Local 100 President Roger Toussaint is attacking Local 100 members’ democratic rights – again. He recently tried to ram through the Executive Board a total ban on “non-official” union literature at union functions. He even threatened to call cops on unauthorized leafleters, as the old guard did!
In the end, Toussaint had to settle for an EB ban on handing out such literature at union events, relegating it all to a special table and forbidding the authors from hawking their lit. We can bet that the “unofficial lit” tables – if allowed – will be safely hidden in the most inconvenient locations.
The members will not be able to mobilize and fight unless we fully understand our options. This requires full, free, open debate and discussion, with the members making the decisions themselves. When the majority arrives at and decides on our tactics, we’ll be able to carry them out solidly. This requires freedom for all members to present their ideas openly, in speech and print.
The Local 100 leadership under Toussaint has been running in the opposite direction. Last year he purged from release-time positions Executive Board Members and Divison officers who disagreed with him, putting his loyalists on Staff to replace them. His staffers now depend on obeying Toussaint to keep their paid union posts. At the December 1 “Membership Assembly,” Toussaint allowed no membership votes on anything, and a union goon squad expelled Local members for non-disruptively distributing dissident union literature, including Revolutionary Transit Worker, Rank and File Advocate, and others.
Toussaint’s “I am the boss” style of union leadership is getting way out of hand. Toussaint and TWU Local 100 Stations VP Darlyne Lawson stormed into the March Stations Division meetings and ordered the members to cancel them! These would-be dictators were upset that Stations members had turned out in high numbers for their meeting in order to organize against management’s imposed Pick, negotiated by Lawson and backed by Toussaint. Rather than face the ranks’ criticisms, they cynically used the pretext that the members’ presence was required on the picket lines of the Queens Private Lines strike, then on its second and last day.
Members were not intimidated and continued their meeting, as was their right. In revenge, Lawson sent out three letters on official union stationery denouncing the Stations members. At a subsequent EB meeting, Toussaint denounced at least one elected Stations officer as a “scab” for not joining the picket lines (by implication suggesting that all members at the meeting acted as scabs). This is an outrageous slander! The previous day, the first day of the Private Lines strike, saw several scheduled meetings in the TWU Hall. There were two Track meetings, at least one Shop Steward class, and nobody told the participants to cancel their meetings to join the Private Lines picket. MoW VP Julio Rivera and unelected “Education Director” Eddie Kaye suggested that the participants might join the line after their meetings were over.
The only difference between the Track meetings and Shop Steward class and the Stations meetings was the existence of organized opposition to the leadership’s program at the latter. The hysterical attack on the Stations members and officers was a further attempt to bully and intimidate the members into cowed acceptance of whatever Toussaint wants. Far from “scabbing,” the Stations members were meeting to plan a fight against the bosses. Toussaint’s “scab” charge is particularly low, considering that he has invited Senator Clinton and other advocates of police repression of our 1999 strike movement to speak at union functions! So who really aids and abets scabs?!
Members who want to fight for a better contract should fight for freedom of speech and press at all union functions and demand that all meetings be voting, decision-making meetings, not sounding boards for a leadership terrified of losing its grip. This applies to the Departmental meetings in late March/early April as well as to real General Membership meetings, which we badly need. Unity in action requires freedom of criticism!