“I’m not willing to give up,” Evangeline Byars told the AmNews during a phone conversation. “I move a little differently because I focus more on people who are actually able to do the job and are committed to putting workers first.
Byars, a member of TWU Local 100, wants to lead the union on those terms; running for president in hopes of seeing her vision come to life. Looking at the current state of the union, Byars believes that those at the top don’t have the constituents at heart when making decisions that affect the entire union.
“There are so many things to say, but what really made me want to run was being on the executive board,” said Byars. “Looking at some of the people who were posturing to run, it really concerned me as someone who only had five years [on the board]. There has been no accountability [in the union].”
Byars feels like the leaders of TWU Local 100 make moves with the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) without union input and it leaves its constituents in a precarious position. One example Byars used involved a pregnant woman who lost her baby while on the job at a rail yard in East New York.
After the negative publicity, the MTA announced the creation of four new pregnancy-related announcer positions for women who can’t perform jobs that are physically demanding. While these assignments are temporary (they only last for up to 60 days at a time) pregnant employees could ask for a 30-day extension.
“The agreement is an important first step to finally provide our union sisters, regardless of title, the opportunity to continue to work in jobs that will not threaten their health or the health of their babies,” said TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano in a statement. Utano implied that the union worked with the MTA to come to this position.
But Byars told the AmNews that union members weren’t tipped on this.
“We never ever had a meeting to discuss this with the women’s committee of TWU Local 100,” Byars said. “We would’ve never accepted this. The agreement only gives women 60 days restrictions. Women are pregnant for nine months. How does this make sense?
“I’ve been approached by some people who are running in opposition to me and the reason they told me not to run is because they felt it was time for someone else to be in that position and they picked who they wanted,” said Byars. “They wanted me to run for a lesser position.”
Byars said her reasons for running are twofold. To restore the union to a position she believes they stepped down from and to carry on tradition while big business operates otherwise.
“At this point in history, the face of organized labor is under attack and being destabilized and we need to realize that the time is now to defend our organization and defend labor,” said Byars. Most employees without unions are taken advantage of by their bosses.
“I am the only candidate that is focused on workplace policy, returning power to the membership and ensuring our Collective Bargaining Agreement is adhered to and protected,” Byars said. “I’m looking to return us to a day when Local 100 was a force and we had a brighter vision for the future.”