Transit workers must understand why Toussaint sold us out. Some are saying he is cowardly. That’s true. But the main reason he betrayed us is that he has embraced the capitalist system. He has joined the ranks of labor bureaucrats who enjoy power and privilege as brokers between the workers and the bosses. When push comes to shove they all protect the system from struggles that threaten its stability and profitability.
Rejecting calls for union leaders to be paid no more than the workers they represent, Toussaint has embraced a $100,000+ salary. He uses his control of similarly high salaries and perks for appointed officials to maintain an obedient circle of yes-men and women to rule the E. Board. He has swapped his work clothes for fine suits and hob-knobs with Democratic Party politicians.
Like the rest of the union bureaucracy, Toussaint’s position rests on keeping us down and compromising with management. But as the capitalist economy slides into deeper crisis and Wall Street demands more attacks on workers to boost their profits, there is less room for compromise. Thus Toussaint begged management for a deal he could sell to the ranks in order to avoid a strike. He offered to lower our wage demands and accept broadbanding. But they still demanded more drastic attacks and Toussaint had to call us out. But when our strike threatened to get out of his control he stabbed us in the back.
Toussaint also called off our strike to protect the entire labor bureaucracy. A clear example was his cover-up of the first person to scab on our strike – TWU International President Michael O’Brien. O’Brien condemned our strike and went so far as to circulate the courts’ injunctions against us. Local 100 picketers had to face management putting up signs on TA property which accurately said our International was telling us to return to work. But Toussaint immediately went to the media and discounted the move as a purely legal maneuver! To denounce O’Brien would have drawn into question all the other union bureaucrats’ refusal to come to our aid.
For workers committed to fighting Toussaint’s sellout, the next step is to start the struggle against his contract. Steps are already underway to form a committee that will unite workers of various political beliefs around a common program of action to reject Toussaint’s contract. There will be literature to produce and distribute publicizing the facts of the deal and exposing whatever propaganda Toussaint & Co. come up with to defend it. There will be meetings to organize and discussions to lead. Contact RTW for more information.
In the course of a united fight against the contract, RTW also looks forward to a debate about how to take forward transit workers’ struggle against the bosses after the contract is defeated. We will be proposing mass mobilizations through which the ranks can regain their fighting strength, and democratic reforms to the union that will give them more control over their leaders and a full voice in determining the course of the struggle.
But in the wake of Toussaint’s betrayal, a new leadership must be built that can lead our struggles to victory. Besides his own particular personality traits, Toussaint is not uniquely corrupt. His type are a dime-a-dozen in the labor bureaucracy and reflect that privileged group’s pro-capitalist interests. That’s why RTW is not only dedicated to the greatest unity of workers in action against the bosses: we also seek to convince our fellow workers of our revolutionary socialist perspective.
We believe that the working class has the power to go beyond just fending off the bosses’ racist, anti-worker attacks. Our class can overthrow the whole capitalist system and build a classless socialist society of abundance and freedom cured of exploitation, racism and war. We believe that it is only around such a program that we can build a new leadership for the unions and the working class as a whole that can be trusted not to sell out in the interests of the system. The time is ripe for the most far-seeing workers to join with us in this goal.
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.
Write to us at:
RTW, P.O. Box 1936
Murray Hill Station
New York, NY 10156
Or send us an e-mail!