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US - NEW YORK - Roger Toussaint, President of the Transport Workers Union Local 100, explains why MTA workers went on strike

Tuesday 20 December 2005, posted by John Malone

Dec. 20 - TWU Local 100 - With a one billion dollar surplus contract between the MTA and Transport Workers Union Local 100 should have been a no brainier. Sadly that has not been the case.

Our contract expired midnight on Thursday. In an attempt to save Mass Transit an in deference to our riders, we postponed our deadline and attempted to continue talking to the MTA.

From the beginning, the MTA approached these negotiations in bad faith, demanding arbitration before even trying to resolve the contract. Hours before contract expiration, the MTA got rid of its one billion dollar surplus — a surplus which we believe continues to be understated by some one hundred million dollars.

The MTA knew that reducing health and pension standards at the authority would be unacceptable to our union. They knew there was no good economic reason for their hard line on this issue - not with a billion dollar surplus. They went ahead anyway, supported by the Bloomberg administration which wants to overrun Municipal Labor Unions and all City workers with down pressed wages and gutted health benefits and pension plans.

This has been combined with continued attempts by the MTA, joined by the Governor and the Mayor, to intimidate and threaten our members and their families.

This is a fight over whether hard work will be rewarded with a decent retirement — over the erosion or eventual elimination of health benefit coverage for working people. And it is a fight over dignity and respect on the job. A concept that is very alien to the MTA. Transit workers are tired at being under appreciated and disrespected.

The Local 100 Executive Board has voted overwhelmingly to extend strike action to all MTA properties effective immediately.

All Local 100 representatives and shop stewards are directed to report to their assigned strike locations picket lines or facility nearest you immediately.

To our riders, we ask for your understanding forbearance. We stood with you to keep token booths open, to keep conductors on the train and oppose fare hikes. We now ask that you stand with us. We did not want a strike. Evidently the MTA, governor and the Mayor did.

We call on all good will New Yorkers, the Labor Community, and all working people to recognize that our fight is their fight, and to rally in our support with solidarity activities and events. And to show the MTA that TWU does not stand alone.


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Forum posts

  • Explain to me why I should be feeling sorry for people who, without the need for any particular training or education, earn about $50,000 each year for cleaning a station or selling a ticket, were offered a raise equivalent to inflation, and can retire at 55 at half pay. Oh yeah, because they have to pay a bit for health insurance, like everyone else except a few public sector union employees.

    Toussaint asks for riders to stand by the Union, as the Union stood by the riders in keeping open toll booths (no job security issues there for the Union) and conductors on trains (ditto).

    Toussaint and members of the Union will rightly be subject to fines - which I certainly hope are not waived as a part of any settlement. It seems a pity that Toussaint is not subject to criminal penalties for violating the Taylor Law, or that the MTA will not do as Reagan did with the Air Traffic Controllers and fire the lot of them.

    • As pensions funds are robbed, unions broken, worker’s rights erode and corporations breaking unions under the cover of bankruptcy laws, it’s imperative that working people in the US see the TWU strike as supporting their own cause as well. If people support the transit workers it will send a signal to the pluto/kleptocracy that they cannot slime, smear and lie to control everything and everybody in the economy.

      Cannot people see that public and private treasuries are being systematically embezzled as the elite talk pious truths about protecting working people and jobs. This is rank hypocriscy and straight out of the millenium old ruling class playbook. How can people be fooed over and over again. The TWU is standing for your job too and no amount of elitism and racism can distract from their humanistic quest to prevent billionaires from dictating the agenda. If working people stand strong the elites have to back off. Don’t be surprised if Pataki and Bloomberg call out the National Guard to operate the trains and buses.

    • The MTA workers may not all have a college degree, but so what?! Does that mean that they are not entitled to decent pay wages? Why should they have to work 7 more years for a company which is deliberately trying to illiminate the human factor in the mass transit system? If you or anyone else were demanding a higher pay rate or better fringe benefits, it would seem reasonable to strike. I do not understand the state of mind of people who want to make everyone get the bare minumum for companies which make astronomical profits by exploiting labor.

      I am student who has to miss finals because of the strike, yet I stand behind the workers’ decision. After a while, when American companies all leave the US,or transfer these sorts of jobs from humans to machines, I am sure that you will ask for someone to support your need for decent wages.

      To the MTA Workers & Roger Toussaint (trini!!), do not lose hope and do not give in..you do not have to sacrifice your livelihood for the city which voted for a Mayor who is obviously siding withe the big boys.
      It’s interesting to note that the same people who are against the workers,will at the first sign of trouble on a subway,i.e., a terrorist attack, per se, will run into the arms of a train conductor. OH! Wait! thanks to MTA, there won’t be any more conductors......HMM!

  • As a fellow subway rider, I wholeheartedly support you. Do not give in to the MTA. You guys work hard. The MTA should show more respect. Ingrid from Mahanttan.

  • “To our riders, we ask for your understanding forbearance. We stood with you to keep token booths open, to keep conductors on the train and oppose fare hikes. We now ask that you stand with us. We did not want a strike. Evidently the MTA, governor and the Mayor did.”

    It is unbelievable the amount of greed and "gimmee, gimmee, gimmee" that is going on! The previous activity did not bring a world-commerce city to a screeching stop... and to do this RIGHT in the height of the holiday season??? Wha...? What kind of scrooge does that anymore? I mean, really... what kind of holiday celebration are these workers going to have now? "Yeah, son... I didn’t go to work and am picketing which is causing millions of other people pain during the holiday season. Pass the turkey, please."

    How is this act different from any other act of terrorism? Terrorism doesn’t always imply death of people - it can be a devistating act of any magnitudge. Start doing the math for the fiscal devistation - not just for the MTA ... but for the "little people" who have private companies in the city... or, oh, I don’t know... the hospitals or other welfare facilities that will face a hardship of not having normal staff to assist the people in dire need this time of year.

    I know it "takes two to tango"... but look at the source of the core issue and greed... and look who is placing blame - a "don’t-look-at-me-look-at-them" finger pointing by the last statement of “We did not want a strike. Evidently the MTA, governor and the Mayor did.” How childish is that? TWU knew full well what striking during this time would do to the general public... and that there would be a huge repercussion and media frenzy from this act. How childish... how selfish... how very UN-like the holiday spirit we are supposed to be embrasing at this time. Shame on the ones placing the blame.

  • this just goes to show you how dangerous the unions have become. hopefully this strke will finally crush all you mob thugs.

  • I agree with earlier writers. This is yet another example of how utterly out of touch unions have become. The TWU has one of the richest benefits packages in the nation and were offered the opportunity to get reasonable cost of living increases on top of an already solid wage package. They claim to be striking over pension “rights” that maybe one 1 out of 1000 employees in the U.S. have today. They are greedy, mindless thugs who deserve to be replaced by the type of hard-working people who helped make the transit system successful. Their predecessors who helped form this union would be embarassed and ashamed at their patently illegal and mafia-like tactics. If I were the judge in the case, they’d be looking at $100Milliion per day in fines and jail time for the mobsters who claim to be “elected” officers. What a joke.

    • i am behind the twu for the most part. the part of the twu that i am against is you. i don’t blame the union workers for striking. i blame you for the strike. it is obvious to me that mayor bloomberg and governor pataki are NOT holding the city hostage. it is you personally and the mta collectively that are holding new york city hostage. we may not be able to break the union and the strike. but i would be more than happy to break you and the mta into millions of pieces. you are treating the people of new york city as if we don’t deserve to breathe the same air that you breathe. that we the people, the mayor and the governor are your personal slaves and call you master. you have absolutely no respect for us at all. the fact that you refuse to listen to even international transit workers union proves the govenor and the mayor are right by calling you a greedy thug.

      i have sympathy for the strikers, but absolutely none whatsoever for you, roger toussaint.

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