I-Team: Union Workers Campaign On County Time

MIAMI (CBS4) – At least a dozen Miami Dade Transit employees – on county time — are actively campaigning on behalf of Miami Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez and Commissioner Natacha Seijas, the CBS4 I-Team Investigator Jim DeFede has learned.

CBS4 News found several of the employees, members of Transport Workers Union Local 291, at an early voting site in North Dade Tuesday morning.

“I’m going to be out here everyday,” said Shadel Hamilton, a bus driver for 21 years. “We are out here trying to inform people, trying to educate people.”

Hamilton is a member of the union’s Civil Rights and Education Committee, which was formed on January 26. The members of the committee continue to be paid their normal county salary – bus drivers earn between $20 and $30 an hour – but instead of driving buses, their assignment is to “educate” transit workers about an array of issues, including the recall.

“If that question comes up they’ll talk about the recall,” said union president Talib Nashid.

Added Hamilton: “Yeah I’m getting paid. I’m getting paid but it is something right now I am volunteering to do.”

Hamilton maintains that the time he works the early voting site is separate from his education committee time – time he goes into the transit garages at night and talks to workers about the recall.

“I could have been on the other job doing the committee work but I am out here supporting the union,” he said.

But at other times of the interview, Johnson made it clear he considered his time at the early voting site to be integral to the committee’s work.

“This is part of the committee,” he said, as he handed out flyers to early voters. “And from here I’ll go to the garages and we go to the drivers.”

What does he discuss with the drivers?

“Politics, what the union is doing, what we are working on,” he said. “Right now it’s about the recall, basically about the recall but it is not limited to that, we inform them to let them know why the union is supporting the mayor.”

When CBS4 I-Team investigator Jim DeFede asked Talib Nashid, the union president, why the recall was so important to the union, he said: “It’s a cause. We think the mayor needs to be in there, because he is supporting our cause. He’s supporting our people.”

Nashid said he did not understand why some people might be offended that county employees – on county time – were campaigning on behalf of the mayor and a county commissioner.

“So you are saying that because you are paying me, I shouldn’t be concerned about whether or not the boss who is over me – what he’s doing to my salary,” he said. “You’re saying I shouldn’t exercise my freedom of speech? Is that what you are saying?”

Told that perhaps some people might believe that if they were being paid to drive buses then they should probably be spending their working hours driving buses, Nashid replied: “So you are saying when you are working if somebody asks you a question concerning your job – how you are going to get paid, whether you are going to get laid off, I shouldn’t talk about that?”

Nashid said Miami Dade Transit Director Harpal Kapoor approved the creation of the education committee as well as the decision to allow a dozen union workers to continue to get paid while they served on the committee.

Karla Damian, a Miami Dade Transit spokeswoman, said the committee was formed when transit workers complained they were not getting accurate information about the state of affairs with the 3,000-member department.

She described it as a “demonstration project” to try and help the employees. She said the union sent the director a list of twelve names and he agreed to “release” them to work for the union. “Once they are released to the union,” she said, “what they do is at the discretion of the union.”

“A lot of people say you should be driving a bus, you should be driving a bus, you should be driving a bus,” said Hamilton, the bus driver. “But I’m part of the union now so that’s my job.”

More from Jim DeFede
  • Mari

    If being a part of the union is his job now, why are the taxpayers footing the bill? Maybe we need to look closely at the control these unions are exerting on politics. So, next we will have police officers, nurses, teachers, excused from their duties (WITH PAY) to stand in a corner or near a polling location?? It is time for the unions to be disbanded, they cause more problems than anything else.


      Only if they are Corrupt, toooooooo


    That is the ONLY WAY they could Get (CORRUPT) No Votes.

    Remember the MAYOR AND THE COMMISSIONER NEED TO ACT CORRUPT, at all times, since their stopping of the Re-call did not Work, they figure they’d do the same with the Transit Union…..Not allow the to work at their Joos.

    Sorry invalids…..

  • Kathryn Harlan


  • tiredofcorruption

    Just because you just found out about it means it’s been in place for years. This tax hike and pay-off to certain County employees is the same as a kick-back. Don’t think the Feds aren’t watching.? Won’t be surprised if we see Alvarez in the same spot as Spence-Jones.

  • Tony Pitts

    Wow DeFede, looks like Michael Pizzi has a good buddy in you. Tired of corruption and the rest of the people reading this story are pawns and tools and will never have a say in anything. Their votes won’t count. It’s their destiny. Norman Braman started this whole recall garbage. Let me ask you something? What the heck has Norman Braman ever done for anyone? Where’s the Norman Braman Center for Abandoned Children? The Norman Braman Center for Abused Women? All Braman had was a bunch of car dealerships and other businesses which he ran successfully to the tone of hundreds of millions of dollars. All he ever did for my family was sell my dad a lemon of an Oldsmobile at his old Hialeah dealership. Braman is a rich guy preaching normalcy and accusing people of being corrupt. He sure has a fix for Miami-Dade right? Sounds like the same story as that of our current Governor. A fix for Florida. Excuse me? A rich SWINDLER with his own hidden agenda playing a sucker job on the Miami-Dade voters. All the people riding Braman’s coattalis are no different. They want their piece of Miami-Dade at the tax payer’s expense like ANY OTHER POLITICIAN. Leave the DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED MAYOR in office. The person who eventually fills his shoes will be no better than he is. It can only get worse. Leave these workers alone. What do you tax payers care that the one-one millionth of a cent of yours that pays their salary goes to them campaigning. You pay $150 a month for cable tv or a cell phone and you’re worried about this crap? Asinine.

  • JP Knight

    The “Feds” we have now SUPPORT having union members get paid to work on political campaigns. Meanwhile, Republicans have to rely on volunteers. Ever notice that every 2 years the schools are closed the second Tuesday in November? It’s so all school employees can get a paid day off while (a) voting for Democrats, and (b) working for Democrats.


      JP this has happened everywhere.
      But this time it is an Issue where Union Workers are being used by the RECALL CORRUPTEES: the Mayor and Commissioner., cannot wait to see them leave government.

      They should be TARRED AND FEATHERED.

      As well as others: Mayor Robaina from Hialeah, David Rivera, the rest of the Council in Hialeah, etc., etc.

    • Arrow

      Actually, it’s because many schools are used as polling places, and school officials think the mixing of voters, their cars, and school kids are not a good idea. Since early voting gives people the chance to vote for weeks before election day, and in the last Miami-Dade election well over 100 thousand stayed home and voted absentee, never visiting the polls, your “logic” makes no sense. Why close the schools to help democrats on an election day where half the voters have already voted. Oh, and you assume there are NO Republican teachers? Deep thinkers like you shame true Republicans.

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