International Solidarity with NYC Transit Unions!

In January, the Partisan Defense Committee initiated a campaign urging labor solidarity with the New York City transit unions, which face massive legal sanctions for conducting a powerful three-day strike last December in defiance of the state’s anti-strike Taylor Law (see Workers Vanguard Nos. 862, 20 January, and 863, 3 February). Trade unions nationally and internationally responded to the PDC campaign by sending protest letters demanding no reprisals to New York governor George Pataki, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg, as well as messages of support to the unions.

As Chicago ATU Local 308’s letter to Pataki stated, the threats against the transit unions “prove once again that the supposed rights of the population are in fact honored only in the breach when it comes to working people, the poor and minorities.” Demonstrating the impact of the strike internationally was a letter to TWU Local 100 from the Betriebsrat der Gesamthafenarbeiter (port workers council) in Hamburg, Germany, which recently shut down the port to protest threatened anti-union legislation. The letter stated: “Your strike in defiance of the vicious anti-union Taylor law was an absolutely necessary stand to stop mounting attacks against the transport workers of New York City. Your strike set an example for the other NYC workers, as well as working people across the U.S. and internationally.”

Other messages of solidarity include letters from Teamsters Local 813 sanitation workers and AFSCME District Council 1707 in New York City, National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 2200 in Pasadena, AFSCME Local 444 water utility workers in Oakland, and Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association Local 9 in San Bruno, California, which has been victimized by Northwest Airlines’ vicious union-busting. Unions in Britain, Ireland, France and Italy have also issued protest letters.

In response to this campaign, a spokesman at the Office of Labor Relations, writing on behalf of Mayor Bloomberg, sent the PDC the first letter printed below, which exemplifies their vicious, anti-labor stance. The second letter is from Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 president Roger Toussaint.

On April 11, a state court judge sentenced Toussaint to ten days in jail. The next week, the judge fined the union $2.5 million and ordered suspension of the automatic dues checkoff. Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1050 was fined $187,000 and ATU Local 726 was given a $125,000 hit. Defense of those victimized for using labor’s strike weapon should be the starting point for united action by city and state unions to smash the Taylor Law. It will take hard class struggle, not looking to the phony “friends of labor” in the capitalist Democratic Party, to defend the unions and uphold their right to strike.

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January 18, 2006

Gene Herson
Labor Coordinator, Partisan Defense Committee

This is in response to your letter, dated January 9, 2006, to Mayor Bloomberg. He has asked me to reply on his behalf.

Be assured that the Mayor expects all employers in the City of New York to comply with applicable Federal, State and Local laws governing the workers in any workplace.

Similarly, the Mayor also expects all employees to comply with applicable Federal, State and Local laws governing the workers in any workplace.

Since your letter contains patently incorrect statements, including your misrepresentation of the Taylor Law—a law designed and implemented with Union input—we will respectfully refrain from any further discussion of your letter except to state that we disagree with its contents entirely.

James F. Hanley

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February 10, 2006

Mr. Paul Cooperstein
Chairman, Partisan Defense Committee

The members, staff and officers of Transport Workers Union Local 100 deeply appreciate your support during our recent contract fight and strike.

It seemed that our contract fight was conducted under the bright lights of the mass media. However, there were very important things happening outside camera range, like the solidarity you displayed. If the media ignored it, transit workers did not. Our 35,000 members were strengthened by the knowledge that they were not alone.

I would have liked to have written sooner, noting how your efforts helped produce a successful resolution of our battle. While that has not yet occurred, expressing our appreciation can’t wait.

Our picket signs said “It’s About Respect.” Please let your members, officers and staff know that you have the respect and heartfelt thanks of the entire TWU Local 100 family.

Roger Toussaint