Transit and Building Workers Bring 99% to Midtown

By Mathew Katz on November 15, 2011 7:25pm 

Workers at the union rally in Midtown on on Nov. 15, 2011.
Workers at the union rally in Midtown on on Nov. 15, 2011.
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

MIDTOWN — Hundreds of members of the transit and building workers' unions gathered late on Tuesday in front of a Midtown hotel where discussions on their contract negotiations began earlier that day.

Workers from 32BJ SEIU, which represents property services employees, and TWU 100, which represents New York City Transit workers, shouted, "We are the 99 percent," as they massed outside the Sheraton Hotel at 811 Seventh Ave. 

The workers are hoping that their pay and benefits will not be cut in the negotiations.

"We want the same contract," said J.P. Patafio, a bus driver and member of TWU 100, wearing a 'We are the 99 percent" button.

"We don't want givebacks and we don't want to lose any retirement," he added.

Several local and union officials addressed the workers, including Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who expressed his support for both unions.

"You are not alone in your negotiations," he said. "You have friends who understand that you built this city. You have kept this city running, literally."

Many at the gathering strongly identified with the Occupy Wall Street movement. The city's ejection of the protesters from Zuccotti Park Tuesday morning was a sore subject, and some union members got into yelling matches with police who were trying to control the crowd. 

Several from the Occupy Wall Street movement attended the rally, including Michael Levitin, the managing editor of the Occupied Wall Street Journal, who was there handing out posters to the union workers and expressed his confidence about the movement even after the occupation of Zuccotti Park was disrupted.

"This is huge, this is what we've been waiting for: a union of unions," Levitin said. "The 99 percent speaks to them. They are fundamentally the 99 percent."

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