Letters to the Editor March 24, 2006
TWU Deal Not Worth Reviving
To the Editor:
THERE IS A TREMENDOUS amount of misinformation regarding the rejected
TWU Local 100 contract. As an elected vice president of Local 100 and
one of the four members on the 46-member executive board who voted
against the contract and spearheaded a "vote no" campaign which led to
its defeat, I believe it is critical your readers hear from me
regarding what the rejected contract meant to our members and the
different ways it would have negatively affected us and labor as a
The contract reached after the Dec. 20, 2005 strike contained language
extremely detrimental to our union.
Contracts are about improving members' wages and benefits. But Local
100 President Roger Toussaint's 2005 contract did neither - leaving
members no alternative but to reject it. His 1.5-percent health-care
giveback stood to negatively affect everyone in the worst of ways
after he had condemned concessionary bargaining and the setting of bad
precedents for labor.
Toussaint's disinformation and misinformation campaign prior and post
the contract's rejection has left many in and outside transit with the
false belief our members turned down one of their best contracts
The covert contract "re-vote" campaign and the individuals involved -
including some Toussaint appointees and executive board members
elected on his slate - left no doubt Toussaint is the driving force behind it,
a situation which shows his disrespect for the membership's decision
to reject the contract.
Dollar for dollar, the contract was the "poorest," not "rich," as
Toussaint calls it. The contract before the strike was worth $477
million. The contract after the strike was worth only $400 million.
Paying a health-care premium of 1.5 percent of gross income to start -
including overtime - for the same level of health care did not make
sense by any stretch of the imagination - unless you are Toussaint or
Also, the contract, stated, "In future years, the 1.5-percent
contribution rate shall be increased by the extent to which the rate
of increase in the cost of health benefits exceeds general wage
increases." With health-care cost increases reaching double digits in
recent years and annual pay increases in the very low single digits,
the agreement was a recipe for disaster.
Equally disturbing and unjust is the fact that there was no cap on the
amount of increase the MTA could impose.
Toussaint flooded work sites with a flier dated Jan. 3, 2006,
containing a formula and calculations showing cost increases would be
almost nothing. But, there was no formula in the contract language -
which created further distrust for what Toussaint was saying.
The premium also unjustly discriminated against our members. Earn
$40,000 annually and you will pay a $600 premium; earn $80,000 and you
pay $1,200. The more you earn, the more you pay. The 10.5-percent
raises over three years amounted to very little to take home after the
When health-care costs rise, take-home pay would have been reduced
Transit workers always had health-care coverage in retirement, but at
a reduced level. However, Toussaint misled everyone outside transit to
believe we did not have health coverage in retirement and he was
getting retirees health benefits for the first time.
The rejected contract language stated, "pre-Medicare retirees receive
the same benefits as active members." Pre-Medicare means coverage only
until age 65 - not "lifetime" as fliers put out by Toussaint falsely
And, a member who started working at age 40 and works 25 years for a
full pension - retiring at age 65 and Medicare-eligible - will not
receive any benefits from paying the 1.5-percent premium, an amount
which could total more than $40,000. Anyone who retires at 65 or older
would experience a similar loss. With a great majority of our members
retiring at or abut 65 - it made paying the premium unreasonable. NYC
Transit supervisors pay a flat rate for retiree health care that is
far superior to ours and which they keep during their "Medicare" years. A
According to a TA memo, effective Jan. 1, 2006, supervisors whose
annual income is $72,000 will pay $6 and $23 bi-weekly - flat rates
for individual and family plans respectively. A $72,000 income for us
including overtime, would mean premiums costing $41.53 bi-weekly. And,
we would have been limited to two providers while supervisors have
TWU Local 234 in Philadelphia recently settled a contract after a
one-week strike. It included a flat 1 percent of base pay - not total
earnings - with a provision that all managers pay the same 1 percent.
Toussaint walked their picket lines. He was aware of their 1 percent;
he even talked about it in The Chief. Yet he betrayed us with a higher
premium rate. While paying for health care sets a bad precedent, at
least the Local 234 and NYC Transit supervisors' packages are less
expensive for their members than the one Toussaint forced on us.
Our pension refund has no place at the bargaining table either. It is
money deducted from past paychecks. Its return does not come at any
cost to the MTA. It must be returned to us unconditionally.
In 1992 Toussaint was part of a "vote no" campaign against President
Sonny Hall's contract, which the membership rejected. As "New
Directions" members, Toussaint and others, including myself, were part
of a failed "vote no" campaign against President Willie James's 1999
Yet today, Toussaint chills free speech against this contract -
imposing arbitrary punitive action against reps, including summary
firing from jobs working for our union, and withholding their wages
for failing to carry out his disinformation and misinformation schemes to
keep members in the dark.
At "shop gate" meetings Toussaint admitted to members in attendance
that the 1.5-percent premium he agreed to is a "bitter" pill. Yet, he
publicly and unjustly accuses members who campaigned and voted against
it as being "right wing," "fifth column," and charges "they believe a
failed contract would put them in a better position at this December
election for President," which is irrational, to say the least.
Evidently, Toussaint has no plans to fight for a better contract.
Today, his plans are to play to our emotions as he sends his
"operatives" to work sites where they preach "contract doomsday" to
demoralize members into surrendering to the 1.5percent premium,
instead of rebuilding for a fight for a better contract. Taking the membership
out on strike to protect the "unborn" from paying 6 percent for their
pension for 10 years, only to return us to work without a contract,
subsequently agreeing for both active members and the "unborn" to pay
a healthcare premium which would generate a larger sum of money for the
MTA makes absolutely no sense by any stretch of the imagination.
After the Dec. 15 deadline passed, Toussaint negotiated the contract
alone, limiting members' aspirations. But, he outfoxed himself. And
boxed himself in. Trapped and defeated, Toussaint blames everyone for
his failure - instead of himself - which is all sour grapes. Sad but
Our members are not as unreasonable as Toussaint would make it seem.
All we need are wages and benefits that would keep us ahead of
inflation. Not an agreement which gives us 10.5-percent raises
subjected to an annual 1.5-percent deduction from gross pay for health
care. If we cannot score while the MTA has a billion-dollar surplus,
we will never score.
AINSLEY STEWART, Vice President, TWU Local 100