TWU International President John Samuelsen represents over 150,000 members across the airline, railroad, transit, universities, utilities, and services sectors. Samuelsen was sworn in as TWU’s 10th International President on May 1, 2017. He is also the former President of TWU Local 100 in New York City – the union’s largest local.
A Brooklyn native, Samuelsen was hired by the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) in 1993 and was assigned to a track gang in Brooklyn, where he and his fellow union members worked under difficult and unsafe conditions. Managers ignored safety regulations, disciplined workers who spoke up, and had no respect for the workers or their union. While still in his probationary period, Samuelsen’s co-workers elected him shop steward , and he fought vigorously for a safer subway workplace.
From 2001 to 2006, Samuelsen served as chair of the Track Safety Committee and chair of the Track Division. From 2002–2005 he was Acting Vice President of the Maintenance of Way Department, representing 7,100 workers providing essential services to NYCTA in Track, Line Equipment and Signals, Power and Structure. During that time, he also served as lead negotiator for all safety-related issues during contract bargaining between Local 100 and NYCTA, and authored the Comprehensive Track Safety Bill passed by the New York State Legislature.
He was elected President of Local 100 in December 2009 and was reelected overwhelmingly in 2012 and 2015. He served as Local 100 president until September 26, 2017.
He still maintains an active public role in New York politics and advocates on behalf of all TWU members.
During Samuelsen’s time as President, the TWU has been focused on new worker organizing and grown the union by 15,000 members in over 20 successful organizing drives. The TWU is currently leading the charge in fighting against offshoring the maintenance of U.S. passenger aircraft to foreign countries and defending jobs against displacement through automation in the transit industry.
Alex Garcia has previously served the union as International Secretary-Treasurer, COPE Director, as well as director of the combined COPE and Government Affairs Department.
Garcia was only 19 when he was first hired by American Airlines in Miami’s Fleet Service division in 1989. He quickly rose to power in his local, and by 1992, he was an experienced shop steward representing ramp workers at Miami International Airport. He also served as chief steward and chair of the local’s election committee. In 2002, at the age of 32, Local 568 members elected him President, and he was re-elected in 2005. In 2007, TWU International lured Garcia away from Miami to bring his extensive union and political experience to the national level.
At the International, Garcia has worked effectively as a legislative representative, field representative, and political coordinator, using the first-hand experience he gained while working for U.S. Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) from 1998-2003. Garcia assisted the senator’s successful campaign for a third term and his bid for the presidency in 2003, and also worked on the election campaign of Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL).
In 2010, Garcia was elevated to COPE Director, and director of the combined COPE and Political Field Department, now Government Affairs. He was instrumental in creating the TWU State Conference program which combines the power of TWU locals in a geographic area to strengthen grassroots activism on the local and national level.
As Secretary-Treasurer, Garcia kept the union on sound financial footing and brought his expertise to local leadership by conducting Secretary-Treasurer trainings around the country.
Jerome Lafragola became International Secretary-Treasurer in 2018 after serving as an International Administrative Vice President of TWU.
Lafragola began his career with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in 1985, working as a Crew Chief in charge of the Lincoln Tunnel Emergency Response Garage. A proud member of TWU Local 1400, Lafragola has been previously elected by his co-workers to various positions including shop steward, Division Vice-Chairman, Division Chairman, Recording Secretary, Vice-President and President a position he held for 22 years.
As the director of the TUUS division for five years, Lafragola oversaw TWU’s largest unit, monitoring contract negotiations, organizing drives, and legislation affecting the members across the country.
In addition to his other duties, Lafragola served as a TWU Vice President and as an International Executive Board Member (“IEB”), conducting trainings for staff and Local leadership across all divisions of the union, as well as leading annual conferences to further the mission of the TWU.
In 2015, the IAC created the International Campaign Unit—positioning The TWU to lead strategic contract and political fights—and tapped Lafragola to manage these efforts, which he did until 2018.
Lafragola is skilled in negotiations, grievance and discipline handling, and union administration. He holds a BA in Labor Studies from the National Labor College and a MS in Human Resources and Labor Relations from the New York Institute of Technology.
Curtis Tate became an International Administrative Vice President in 2017, after a long and active history with the TWU.
Tate has been an active TWU Member in Local 100 since joining the New York City Transit Authority in 1986. He began his career as a Car Cleaner in the Car Maintenance Department. In 1988, he was promoted to Train Operator in the Rapid Transit Division.
Through his activism and constant battles to defend the safety and rights of his coworkers, Tate rose through the ranks of Local 100. He has held positions including Shop Steward, Safety Rep, Vice Chair, Acting Chairman and Vice President. Tate was appointed to the International Executive Board in 2008. In 2009, he was appointed Acting President of Local 100, then elected as an International Vice President in 2009. Tate was the Transit, Universities, Utilities and Services Director from 2017 until 2021, when he retired from the position. He still leads the TWU International Campaign Unit.
Tate has studied labor relations at Cornell University, the Murphy Institute at CUNY, Rutgers University as well as the George Meany National Labor College. He believes at the end of the day, it’s about representing the members, practicing good trade unionism and fighting for all workers’ rights. Tate fights for every worker to have a seat at the table – across genders, age, and any other identity.
Mike Mayes has been a devoted and active member of the TWU since 1984.
Mayes got his start as a fleet service clerk with AirCal, a California-based airline later bought out by American Airlines. After serving as a shop steward and station chair in Oakland, Mayes was later elected president of Local 505 in 2006. He served three more terms as president before he became an international representative in 2016. Later that same year he was elevated to Air Division Director. After serving as director of the division for two years, Mayes was elevated to International Administrative Vice President in March 2018. Mayes retired from Air Division Director in January 2021.