25 Years in Automotive in the Port
Authority - There are many reasons my years working in Automotive at
the Port Authority were great years. The Port Authority provided a safe
working environment. We had the opportunity to do interesting and varied
work and be a part of a team that made a difference.
When I started working at the Port
Authority in 1981, I was Automotive Society of Engineers Certified and
had two years’ experience working as a mechanic, so I answered an ad in
the NY Times for an automotive mechanic. I passed the written test with
flying colors, but the practical test was a different matter. I had
previously only worked on brakes and front-end alignments, so although I
was certified in electrical and tune-up, I had very little experience in
the real world. Because the Port Authority was committed to hiring women
in non-traditional fields, they gave me a chance and offered me a job as
a garage attendant with the opportunity to move up to mechanic. I
started at the George Washington Bridge and transferred to the basement
shop in the World Trade Center as an auto mechanic.
Having strong democratic unions made a
huge difference. When I was a garage attendant, I and another woman
maintenance worker were bypassed for snow overtime. The TWU fought for
me. Being represented by UOAT, part of the SEIU, made a big difference
in my work life. Because of the UOAT we had good salary and benefits.
The UOAT kept the 2-person road-call rule, to protect us from dangers
working alone in traffic or with tow-trucks. The UOAT maintained the
overtime roster, preventing the favoritism that would have happened if
foremen had selected workers for overtime. The union prevented the Port
Authority from farming out our work. We had excellent leadership with
John Lynch and because we were democratic the members worked hard to
enforce our contract. The union even got us medical benefits in
We were beneficiaries of a commitment to worker safety from the Port
Authority and the Union. The Port Authority generally provided us with
the equipment we needed to do the job correctly. We had equipment to
capture asbestos dust. The foremen liked tools as much as we did and
they were usually willing to get the tool that would save time and
We worked on a wide variety of equipment
(Priuses when they first came out, police cars, pickups, bucket loaders,
firefighting trucks, small diesel-driven pumps, motorcycles, catwalk
cars, scarifiers, one-of-a-kind trucks for washing tunnels) – too many
to mention. And we had the opportunity to work on every system in the
vehicle except serious bodywork and automatic transmission repair. We
were never bored.
We had a cooperative rather than
competitive work atmosphere (Back when I worked in a private shop, the
tune-up specialists wouldn’t tell me anything. (They were hoping I would
fail). At the Port Authority I loved having the opportunity to solve a
problem every day. I loved working independently alongside others who
were willing to give advice or assistance if necessary.
We had our own lunchroom, enjoying our
own cooked meals during snow duty. Sometimes the night crew cooked us
breakfast before we changed shifts. Every year we hosted a holiday party
from our shop with our families and the front office as guests.
We were a family.