Workers Vanguard No. 868

14 April 2006


Labor: Protest Jail Sentence for TWU President Roger Toussaint!

NEW YORK CITY, April 11—State Supreme Court judge Theodore T. Jones yesterday sentenced Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 president Roger Toussaint to ten days in jail, starting within 30 days. Toussaint was charged with refusing to obey a court injunction and order TWU members back to work when they struck for three days in December, defying the state Taylor Law that bans public employee strikes. Jones also levied fines against Toussaint and two other Local 100 officials. Transit workers have already given up six days’ pay under Taylor Law guidelines.

The jail sentence is retribution for a strike that crippled the financial capital of American capitalism and drew widespread support from working people and minorities, in New York City and elsewhere. It is also a clear threat to all city and state labor. The court may also fine Local 100 $3 million and eliminate its dues checkoff system and is as well threatening financial penalties against Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) locals 726 and 1056, which joined the TWU on strike. The New York Times (11 April) reports that Jones “acknowledged yesterday that the financial penalties could put the union out of business.” The threat against the dues checkoff system underlines that union members should fight to replace this system, by which the bosses control dues collection through paycheck deductions, with collection by elected union officers.

The court ruling highlights what we noted in “NYC Transit Strike: Union Power vs. Class Collaboration” (WV No. 861, 6 January; available as a special supplement): “The role of the courts and government officials during the strike starkly demonstrated that the ‘democratic’ trappings of the capitalist state are but a facade for the dictatorship of the exploiting class.” The entire labor movement must rise to the occasion and mobilize in defense of the TWU and its officials against government union-busting. Following the strike, the Partisan Defense Committee issued a call to the labor movement urging solidarity with TWU Local 100 and ATU locals 726 and 1056. Our appeal generated letters and statements from unions in the U.S. and internationally protesting the threat of legal reprisals.

Defense of those victimized for using labor’s strike weapon should be the starting point for united action by city and state unions to smash the Taylor Law. It will take hard class struggle, not looking to phony “friends of labor” in the capitalist Democratic Party, to defend the unions and uphold their right to strike.