. We still have 67,000 individual city employees to negotiate contracts with. All of those contracts are currently expired. Those 67,000 employees encompass 85 separate bargaining units that me and my team at OLR have to work day and night, and I assure you we will be working day and night, seven days a week to get those contracts settled. I look forward to making more announcements like this and signing even more settlements. Thank you very much.

Zornberg: Thank you, Renee. I just want to point out that we are on the Staten Island Ferry right now with the iconic view of the Staten Island Ferry right behind us. And on that note, I’d like to call to the podium the Commissioner of the Department of Transportation, Ydanis Rodriguez.

Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, Department of Transportation: Thank you, Lisa. And it is an honor to be with you, all of you today celebrating Labor Day, a day when we recognize the contribution of our workers to the prosperity and the well being of our country. And the fact that we are here on Staten Island with Mayor Adams and all of us celebrating the contribution of our workers to keep the Staten Island Ferry running is a great day that we celebrate here in America, so let’s all give a big round of applause.

Each year, Staten Island Ferry moves over 12 million passengers between Staten Island and Manhattan. It’s not only a vital lifetime connectivity to the two boroughs, but it is a destination in and of itself enjoyed by tourists, millions of them from all over the world, who want to take a view of the skyline and the Statue of Liberty. As we know, last year we even got Princess Anne to ride on one of our ferries.

But completing these trips safely and on time requires a skilled and dedicated team. This includes our captain, deck hands, marine engineers and everyone in between. That’s why it’s important that our workers,    and Mayor Adams say he’s been [inaudible] to as a Council member we know how important it is to include everyone in the protection of this contract.

The agreement announced today is an historic and come after over, as you heard from Renee, a decade, more than a decade of deferrals. I want to thank Mayor Adams for his leadership. Only someone like him could take this negotiation to the finish line. And the rest of individuals that you heard, from Renee, then Lisa and everyone, but also our mediator and Vito, you played an important role helping us also to take this to the finish line.

I also want to acknowledge two members on my team. First Deputy Commissioner Margaret Forgione and Deputy Commissioner John Garvey for getting this done, too, and for working with everyone here running our ferry. I also want to thank MEBA Secretary Treasure Roland-Rexha and all members of the union for their services to our city and for their partnership in this agreement.

Working together, we will continue to provide all passengers of Staten Island and millions of visitors with the high level of service that they deserve. [Speaks in Spanish.]

Zornberg: Thank you so much, commissioner. And now I’d like to bring the Secretary-Treasurer of MEBA. His mother named him Roland Rexha; to the entire world, though, he’s known as Rex. Rex, congratulations to you on this Labor Day.

Roland Rexha, Secretary-Treasurer, MEBA: Thank you, Lisa. Thank you, Mr. Mayor, for being here. I got prepared words, but I’m going to just go off the books a little bit here before I start.

My parents came to this country 60 years ago as immigrants. You know, in Staten Island, my father took this boat for 30 years. I know what this boat means to immigrants, to Staten Island and to people in New York, and I’m really proud of what we did here in comps here with our membership.

So, now I’m going to go into some prepared words. The resounding words of Commander James Lawrence “don’t give up the ship” have echoed through the ages, inspiring mariners to persevere and never surrender. For over 13 years our dedicated mariners at Staten Island Ferry have embodied this unwavering spirit, diligently serving the people of Staten Island and New York City. Throughout the two previous administrations, it often felt like City Hall and the MEBA were sailing on separate courses; however, today we proudly announce that we finally brought this contract to dock.

This achievement is due in part to having a mayor who truly values the hard work of our members and comprehends the challenges that our mariners face day in and day out; and also, a mayor who doesn’t forget Staten Island. I want to extend my gratitude to Mayor Adams, his team at Office of Labor Relations, Renee. Specifically, I want to give a shout out to Dan Pollock and Zach Lider who have been really, really big in trying to get this thing done. Mediator Al Viani, New York City Central Labor Council President Vinny Alvarez, Diane Savino, and the local and national elected officials who have supported us from day one. A special thanks to State Senator Jessica Scarcella-Spanton, Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis, Senator Chuck Schumer, State Assemblyman Charles Fall, Council Members Brannan, Carr and Hanks, and Borough President Vito Fossella.

I also want to thank the MEBA team that made this happen. Dan Bright, our legal counsel, Frank [inaudible], our contracts expert, Caroline Daly, Captain Chris Ferraro, Mate Kenny Smith, Chief Engineer [inaudible], Assistant Captain Kevin Buselmeier, Captain Joe Ajar, and my friends at Pitta Bishop and particularly Vinny Pitta, thank you.

It is not lost on us that this historic contract is being formally accepted on Labor Day on the Dorothy Day. Today as we commemorate the contributions of working people we also recognize the power of workers to have a voice in the workplace. I am immensely proud of my membership for speaking up and refusing to accept anything less than what they deserve. They understand their value. They excel at their jobs, and they refuse to settle for mediocrity.

On this Labor Day in 2023 we have achieved a remarkable feat. Transforming the lowest paid ferry jobs in the nation into the highest paid. This accomplishment was made by possible by our members transitioning to a 40 hour work week providing immediate relief to our ongoing staffing shortages.

Now New York City can recruit and retain mariners, so hopefully provide the reliable service that Staten islanders truly deserve. As the arteries and veins that keep this city’s blood moving whether through rail, bus or ferry we recognize that New York City is the greatest city in the world and that it was built upon a foundation of an exceptional public transportation system which serves millions daily. Even in the face of adversity such as 9/11, Hurricane Sandy and the ongoing challenges posed by the Covid-19, our members and other municipal transit workers have never faltered in their commitment to provide the essential services that every New Yorker depends on. They are the unsung heroes of the city, and this contract serves as a testament to their unwavering dedication.

To all working New Yorkers whether you’re walking the picket line at the writers’ strike, you’re out of contract for four years at Metro-North or fighting for the first contract at the Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, I implore you, don’t give up the ship. Fight together and emerge victorious. You are worthy of the rewards that come with your hard work and determination. Thank you, everyone, and Happy Labor Day to all.

Zornberg: Thank you, Rex. We have two more speakers before we close out our program. With no further ado, the treasurer himself, mediator Al Viani.

Al Viani, Impartial Member, Office of Collective Bargaining: Rex and I should tell the story about Robert Moses, but I’m just going to say I’ve been around so long that I actually sat across the bargaining table from Robert Moses back in the late sixties. That’s how old I am.

But in any event, I just want to say that this agreement has been one of the most complex and difficult that I’ve ever had to deal with in my many years of labor relations experience. With the issues of wages, hours and working these issues, there were many moving parts that had to be addressed and which eventually came together for a complete agreement after a year of mediation.

I appreciate the mayor’s leadership and direct involvement, I might say, in helping to resolve many outstanding thorny issues. I applaud the city’s representative commissioner. Renee Campion and her staff and the union’s representative, Secretary-Treasurer Rexha, and his staff for their thoughtfulness and making the necessary compromises to reach a successful conclusion to these negotiations.

I have no doubt that this watershed agreement will assure a safe, reliable and stable ferry boat service for years to come, and especially for residents in the city and especially those on Staten Island. Thank you.

Zornberg: We’re going to close out this event with remarks by two of our elected officials. First, Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella, and then we’ll hear from Councilman Justin Brannan. So, first, borough prez.

Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella: Thank you. Good afternoon, everybody. This is a ferry good day on the Dorothy Day. There, I said it. All right? Those were not my words.

So, congratulations to everybody who’s had to endure for the last 13 years, been mentioned, to Rex and all the union guys. We just want to publicly thank you for your patience, your perseverance and your professionalism to make the Staten Island Ferry the most iconic ferry boat in the entire world. So, we thank you for that. And to Renee and her team, and it was not an easy task, but sometimes when it’s not easy it’s that much more rewarding when you get to the victory line. And I want to thank everybody involved on that side.

You know, the boat is a Dorothy Day here, but the boat that just left was the Spirit of America. And you know, on this Labor Day, we all come together to truly celebrate what the Spirit of America is. And that is looking out for our fellow man, looking out for our fellow woman, and try to do the right thing and to come together to understand, to compromise, and dare I say, have peace and tranquility so we can all live and work together in harmony and with that spirit of America. And that’s sort of what today is all about.

And what was referenced is the iconic, but it’s a lifeline for many people on Staten Island. The Staten Island Ferry has and will continue to be for thousands who commute on a daily basis, the tourists who you see, they come from around the world, and when they come to this ferry, they know what they’re getting. And it’s symbolic not just of Staten Island and New York City but of this country. And we want to remember that, because the negative consequence of the last 13 years were there were people who were disrupted. Let’s be real. I mean, in the midnight shifts or whatever, people who worked, and they were the people who can least afford the disruption in their life. Those are the people who couldn’t jump on an Uber or drive a car or do all those things, so they relied upon the service which is reliable and will continue to be. But what this agreement does, it minimize the disruptions in their lives. Those are the people who aren’t here right now, but we speak on their behalf, so I want to thank you all. 

And let me just close with this. There is only, other than the folks and the members here and the team that negotiated, there is one person that made this happen, and that’s Mayor Eric Adams. Bears repeating. You know, sometimes we cause our own problems. Lord knows I’ve caused my own problems. but when you inherit somebody else’s problem, and everybody, and let’s not be flippant with this. There were some pretty sophisticated people who were trying to get their arms around this for more than a dozen years.

And they tried and they tried, and sometimes you bang heads. And just for full disclosure, I’m glad it didn’t go to waste, I nominated Rex to the Merchant Marine Academy a number of years ago, and I’m glad that nomination didn’t go to waste. So, thank you, Rex. But this was what it was. A few weeks ago in Staten Island there was a town hall meeting. The mayor came out, listened to everybody with their concerns and their complaints and their suggestions for doing things right here. And the mayor said that night to the crowd and to me personally we’re going to get this done.

And maybe I’m too old school, but when a handshake and a word means something, and you say you get it done, and we try to work behind the scenes to help support that mission, guys like Eddie Burke, Skip Master and Billy Beale, you’ve got to take a man at his word.

And that word was Mayor Eric Adams getting this done. That’s why we are here today. That’s why this is a new day for Staten Island. Congratulations to all of you. And I think I may become a captain.

Zornberg: Councilman, would you like to come up and say a few words.

City Council Member Justin Brannan: Thank you, thank you. I’ll be very quick. Renee, thank you. I like this sign of a kinder, gentler OLR going forward.

Labor Day, look, it’s not just a day to squeeze out one last barbecue, right? It’s about really reflecting on so many of the things that we take for granted in our lives that would not have happened without organized labor. Right? And this contract is a really big deal.

And the mayor and I speak a lot. As chair of the Finance Committee in the City Council, we speak a lot about investing taxpayers’ money. And you could tell me what you care about all day long, that’s fantastic. But if I really want to know what you care about, I want to know what you spend your money, what you invest your money on. And today the mayor and this administration is showing that they care about working people, that they’re doubling down on working people and showing that 13 years without a contract is too long for 150 men and women who keep this ferry running for half a million people a week who rely on this ferry.

This administration, the mayor, is showing us that they care about working people, and that’s what Labor Day is all about. So, thank you. God bless you. Rex, congratulations. Thank you.

Question: So I’m not sure if it was mentioned, when exactly will the changes in paychecks go into effect for the workers?

Zornberg: Thank you. So, the changes are all retroactive. It’ll take… This contract goes back a long time, 13 years as we’ve all talked about, so it’s going to take a little time for payroll to catch up. But as soon as practical we’re going to get those increases into people’s paychecks retroactively as well as the increases going forward.

Question: And so you’ve said this is a 13-year retroactive. How much money does the city have to pay out now to these workers for those [inaudible]. What’s the lump sum?

Mayor Adams: We’ll give you the exact numbers, but we are not just giving these folks money, they earned this already. They earned it. And really when you think about it, you know, when I looked over and first inherited this, I don’t know how these guys made it 13 years without a salary increase. And so we are paying them for what we held up on.

And really, you know, this is just amazing. We’ll give you the exact number year after year after year, but they earned this already, and we are paying them for the sacrifices. God only knows how much their lives have been on hold. You know, college tuition doesn’t wait. Rent doesn’t wait. Mortgage doesn’t wait. You know, food doesn’t wait. They had to wait for 13 years. And so we are paying them and we’ll get those exact numbers what they are. But I really, I take my hat off to these guys, 13 years without a wage increase.

Rexha: Mr. Mayor, if I…

Mayor Adams: Yes.

Rexha: I will say this. I have members whose kids were in elementary school when we got our last negotiated increase, and their kids have just finished college. So, this has been a very long time coming. These people have struggled. They are in debt. They have gone into their pensions, they’ve taken pension loans. This is a relief that they’re going to have. They’re going to be able to get back, get their lives back in order. So, we really appreciate this.

Question: Any news on when the snack bar will reopen on the boats? I know we lost them during the pandemic but…

Mayor Adams: What’s closing them? What’s closing them? Huh? What’s closing them?

Commissioner Rodriguez: Well, first of all, we definitely are committed to bring them back, those concessions back. And as a result of Covid, everything was on hold. What we do at DOT is we do all the leasing through EDC, and we’re going to be working with the city to work with those concessions.

Mayor Adams: Listen, we’re going to get them open. You know, we can, you know, we can’t live in this perpetual Covid. You know, we’re going to get them open. I’m going to dig down and I’m going to find out what’s keeping them closed. You know, this is… Covid is in our rearview mirror,a and it’s time, you know, I want something to eat when I go across on the ferry. You know, sometimes, you know, you just want to go. And that’s more jobs, that’s more money into our economy. So, let me find out what’s keeping it closed, let’s get it open. All right?

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