NYC transit union fined and leader jailed

The New York trade union whose workers brought the city's public transport system to a halt last December has been fined $2.5m by the State Supreme Court for the illegal strike.

Union President Roger Toussaint will also face 10 days in prison.

The Associated Press reported that a judge fined the city transit union $2.5 million Monday for the illegal strike that brought buses and subways to a standstill for three days just before Christmas.

Judge Theodore Jones of state Supreme Court in Brooklyn also ruled that Transport Workers Union Local 100's automatic dues collection would be suspended indefinitely. The 33,000-member union can reapply for automatic collection after 90 days.

State law prohibits public employees from striking.

"This is a very unfortunate event and an unfortunate day in the history of labor relations in this city," the judge said.

The judge ruled this month that the union president who called for the strike, which halted the nation's largest mass transit system for 60 hours during the holiday shopping rush, should be jailed for 10 days and fined $1,000 for contempt.

The union president, Roger Toussaint, said that he intends to appeal the rulings, but that if he has to go, "jail is not a problem."

"We find this decision is unfair," Toussaint said Monday.

Toussaint is to begin serving his jail sentence and pay the personal fine 30 days from when the judge's written decision is filed, probably Wednesday.

The judge also fined two smaller transit unions in Staten Island and Queens in connection with the walkout. He gave all the unions 30 days to pay but said they could apply for payment schedules.

The strike came after contract talks between the union and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority broke down, with sticking points including health care and pensions.

The MTA had asked the judge to fine the union $3 million, or $1 million for each day of the strike. Union attorneys argued that the penalties could kill the labor group.

The judge told union lawyers that the strike had caused "distress to the economy" and that "many people suffered because of this strike."

"This is a largely lose-lose-lose situation for everybody," the judge added.

Asked how the penalties would affect Local 100, Toussaint said that that "remains to be seen."

The MTA said in a statement that it respected the judge's ruling "in light of the decision by the TWU leadership last December to willfully violate" state law and "disrupt the lives of millions of New Yorkers."

The Rev. Jesse Jackson sat behind Toussaint during the hearing Monday. Beforehand, Jackson said: "This strike was a necessary evil to fight to protect worker pensions."

The story of the strike:
http://libcom.org/news/article.php?story=new-york-transport-strike-05012006