Dissent at the TWU as Toussaint reemerges


As the MTA and TWU amble their way toward some sort of settlement over their current contract dispute, dissent may be brewing from within the Local 100 ranks. As Ted Mann of The Wall Street Journal reports today, Roger Toussaint, the erstwhile leader of the city’s TWU local and the man responsible for the 2005 transit strike, is back on the scene, and he has been aggressive in targeting John Samuelsen’s current approach to negotiations. “The issue is not if they have the [money],” Toussaint said to The Journal. “It’s about getting it from them. And you have to have a real strategy to do that. You can’t just make it up as you go along and hope that no one notices.”

After losing an election to Samuelsen in 2009, Toussaint had faded from the scene, and in fact, he had moved down to D.C. for a few years. Within the past few months, when Samuelsen refused to threaten a strike, Toussaint moved back to Brooklyn to resume his track-shop job with the MTA, and many believe he is angling for a spot atop the leadership structure at Local 100. Toussaint in his interview with Mann slams Samuelsen for his approach toward negotiation. He wants a hardline, and he wants the MTA leadership to hear that even as they continue to threaten a net-zero wage increase.

For his part, Samuelsen shrugged off Toussaint’s words and presence. “Roger couldn’t mobilize 20 members to do anything after the 2005 strike,” Samuelsen said. “He couldn’t mobilize a bunch of kindergarten kids to get online to get cookies and milk, and yet he finds fit to criticize our mobilization in the last year.” Still, the former president’s militant tone, in light of the TWU’s embrace of the Occupy Wall Street movement, must have current TWU leadership watching their political backs.

Categories : Asides, TWU

32 Responses to “Dissent at the TWU as Toussaint reemerges”

  1. Alex C says:

    This is where the public will probably completely turn against the TWU. If they really insist on screwing their younger workers’ pensions to pay the current older workers then they’re no less part of Generation Greed than the crooks in Wall St, Albany and Washington. Bringing Toussaint back into the picture can only hurt their image.

    Occupy’s image will probably suffer, too. They don’t seem to actually know what the hell is going on and are just blindly supporting the TWU and pretending the MTA is some sort of independent mega-corporation trying to cut wages or something.

    • Bolwerk says:

      Occupy should know the TWU is stealing from them too.

    • Larry Littlefield says:

      Well, to give the devil his due, the TWU hasn’t screwed the newbie the way other unions have. Yet.

      But where’s 20/50? That’s what Toussant promised. If they had gotten it, the MTA would be screwed even more than it is.

  2. The Cobalt Devil says:

    Toussaint needs to crawl back under whatever rocks he dislodged himself from. There are 8 million NYers who remember very well his dis-leadership during the 2005 strike.

    • pete says:

      Grow up. In the rest of the world transit strikes are a yearly ritual.

      • Alon Levy says:

        For values of “the rest of the world” that include just France and Italy, perhaps.

        In the Netherlands, when there’s a transit strike, employees show up to work and run the trains normally, but just don’t collect the fares.

  3. nycpat says:

    I think he is receiving payments from the Coalition to Save New York as part of their plan to destroy the TWU.

    • Bolwerk says:

      The TWU seems to be doing that fine on its own. It’s just a matter of how much it drags the rest of us down too.

      • nycpat says:

        I don’t appreciate that comment. The TWU is bargaining fair and square. It’s not some goliath bent on destruction.
        The only power we have is withholding our labor….a slim reed.
        I get enough negativiity from the riding public… so I’ll sign off now.

        • Bolwerk says:

          Are you going to see workers cut and benefits scaled back so future transit workers get something too? An end to overtime abuse? Pension padding? Smarter work rules? An end to two-man train crews?

          Just about any fair deal – fair to the riding public, anyway – requires the TWU to retreat on all those things.

          • Al D says:

            Your first 3 are the result of piss-poor management on the part of the MTA.

            • mighty_mouse says:


            • Bolwerk says:

              I really blame them both. There are other stakeholders besides management and the union.

              • Justin Samuels says:

                Obviously the riding public are important stakeholders. But I believe before the MTA can seriously ask Albany and Washington for more money, it needs to clean its house, and end overtime abuse, pension padding, and smarter work rules. Ending two man train crews, and getting rid of definitely useless LIRR and MNRR ticket agents (people can just use vending machines) as well as getting rid of the NYC Transit token booth clerks. (stations have phones in them where you can call for help).

                • Andrew says:

                  Most of that is on the unions, not the MTA itself.

                  • Justin Samuels says:

                    Agreed. But the MTA at some point will need to get around the unions on that. They need to present arguments against this to the public and to the politicians and continue until they win the battle in the public domain.

                    The state seems to force the issue by periodically starving the MTA of resources, which forces cuts and makes it harder for the unions to oppose.

                  • Alon Levy says:

                    Has the MTA ever tried to do POP on commuter rail, or modernize in any way? SEPTA tried and failed, but the MTA has so far been content to let the steam-era railroaders run the LIRR and Metro-North.

                • Bolwerk says:

                  If it approximately did those things, it might not need more money. But the legislature does have the power to mandate those changes, and doesn’t.

        • Alex C says:

          It’s not the workers I’m upset at, it’s the union leadership. The idea that the TWU should screw its own younger members’ pensions to pay the old guard more is no different than what goes on in our political and corporate systems. “I got mine, so sucks to be you” isn’t very union-like.

          • Bolwerk says:

            The TWU as an organization learned it can do whatever it wants because everyone else has pretty much always capitulated to them, or never had a say to begin with. If it kept some perspective, and empathized with the people in wider society it harms,* it probably wouldn’t get all the flack it gets.

            * You know, the actual working class: the people who work longer hours, make less money, and can’t afford a car.

            • Justin Samuels says:

              Public Transportation is a public service. It exists to move people around so they don’t have to use cars. However, the TWU wants to use it as the entity which employs at all costs.

              Technology could keep MTA costs down if it were able to end ticket agents, two man subway crews, etc. But the TWU won’t allow that for obvious reasons. That affects the general public. It also makes Albany and Washington less interested in contributing to the MTA, because it seems like the MTA cannot control its costs (give them more money and they’ll find more ways to squander it)

              • Bolwerk says:

                I’d rather not see mandates to end those things. I’d rather have those things in the (rare) cases that they are appropriate. Token booth clerks at Times Square? Sure. At Central Avenue? Makes no sense. And it might make some sense at a place like Queensboro Plaza or Myrtle-Wyckoff during the day.

                • Justin Samuels says:

                  Queensboro has nowhere near the number of visitors as Times Square. Its main importance is transfer points (Between the N and the 7)

                  • Justin Samuels says:

                    Of course, if you have enough vending machines at Times Square clerks are not needed there either.

                    • Bolwerk says:

                      If you’re dealing with enough complete ass tourists, it might make sense to have a human customer service agent around. And in other scenarios, having someone around sometimes during the week to solve problems isn’t a bad thing.

                      Of course, token booths clerks usually don’t bother with such things.

        • petey says:

          “The only power we have is withholding our labor….a slim reed.”

          it’s the opposite of the slim reed, it’s the strongest branch. remember: without us, they’re nothing.

  4. Al D says:

    Yes! Transit Strike 2012!!

  5. mighty_mouse says:

    bone thugs & harmony, your TWU

  6. Larry Littlefield says:

    I checked the news, and I’m still not sure if TWU or LIRR or MetroNorth workers were affected by the “screw the newbie” portion of the “screw the newbie, flee to Florida” cycle.

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