Revolutionary Transit Worker No. 32

Supported by the League for the Revolutionary Party

January 9, 2006

We Didn’t Strike for a Pay Cut!

Vote NO!

Local 100 is in the process of voting on its proposed contract. For President Toussaint, this was quite a turn around. One week earlier, Pataki threated to veto the contract’s proposed pension refund and instruct the MTA Board to refuse to pay it. Toussaint responded by announcing that the contract vote would be delayed until after the MTA Board had voted on the deal.

But the MTA called his bluff and said they wouldn’t vote until after Local 100 had. As usual, Toussaint backed down. Now he’s pressing for a quick vote, with internet and telephone voting, with all votes to be in by noon on January 20.

Behind Toussaint’s Rush to Vote

Toussaint realized that the longer he delayed a vote on the contract, the more Local 100 members would learn what a rotten deal it is. Word was spreading of how the new healthcare paycheck deduction is set to rise automatically in step with increasing healthcare costs – with no limit to its growth. Members eligible for the pension refund were realizing that they might not even receive it, and (thanks to Toussaint’s secret side deal) if they do, almost half might get taken by taxes.

Transit workers were doing the math: add the new paycheck deduction to inflation and the Taylor law fines and our real wages will take a big cut under this deal. More and more workers were saying: No! We didn’t strike for a pay cut!

Indeed for these reasons and more, transit workers’ most hated enemies – from MTA management and Mayor Bloomberg to the editors of the New York Post – were lining up to endorse the rotten deal.

What’s more, Local 100 members were organizing to reject the contract. Two days before Toussaint’s announcement of a quick vote, RTW had launched a campaign to vote the contract down in the Local 100 Divisions and call mass membership meetings to decide the way forward.

The next day, over a hundred transit workers attended a “Vote No Coalition” meeting in Brooklyn. There, Executive Board Member for Stations, Marty Goodman, Tim Schermerhorn from RTO and RTW supporter Eric Josephson gave speeches on why the contract must be rejected and how to take the struggle forward.

The assembled workers vented their anger against Toussaint’s sellout and voted unanimously in favor of RTW’s motion to go to the Divisions to vote down the contract and call mass membership meetings. Within hours, Toussaint announced his decision to rush ahead with the vote.

Toussaint’s Disinformation Campaign

With President Toussaint rushing ahead with our contract vote, it is more important than ever to get the facts of the contract out and make clear why we must all vote no. It is especially important to expose Toussaint’s campaign of lies and disinformation about the contract.

President Toussaint lied in his January 6 letter to Local 100 members, for example, when he claimed that our wage “concerns” were “achieved.” With the TA enjoying a billion dollar surplus, the members expected a big raise. The Executive Board adopted 8% yearly wage raises as its contract demand. But Toussaint accepted the TA’s miserable offer of 3%, 4% and 3.5%. The new healthcare paycheck deduction, Taylor Law fines and inflation mean that we face a big cut in real wages.

His letter also admitted “bitter elements” in the contract, only to cover-up important facts. The first is the healthcare paycheck deduction, which he says is a “1.5% contribution.” But this is not the full truth: it only starts at 1.5% and is set to rise with each successive year of the contract, without limit! The second “bitter element” Toussaint referred to as “extending the term [of the contract] 1 month.” He conveniently avoids explaining that this means we will lose our massive bargaining power of the threat to strike at peak holiday shopping time in December.

Toussaint’s letter goes on to excuse these massive concessions, saying they “were necessary” to secure the contract’s other gains and limit the penalties to the union. This is crap. He doesn’t explain that his concessions give the TA $77.2 million more money from our pockets than they would have gotten with their last pre-strike offer. The fact is that if had we stayed on strike we could have won all our demands, without any givebacks, and won amnesty from the Taylor Law penalties. Transit workers can be proud of our strike. Toussaint should be ashamed of his betrayal. We can defeat this sellout and prepare to resume our fight to win the contract we deserve.

The Way Forward

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 restarting the fight with a plan for action that can rally the entire New York working class.

If the contract is voted down, we will have to fight like hell for mass membership meetings of the Local where the ranks can have their say and vote on the way forward. In fact we shouldn’t wait for the vote to take this fight forward. Militant workers opposed to the contract should mobilize as many of their fellow workers to attend the next meetings of their Division, both morning and evening sessions. Explain why the contract must be rejected and raise a motion like the following:

“This Division rejects the current contract offer and directs the Executive Board to organize Mass Membership Meetings of Local 100 (in both the morning and evening) at the earliest possible date. At those meetings, the membership must have the right to speak, raise motions and vote. The Executive Board must also fully publicize the Mass Membership Meetings with phone blasts, leaflets, e-mailings and on the Local 100 website.”

As soon as a majority of the Local’s Divisions have passed such a motion, the EB will be bound by the Local’s by-laws to carry them out. And let RTW know how your effort goes!

At such mass membership meetings, RTW will look to unite with as many workers as possible to support a program of action to rally the ranks, regain our sense of power and organization and resume the fight for a just contract.

Build a New Fighting Leadership!

The ranks of Local 100 responded powerfully to Toussaint’s strike call, setting up and maintaining picket lines with little help from the leadership. There is no lack of fighting spirit. But the contract sellout shows that we can hardly trust the current leadership. Only a new fighting leadership coming up from the ranks with the aim of seizing control from Toussaint & Co. can begin to solve the serious problems confronting transit workers.

Workers who played little role in the union before have been energized by the strike. They are paying attention to the issues. Through the campaign to reject Toussaint’s sellout, the most militant and politically conscious workers are starting to see themselves as leaders. Such workers need to come together to take the struggle forward.

As everybody familiar with RTW knows, we are revolutionary socialists. We believe that the growing crisis of capitalism is behind the escalating racist and anti-working class attacks. Through building a fightback to defend its living and working conditions, the working class will see that it can and must overthrow the entire capitalist system. We appeal to the most politically far-sighted workers to join with us to build a revolutionary socialist party of the working class to lead these great struggles.

But we don’t insist that our fellow workers agree with us before we unite to lead our immediate struggles. Rather, we are confident that common experience in the struggle will prove our perspective true.

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