Our Successful Campaign to (Partially) Rid the Subway of Rats

This is the story of one union’s fight against one of humanity’s legendary scourges — the rats that live wherever people do, unless they are eradicated by a sustained effort. The rats in the New York City subway system are of particular concern, because that is where we work. We saw the problem getting out of hand in 2010, and decided to do something about it. Our leadoff on the website was this video:


TWU Session - 304

TWU Local 100 President John Samuelsen

A Message from TWU Local 100 President John Samuelsen

I’m President of the Transport Workers Union of Greater New York, Local 100. TWU Local 100 advocates for our members — the subway conductors and operators, track workers, maintainers, cleaners and station agents above ground, and the bus operators and maintainers, signal maintainers, mechanics, and tradesmen above ground.

We also advocate for the riding public, because we share a common interest: safe, affordable, clean and sanitary mass transit facilities. In a huge city like New York, we face unique challenges. Our transit system runs 24/7, and many New Yorkers count on being able to purchase and consume food as they roll. That’s part of what makes New York New York.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority — like any employer — works to reduce staffing to an absolute minimum. This was especially evident in 2010 in the ranks of our Cleaners, who are charged with keeping this immense system clean. It is a daunting task. When there aren’t enough cleaners, garbage stays in place. Refuse rooms are filled to overflowing. The trains that remove trash don’t come frequently enough. And rats multiply.

In 2010, we began the rat free subways campaign featuring an interactive website. This site describes what we did, and the results our campaign produced. We attacked the problem with videos, a photo contest giving riders the ability to upload pictures of rats, and aggressive rallies attended by politicians and actions in front of the Board of Directors of the MTA. Our demand: Staff up the ranks of our Cleaners so that trash is removed faster. Put more resources in place to secure and seal refuse rooms. Put down more poison bait to kill rats and prevent them from breeding.