Sunday, October 4, 2009

TBOU Contract update from John Samuelsen in a letter to Chief-Leader Civil Service Newspaper

To the Editor:

Since the arbitration decision on the TWU Local 100 contract was issued, the incumbent Local 100 administration led by Roger Toussaint,Curtis Tate and Ed Watt has carried on a propaganda campaign toconvince transit workers that their arbitration “strategy” was abrilliant bargaining tactic. They also aggressively attack anyone who points out that the wage package in the arbitrated agreement is less than the citywide wage pattern established by District Council 37 and hurts transit workers in other substantial ways. No amount of Toussaint/ Tate/Watt spin can change those facts.

The current arbitration situation, with the MTA refusing to abide bythe award, demonstrates the dangerous variables involved with choosingto voluntarily submit to this process. Binding arbitration eliminatesthe membership from the process. There is no vote (Toussaint was theonly Local 100 member who voted), and no way to demonstrate how the strength of an informed, organized membership can deliver a good contract. Most significantly, the choice to go to binding arbitrationdoes not help build the union in any way, or prepare Local 100 membersto win future battles against these MTA bosses.

The decision to arbitrate by Toussaint/Tate/Watt was a cynical,coward’s way out of doing the job the membership needed them to do. Onwages, the DC 37-established Citywide wage pattern called for a 4-percent wage increase on the first day of each year of its agreement,with full retroactive pay. Those raises are compounded, which in the end yields an actual raise of 8.16 percent for city workers over a two-year period. For transit workers, the arbitrator eliminated full retroactive pay. Then, our increases do not take effect until three months after the old contract expired. Then, the arbitrator staggered our wage increases by granting transit workers 2-percent increases at six-month intervals. It doesn’t take a math teacher to see that whilethe numbers appear equal in the long run, the reality is that transit workers are losing millions of dollars in wages over the life of the contract.

Tragically, we lost something incredibly important in the arbitrator’s award—transit worker jobs. The award creates a new title—Station Maintainer Helper—which allows management to save money by combining responsibilities and eliminating positions. The potential loss is at least 100 jobs. But it could have been much worse. According to the written decision, the arbitrator was informed that Toussaint/Tate/Watt and the MTA had agreed to expand the One Person Train Operation program (OPTO) on the “L” and “7” lines prior to arbitration in exchange for a minor easing of our 1.5-percent health-care contribution. In other words, the Toussaint/Tate leadership team did their best to give away our Conductor jobs, but the MTA wouldn’t take them! The only thing that prevented this staggering loss of Conductors’ jobs was a tactical error by the Authority in withdrawingits OPTO proposal, believing that the arbitrator would not cap the health-care contribution without the cost savings of expanded OPTO.The arbitrator capped the health-care contribution anyway, but it was done in exchange for broadbanding our Maintenance of Way skilled trade titles instead of OPTO. The health care-cap is an improvement, but certainly not a“tremendous victory” as hailed by Toussaint/Tate/ Watt. Transitworkers still must pay for health insurance while thousands of MTA employees at LIRR pay nothing, as it should be. The fact is that if Toussaint didn’t fold during our 2005 strike, we still wouldn’t bepaying anything for health-care.

Yet the farce continues. The MTA, no doubt annoyed that it will not be reaping even greater health-care contributions from transit workers,is trying to overturn the award in court. Certainly, if the union tried to reverse the award in court, the MTA would be screaming bloodymurder. The latest Toussaint/Tate/Watt tactic of asking transitworkers to “Get Ready to Rock “N? Roll” to “fight back BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY” smacks of a leadership that relies on after-the-fact phony militancy, rather than entering into the contract fight backed up by an organized, informed membership ready to defend their interests. Where were these strategies months ago in advance of negotiations and prior to arbitration, instead of today when the damage has already been done? An effective union prepares for contract negotiations by uniting themembership and organizing the ranks to achieve a good contract. What is achieved at the table affects all aspects of our jobs, our ability to support our families, and our future security. A fully informed and involved membership is essential to the progress and success of negotiations. As far as this contract and this arbitration are concerned, we need to move on. The last thing transit workers can afford now is the bargaining process to be thrown back into the inept hands of the Toussaint/Tate/Watt administration. They have already done far too much damage to our union to risk giving them any more chances. Certainly, Roger Toussaint and Ed Watt have assumed a docile position in their labor/management dealings far too many times already. It is time for TWU Local 100members to join come together and collectively fight these bosses to release our wage increases. Historically, the MTA has only ceded ground when angry rankand-file transit workers take the fight to them direcetly. Come Jan. 1, 2010 that is exactly what is going to happen. TWU Local 100’s new leadership is determined to lead that fight. We are determined to rebalance the scales.

JOHN SAMUELSEN Presient canidate for Take Back Our Union (TBOU)

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