Toussaint Sellout Means Layoffs, Pay Cut, Speed Up, Betrayal

Vote Down This Sellout Contract!

By Eric Josephson, Vice-Chair, Track Division, Local 100

The Toussaint leadership is lying to the membership about the contract deal they agreed to.

They claim they won all of us a greatly improved disciplinary process and benefits, slightly increased wages in tough times and other gains that were not paid for by big givebacks. If we fall for this lie it could cost us our jobs. Those who keep their jobs will be working harder than ever for lower wages. Here are the facts ...

Go-Ahead for Planned Layoffs

Toussaint’s contract includes the biggest giveback in our union’s history – he gave up our no layoff clause![1]

At the same time, Toussaint & Co. agreed to giving the MTA all the powers they need to begin mass layoffs. They agreed to:

Worse still, the MTA had stated that it was preparing to layoff workers the week before Toussaint agreed to this sellout. As Newsday reported, NYCT President Larry Reuter had already outlined a plan “in which as many as 3,100 employees would be laid off, late-night bus service discontinued, 63 routes eliminated and other services slashed” (Dec. 18). More recently the MTA’s chief negotiator Gary Dellaverson called a press conference to brag about the “significant concessions, including a new layoff option” Toussaint had agreed to (Dec. 20).

Workers with seniority should not think that layoffs won’t effect them. With the MTA’s planned restructuring, many of those not laid off could be shifted to other divisions, where they will lose all seniority and start at the bottom again.

Toussaint’s contract does include improvements in the disciplinary system, childcare and other areas. But none of that matters if we are laid off. In fact, the gains in “non-economic” parts of the contract were designed to trick us into not noticing the massive givebacks in the rest of the contract.

When transit workers first heard of the contract agreement with its miserable wage deal, many immediately said they’d vote it down because they knew the union could win much more. But now that we know of potentially devastating givebacks buried in the contract, we must vote the contract down to save our jobs and defend our working conditions.

1. The “Raise” That’s Really a Pay Cut

The official union statement “Highlights of the Tentative Agreement” does not mention the above catastrophic givebacks. It also misleads us when it claims that it won “wage increases.”

Let’s begin with the $1,000 dollar one-time payment transit workers will supposedly receive in the first year of the contract. First, when not in the form of a percentage raise, such payments are usually taxed at the maximum rate (Newsday, Dec. 7). So after taxes the payment will actually be about $570.

Second, management wanted to only give us a $1,000 lump sum for the first year of the contract because it gives us much less than a 3% raise. For example, a 3% raise for workers earning $44,000 a year would amount to $1,320. Moreover, a percentage raise would repeat every year after that and would make future percentage raises bigger – this miserable lump-sum payment won’t. Further, the lump-sum payment does not go toward our pensions, nor does it raise our overtime rates.

Third, this miserable payment won’t even go to all transit workers. The contract makes clear that we get nothing for the first year of the contract. The one-time payment is “in recognition of past productivity”[5] and will not go to Local 100 members who were not on the payroll as of June 1, 2002. And workers who retire before June 1, 2003 will only get a fraction of the lump-sum payment.[6] With many workers waiting to retire once the contract is signed, that’s a big saving for the MTA and an insult to retirees.

The lump-sum rip-off shouldn’t blind us to the fact that the 3% raises in the last two years of the contract are also unacceptable. These “raises” will not keep pace with the combined hits of inflation and Bloomberg’s tax hikes; they amount to another pay cut.

Toussaint promised us that he would deliver on his slogan “Second Class No More.” But these wage “raises” leave us far behind workers on MetroNorth and the Long Island Railroad. Toussaint started with a demand for a 24% wage raise, then without explanation lowered his demand to 18% but insisted he’d never accept a zero in the contract. Finally he sold us out for a wage deal worse than even Willie James stuck us with. Toussaint said the police and firefighters got screwed with their recent contract deal of a 10.5% raise, and he accepted 6%!

Further, it is well known that the MTA is the Enron of public utilities. They keep two sets of books: one to keep track of their real finances and another to screw transit workers and de-fraud the public. Remember, for example, how during our 1996 contract fight they claimed a $350 million dollar debt to cut our health benefits by $45 million, introduce Workfare slave labor and force us into accepting a rotten wage deal. Just one week after transit workers narrowly voted to accept that contract the MTA announced that it actually had a projected budget surplus of $256 million! This time around they lied even more brazenly. Last year they reported a $300 million surplus. This year, with contract negotiations looming, they reported in their prospectus for a $400 million bond issue a projected deficit of $663 million for next year. Only one week later they claimed a $1.1 billion deficit for next year and a $1.6 billion deficit for the following year. It turns out that they are actually still running a surplus and their claims of a deficit were based on not counting $1.4 billion in standard government subsidies. Damn crooks!

President Toussaint occasionally questioned the MTA’s claims of a deficit and politely requested that they open their books. But he never threatened that if they didn’t open their books we’d strike to win our demands. In fact Toussaint accepted the excuse of tough economic times to lower our economic demands. The New York Times reported that before negotiations really began, Toussaint “gave hints of moderation, noting that the results of the [negotiations] would be ‘conditioned by the current circumstances’.” The same article explained that Toussaint’s message seemed to be that if “the [supposedly] deficit-plagued authority [were] more accommodating on non-economic issues, most notably safety and discipline,” he could be open to reaching an agreement (Nov. 30). So Toussaint’s plan all along had been to trade our economic demands for modest gains on “dignity” issues. Moreover, with all the union’s disgusting calls on Bloomberg and Pataki to “stop a transit strike” he never used his press conferences to demand increased funding of public transport by the City and State. In short, Toussaint & Co. cooperated with management to cover-up the MTA’s fraudulent bookkeeping and screw transit workers.

2. Fake Strike Threat

Toussaint claims that the contract he agreed to is the best we could have won. This is a lie. Had we struck we could have won a much better contract. But Toussaint didn’t really threaten the MTA with a strike. Toussaint’s motion to authorize the Executive Board to be able to call a strike was a trick to avoid motions from the floor like the one that RTW circulated at the December 7 General Membership Meetings that would have committed the union to a definite strike date and definite demands. At the same time, he signaled that he would work past contract expiration. Toussaint announced that the labor solidarity rally planned for December 11 had been moved to December 16, the day after contract expiration. Obviously the rally, beginning in Brooklyn, could not take place if mass transit was already shut down by a strike. Management got the message and hardened their negotiating line.

But now we know that Toussaint never even bothered to threaten management with a strike during the negotiations. As TWU negotiator Basil Paterson revealed in an interview with the New York Post (Dec. 17), Toussaint’s strike talk was more intended to trick transit workers into thinking he was serious about a strike than it was to pressure the MTA. In an article entitled “Strike Talk Was Hollow Threat, Says Negotiator,” Paterson is quoted explaining that “No one ever said, ‘I’m getting the hell out of here ... It might have come close [to a strike] in the public’s eye, but never in the room. The strike card was never played.” “The MTA always believed Roger was serious,” he summed up, “but never serious about a strike.”

Moreover, right before contract expiration Toussaint & Co. echoed some of the ruling class’s worst anti-strike propaganda. 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). What pressure could management have felt when the union President was describing the idea of a strike as a “catastrophe.” But a transit strike would be a “catastrophe” for the capitalists, costing them hundreds of millions of dollars of profits a day until they gave in to our demands. For us it could have been an awesome display of our power and won us a much better contract. Once we’ve voted down this sellout contract we’ll have to really prepare the Local to strike if the bosses don’t give in to our demands.

3. Green Light to Attack Other City Workers

President Toussaint’s promise that there would be no zeros in the contract was not just made to transit workers. In his OpEd piece in the Daily News (Dec. 11)Toussaint acknowledged Local 100’s responsibility as “standard-bearers” for all City workers whose contracts follow ours. In particular, he said he knew Bloomberg and Pataki were pushing the MTA on a wage freeze the first year because they plan on sticking all City and State workers with a similar deal. Yet Toussaint turned around and agreed to a wage freeze in the first year anyway.

As well, with the MTA and politicians promising to screw the working class ridership of mass transit with a fare hike and service cuts, Local 100 adopted as an official contract demand No Fare Hikes or Service Cuts. But Toussaint dropped this demand without explanation and set transit workers up to be blamed if these attacks go ahead.

But Toussaint’s betrayal goes way beyond helping Bloomberg and Pataki stick the rest of the unions with zeros and allowing a fare hike and service cuts. With profits falling, the capitalists and politicians everywhere are looking to make the working class pay for their crisis. Across the country they are launching an offensive of mass layoffs, wage cuts, speedup and budget cuts. In New York City Mayor Bloomberg s plan of tax hikes and service cuts aims at balancing the budget on the backs of the working class and poor. His plan particularly targets unions, threatening to lay off thousands of city workers if the unions don’t agree to $600 million in givebacks, including longer work days and new health care payments.

Under these conditions a transit strike could have won massive support and sparked the beginning of a fightback by the whole working class. The capitalists have been fighting a one-sided class war against the working class for years and it is only getting worse. A transit strike could have not only won us a decent contract, but turned around the whole class struggle. So if we allow Toussaint’s sellout to succeed, it will be a defeat not just for us, but for workers everywhere.

Campaign Against the Sellout Contract

A campaign to vote this contract down will run up against the Toussaint public relations machine and all of its resources. To defeat this rotten contract, we’ll need an organized effort. To this end, RTW will be joining with other workers at a meeting on Friday, December 27 to form a committee opposed to the contract. The committee should unite all transit workers, regardless of political views and affiliations, around a basic statement explaining why we must vote the contract down. It must organize to distribute it throughout the system. And the committee should continue to meet to discuss the road forward in our struggle beyond voting the contract down.

Once we vote the contract down, we obviously cannot plan on simply going back to the negotiating table with the same sellout leadership maintaining the power to sell us out again. Throughout the contract campaign the ranks were never allowed to say how to conduct the contract struggle. For example Toussaint & Co. prevented any discussion or motions from the floor at the December 7 General Membership Meetings. A new contract campaign will have to begin with General Membership Meetings at which the ranks have the democratic right to debate the road forward, raise motions and vote on the strategy that the leadership must carry out and the demands they must not compromise.

1. Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), Point 16, “Job Security.” Return to main text

2. MoU, Point 11, “Surface Consolidation,” and Attachment E. Return to main text

3. MoU, Point 15, “New Technology,” and Attachment I. Return to main text

4. MoU, Point 18, “Bargaining Unit Protection,” and Attachment K. Return to main text

5. MoU, Point 3, “Lump Sum Payment” (a) Return to main text

6. MoU, Point 3, (b) Return to main text