No Sellout Deals!
Forward with the Strike!

As we go to press, Local 100 President Roger Toussaint is engaged in a desperate attempt to sell out the transit workers’ struggle. But he knows that he must get a deal that he stands a chance of being able to sell to the ranks. What’s unclear is whether the MTA will offer even this much. Toussaint may still be given no choice but to call a strike. Either way, transit workers must reject the deals Toussaint has already made and press ahead with their fight for a strike.

Moves Toward a Sellout

When the bosses and politicians declared it a crime to defend our living conditions, Toussaint & Co. complained loudly but did not move to strike. Instead, they continued to negotiate with the MTA while a gun was pointed at our heads. For a minute, Toussaint seemed like an inspiration when he told the Mayor to “shut up.” But he didn’t follow these fighting words with action. Now he has given in to the bosses’ threats.

With only 7 hours left before contract expiration, Toussaint told the media that he was committed to doing everything to “avoid [the] catastrophe” of a strike (Press Statement, Dec. 15, 5pm). But a transit strike would be a “catastrophe” for the capitalists, costing them hundreds of millions of dollars of profits a day until they give in to our demands. It promises to inspire the entire working class, which is faced with massive attacks on wages and working conditions, layoffs and budget cuts as the capitalists try to make us pay for their economic crisis. Transit workers can still strike and win their demands and inspire massive support from the rest of the working class.

Toussaint & Co. let the MTA offer the union nothing until the last minute of negotiations, and then allowed the contract to expire without a strike. They continued to negotiate deals on “dignity” issues that will cost the MTA nothing while leaving the decisive “economic” issues of health care and wages until last.

The MTA can’t feel much pressure to concede to our demands when the union leadership describes a potential strike as a “catastrophe” and allows contract expiration to go by without a strike?

Sacrificing Our “Economic Demands”

The bosses and politicians have taken such a hard line in negotiations with Local 100 because they know it is the opening and most important battle in New York in their nation wide war to make the working class pay for the capitalists’ falling profits. Massive attacks on wages, working conditions, layoffs and budget cuts face the entire working class. Moreover, during every contract round the MTA has cried deficit only to find a surplus after a contract was signed. Last year they boasted a huge surplus only to declare a massive debt when these contract negotiations began.

Toussaint should have rejected the capitalists’ agenda outright, and in particular demanded that the MTA open their books or the union would strike for their demands. Instead, the New York Times reported that before negotiations had really begun, Toussaint “gave hints of moderation, noting that the results of the [negotiations] would be ‘conditioned by the current circumstances’.” The same article went on to explain that Toussaint’s message seemed to be that if “the deficit-plagued authority [were] more accommodating on non-economic issues, most notably safety and discipline,” he could be open to reaching an agreement (November 30).

So Toussaint’s plan all along has been to trade our economic demands for modest gains on “dignity” issues. If there was any doubt about this, Toussaint made it clear when he lowered our wage demand from 8% a year to 6%. Of course this only encouraged the MTA to harden their line. After Toussaint made the offer the MTA responded by sticking with an “offer” of 0’s, then withdrew some contract offers they’d already made and even refused to turn up to some negotiating sessions.

There’s no telling how bad a sellout Toussaint is prepared to agree to. Its unclear, for example, whether Toussaint would stoop so low as to accept a wage deal of less than 3%, which given inflation would mean a pay cut. Similarly, there is no telling whether he will refuse to accept increased pension payments and insist on our demand for Full Health Benefits for All Members, Active and Retired, With No New or Increased Payments. It’s likely that Toussaint will sell out the most exploited workers in the system – welfare recipients forced to do Workfare (WEP) slave labor – and drop our demand to end WEP and make all WEP cleaners CTAs. And it’s almost certain that he’ll drop the crucial demand opposing any fare hike or service cuts, thus sacrificing our duty to defend the transit system and allowing the bosses and politicians to blame our contract demands for a fare hike and service cuts.

What is clear is that by striking, transit workers could win all their demands and show the way for the whole working class to defeat the capitalists’ attacks. Local 100 has a proud history of defying the bosses’ and politicians threats, striking and winning. In the depths of the Depression in 1937 Local 100 fought its first contract struggle with the IRT and BMT and won a 10% wage raise when both companies were bankrupt. Famously in 1966, Local 100 leader Mike Quill told the judge handing down anti-strike injunctions to “drop dead” and led a victorious strike – from jail! Militant workers can draw strength from this tradition. There is still time for the ranks of Local 100 members to reject Toussaint’s attempts to sell out and return us to the fight to strike to win our demands.

A Plan to Strike and Win

Toussaint has tried to prevent the membership from having a say on the contract struggle from the beginning. At the General Membership Meetings on December 7 he did not allow any discussion or motions from the floor. He used his motion to authorize the Executive Board to call a strike if they wished – in order to avoid RTW supporters and other militants from moving their motion for a definite strike date for definite demands. Even at the Joint Expanded Executive Board Meeting on the morning of December 15, at which RTW joined with others to circulate a motion to reaffirm our contract demands and strike to win them, Toussaint prevented any motions from being raised.

1. Pressure the Executive Board Members

But eventually he must go to the Executive Board for a decision on what the Local will do. At that meeting we expect a motion to be raised that RTW has been supporting all along, to reject any concessions, reaffirm our contract demands and strike.

But for this motion to stand the best chance of getting passed, transit workers have to show their strong opposition to a sellout and their readiness to strike. They must warn every Executive Board member that they will be condemned if they don’t pass such a motion.

In particular, pressure must be put on the Rank and File Advocate (R&FA) supporters on the Executive Board. At the December 7 General Membership Meetings where Toussaint did not allow any debate or motions from the floor, R&FA’s most senior supporter, Vice President for RTO Tim Schermerhorn, acted like a coward, gave canned speeches and didn’t make a peep of protest against Toussaint’s trickery and defend the ranks’ democratic right to debate and move their own motions. It’s time for R&FA to put up or shut up: either “advocate” for the rank and file’s demands and commitment to a strike, or move aside for militants with some guts.

2. The Motion the Executive Board Must Pass

With Toussaint trading away who knows how many of our demands, the Executive Board must begin by voting to affirm our key contract demands:

And since the TA has pushed us this far, we have to add a new demand:

Toussaint’s decision to reschedule the labor solidarity rally from December 11 to December 16, a day after contract expiration, showed the MTA he was prepared to go beyond contract expiration without a strike. We must now turn this mass labor rally into a strike-support rally. The Executive Board must vote to strike at midnight if the MTA hasn’t given in to our demands by then.

Finally, Toussaint and Co. have tried to keep the ranks sidelined while they negotiate with management. With a strike date set, the ranks must be involved in organizing the strike every step of the way. Strike mobilization can finally involve the ranks in deciding on and organizing actions like Local-wide and Divisional rallies, shop-gate meetings and picket assignments and publicizing how we can win amnesty from Taylor Law penalties. President Toussaint has called for strike committees to be formed at every worksite. Emergency Boro Headquarters have been set up. Good, but these can’t just be to follow orders from the top. We must demand that the Executive Board create a centralized Local 100 Strike Council open to all members to discuss and decide on strike mobilization. The strike council should meet regularly at Local 100 headquarters, beginning immediately. Worksite and Boro strike committees can meet and if necessary elect delegates to the central strike council.

Contact Revolutionary Transit Worker!

A small but growing number of transit workers are joining with RTW to fight for a winning strike. Even if we defeat the immediate sellout, the danger of a sellout will continue during a strike. Under these conditions it will be more important than ever to build an alternative leadership committed to a strategy of striking and winning. So there is not a moment to waste in getting in touch with us.