First President Toussaint showed weakness and let our contract expire without a strike. Then, after five days of stalling, he finally called us out, only to rush us back to work after just three days -- without a contract or amnesty from Taylor Law fines, but with promises to management that we would sacrifice to save them money. Now we have to wait to find out exactly what deal he and the TA will try to stick us with.
When we struck we felt proud to stand up for ourselves and all workers against the bosses’ attacks. But when Toussaint & Co. suddenly sent us back to work those feelings were replaced by a mix of anger, disappointment and confusion. That’s the result of our leader’s shameful caving in to the bosses.
In the face of hateful anti-working class and racist attacks from the bosses, politicians, media and courts, Local 100’s rank and file stood strong. After years of politicians and bosses having their way against workers, we finally stood up to them. Our united action rocked this city.
This setback must not become a lasting defeat. Every transit worker who understands this has a job to do. In crew rooms and quarters and on the job, we must reassure our fellow workers:
If we had stayed out on strike we could have won all our demands, and amnesty from Taylor Law penalties. The key to victory was our strike’s potential to become even stronger and spread to other workers. This was starting to happen -- right when Toussaint sent us back to work:
This is why the politicians launched a barrage of vicious threats and fines against us at the start of the strike -- after that there was little else they could do. We, on the other hand, had many ways to spread our struggle -- until Toussaint sold us out. Toussaint snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
We still don’t know the details of the secret deal Toussaint is making behind our backs. The “media blackout” over the negotiations is aimed at keeping us in the dark and preventing us from opposing Toussaint’s sellout.
After the Executive Board (EB) majority voted to kill our strike, EB members who voted to stay out rushed to the media to tell the truth. George Perlstein, EB Member for Car Equipment, declared: “This is an absolute betrayal of the New York City labor movement. ... We got nothing. Absolutely nothing.” Vice President for Stations, John Mooney, concurred: “This is a disgrace. No details were provided to the Executive Board. [Toussaint] wants us to discuss the details after Christmas.” But the general picture is clear already.
On the second day of the strike, Toussaint signaled that he was willing to cut a deal. He offered to send us back to work if the MTA agreed to take pensions off the table, as if that’s all we were on strike for. Within hours he was on his knees negotiating an end to the strike without the MTA even agreeing to take pensions off the table!
It seems the key to the deal is that the MTA will not immediately insist on all its pension attacks as long as Toussaint agrees to cut workers’ benefits by millions in other areas. This would include new premiums and/or increased co-pays for health care, according to the New York Times and Newsday (Dec. 23). So if the MTA does indeed leave our pensions unchanged, it will only be because other givebacks have compensated them equally. But there still may be some pension changes, like increased contributions. Either way, the package will be a great coup for the bosses and politicians and a big blow for us and the union.
On wages, even if the final deal is for slightly higher raises than the MTA’s last offer, how much will be left after Taylor Law fines and increased payments for benefits? There can be no doubt that our wages will fall far behind inflation. And what’s to stop the MTA from seeking pension takebacks through the State legislature?
Real working class leaders never agree to givebacks. For Toussaint to do so when the MTA has a billion dollar surplus and without even making a demand for Pataki to increase transit funding part of the contract struggle is one of the most scandalous sellouts in recent memory!
As RTW has pointed out, under Mike Quill’s leadership Local 100 demanded and won amnesty from similar penalties in its victorious illegal strike of 1966.Our slogan “Amnesty From Taylor Law Penalties -- We Won’t Go Back to Work Without It” was becoming increasingly popular on picket lines. Then Toussaint sent us back -- without even asking for amnesty. Toussaint will bluster that he called off the strike to save us from more fines. Transit workers shouldn’t fall for such crap.
The TA went into negotiations making outrageous demands for broadbanding and job consolidation. If any of this goes forward it is a recipe for layoffs. Instead of opposing all broadbanding, Toussaint told the New York Times (Dec. 3) that he didn’t oppose job consolidation as such. It’s just that “the MTA’s ideas are poorly thought out.” “We can live with” “sensible” broadbanding, he said, if the “impacted employees are properly compensated for it.”
Given Toussaint’s rotten 2002 wage deal, you can imagine what he thinks “proper compensation” is. We can only conclude that Toussaint has given in to the MTA on broadbanding. Together with his refusal to push for a no-layoffs agreement (he gave away our no-layoff protection in 2002) this will mean layoffs for some and speedup for the rest of us.
There will be some small gains in the contract. The MTA had already conceded Martin Luther King Day as a holiday before our strike -- it’s about time! They may agree to some superficial changes in disciplinary procedures. But management will have only given us small gains to help Toussaint sell the contract to the membership. Givebacks will greatly outweigh gains -- and that is the main point for sure.
Some transit workers are waiting to see the final contract before judging it. They will soon learn what a rotten deal Toussaint has made. But workers who already understand this must join together to fight the sellout -- now! If we don’t vote this contract down, it will be a massive defeat. It will encourage management to attack us much worse in the future and give a green light to anti-worker and racist attacks everywhere.
A decisive rejection of Toussaint’s contract will be a stunning vote of no confidence in his leadership. It will open a discussion throughout the Local as to what sort of leadership and strategy we need to win. And it will signal the possibility of re-starting the fight with a plan for action that can rally the entire New York working class.
RTW wants to become a voice for all transit workers. So let us know what’s happening in your division, either in the union or on the job. If we think your letter raises issues that are important for all transit workers to read, we’ll publish it in RTW.
Let us know what you think of our views. If you agree, let us know. If you disagree, let’s discuss it.
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