Sunday, May 31, 2009

Take Back Our Union (TBOU) Update -Gains or Losses?‏ By Steve Downs

In his May 29 “Message”, Roger Toussaint sums up the accomplishments of his presidency and calls on members to support Curtis Tate and his slate to carry on that work. While Toussaint, Tate and UI have tried to deny the contribution that TBOU supporters have made to defending and strengthening our union, TBOU has never denied that our union won some gains during Toussaint’s presidency.There have been gains under every Local 100 president. Even Damaso Seda (winning a 25/55 pension) and Willie James (reducing the pension contribution) made some progress. But, what every transit worker must ask themselves, whether about Seda, James, or Toussaint, is -- which is greater, the gains or the losses?

Toussaint highlights the Childcare and Training and Upgrade Funds. These are gains for the membership. But in the same contract that won those funds, Toussaint gave up the no lay-off clause, increased medical co-pays, and accepted a one-year wage freeze. That is a recurring loss that Local 100 members will feel every hour they work. Which is greater, the gains or the losses?Toussaint claims there has been a rapid fall in the number of disciplinary cases. In 2002, he promised that new contract language would eliminate 70% of disciplinary cases. There were more write-ups in 2004 than there had been in 2002. While there has been a decrease in write-ups in the last two years, Toussaint gave the TA the right to discipline people for “chronic absenteeism” – even when they are covered by doctor’s lines. Which is greater, the gains or the losses?Since 2001, the Local has created a Safety Dept. that conducts regular safety inspections and provides Safety Reps at night. During the same time, Toussaint allowed the stewards’ program to wither, squandering the enthusiasm and commitment of almost 1000 trained stewards. Now, after over three years with no stewards’ classes, the Local is training 25 stewards. Running true to form, critics of Toussaint are excluded. Which is greater, the gains or the losses?

Toussaint’s claim that, “More than 10,000 members a year take part in Union events, at the Hall and elsewhere.” should be taken with a few grains of salt. It includes members at Family Day and a lot of double counting at other events. Members socializing at union-sponsored events is a good thing. But attendance at division meetings is down; thousands of members have been shown that their votes on contracts don’t matter; hundreds of stewards have stopped being active; members in Maintenance of Way and MTA Bus were denied the right to elect their VPs when the positions became vacant; and, close to half the membership is in bad-standing. Which is greater, the gains or the losses?

It’s true that the Local, “prevented the imposition of a new, inferior pension tier.” But a 30/62 pension for new hires was already off the table before Toussaint called the strike in 2005. Then, instead of striking for things the members were ready to fight for (higher wages, improved benefits, better schedules, better treatment, etc.), Toussaint allowed the TA to define the issues in the strike. The strike was poorly prepared and led. Based on comments he made to members at the contract meetings in the Bronx and Brooklyn, it’s clear that Toussaint called the strike primarily to make it easier to sell the givebacks in it to the membership. The result? The 1.5% deduction for basic healthcare; fines against the union and its members; giving up the Dec. 15 contract expiration date; and, the union agreeing not to strike in the future. Toussaint’s refusal to recognize the membership’s rejection of the contract increased the numbers who refused to pay their dues. Which is greater, the gains or the losses?

If you think the gains during Toussaint’s administration are greater than the losses, you’ll probably vote for the Toussaint/Tate/Watt UI slate. If you acknowledge the gains, but recognize that the losses have been greater, cast your vote for the Take Back Our Union slate.--
Steve Downs Chair, T/O Division of TWU 100 to stay informed visited daily

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