President Toussaint’s Slanderous Attack on Revolutionary Transit Worker

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

So far the Toussaint leadership has talked tough in defense of our contract demands. But they have never explained what their strategy is for winning our demands. They raise the slogan “Second Class No More” have not said what they’re prepared to do if the TA doesn’t offer us a first class contract. Meanwhile, more and more Local 100 members are saying that we’ll have to strike to win our demands. They are asking whether the Toussaint leadership is prepared to strike if it proves necessary.

At the September 25 Local 100 rally at MTA headquarters in Brooklyn, supporters of Revolutionary Transit Worker distributed placards that read “First Class Contract or Strike!” Hundreds of transit workers took them and held them up. The placards were so popular because they expressed many transit workers’ belief that we should send a warning to the TA and politicians about what will happen if they don’t concede our demands.

RTW and other supporters of the League for the Revolutionary Party have made and distributed placards like this at every Local 100 rally for years. During the 1999 contract campaign, our placards played an important role in building the pro-strike movement. Since then transit workers have come to expect this from RTW.

We distribute such placards not to promote RTW, but to give voice to militant workers’ demands for action when the leadership fails to do so. We don’t label the placards with RTW’s name because you don’t have to support our publication to agree with our slogan. But we have always made clear that we produce and distribute these placards – we are very proud that we do.

President Toussaint, and the Local’s leaders before him, have been well aware of our distribution of placards at Local 100 events and never complained about it. Toussaint even chose to run a photo featuring one of our placards on the front page of Local 100 Express (April 2001). But following the September 25 rally I received a slanderous letter from President Toussaint, on union stationery, viciously attacking me and RTW for this. His letter alleged that I and RTW:

cowardly chose not to sign your placards in order to deliberately mislead our members into believing that this was an official placard of the Local.

This is baseline deceit and trickery and also stock-in-trade conduct of an agent-provocateur.

These are lies from beginning to end. It was unmistakable that RTW made and distributed the placards. Also, nowhere did the placards mention the words “Local 100” nor did they look anything like the official Local 100 placards.

Toussaint bragged in his letter that he doesn’t “normally read past the heading” of Revolutionary Transit Worker. But in doing so he only bragged of his ignorance, since the edition of RTW that was distributed in thousands at that rally clearly took credit for our slogan and placard. The headline of its lead article was “First Class Contract or Strike!” and the front page featured a photo of transit workers holding placards we’ve distributed in the past. That article clearly explained that Local 100’s official slogan is not “First Class Contract or Strike!” but rather “Second Class No More” and explained why our pro-strike slogan is better. So President Toussaint’s attack is easily exposed as a lie. Readers interested in receiving a copy of his letter and my full reply should write to RTW.

Particularly disturbing is Toussaint’s reference to me as an “agent-provocateur” – in other words an outsider trying to damage Local 100. Such allegations have long been a signal for thugs to attack union militants. I am not saying that this was Toussaint’s intention. But should I or any other supporter of RTW face physical intimidation or attack at a Local 100 event I will consider Toussaint personally responsible.

It is disgusting that Toussaint chose to launch this divisive attack at a time in our contract struggle when we most need unity against the TA and politicians. Open arguments among the members about how to wage the struggle are necessary in order to decide on the best course of action. But lies about me or any other union member only serve the bosses. Toussaint seems to fear growing support among the ranks for the idea of strike preparation to win a first class contract, as well as for our criticism of his refusal to prepare. He seeks to avoid debate over these differences by smearing me.

This is not the first time Toussaint has tried to deny Local 100 members’ right to disagree with him, and launched lying attacks to try to intimidate them. Best known are his dishonest charges against Naomi Allen, a Vice-Chair in CED and a supporter of Rank and File Advocate. But those charges were shot down, first by the Executive Board’s trial committee and then by the TWU International, which forced Toussaint to run an explanation of his “shocking violation of [Sister Allen’s] basic rights” in Local 100 Express (Vol. 2, No. 8).

Neither I nor other supporters of RTW will be intimidated by Toussaint’s tactics. We will continue to fight for the unity of all transit workers against the TA. For as long as Toussaint steps forward in struggle against the bosses we will support him. But we will continue to promote strike preparation to win our contract demands and point out when the Toussaint leadership doesn’t take our struggle forward. And we will continue to exercise our right to freedom of speech which includes distributing placards at Local 100 rallies.