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N.Y. Transit Union Boss Gets Jail, Fine

The criminal contempt finding emanates from an illegal strike in 2005. More action may follow.

April 11, 2006|Ray Sanchez | Newsday

NEW YORK — Calling the 2005 transit strike "a very sad day" in the history of labor in New York, a judge Monday ordered Transport Workers Union Local 100 President Roger Toussaint jailed for 10 days and fined $1,000 for criminal contempt.

Toussaint, seated behind his lawyers in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, appeared surprised at the order by Justice Theodore Jones. The sentence was stayed for 30 days to allow for an appeal.

"I am confounded by the tortured tale of these negotiations," Jones told a courtroom packed with Local 100 members and local politicians who attended the hearing in support of union leaders. "It is unfortunate that it had to come down to an illegal strike."

Jones also imposed $500 fines but no jail time against the union's secretary-treasurer Ed Watt and recording secretary Darlyne Lawson.

Though Toussaint said after the hearing that his legal team would explore an appeal, one of his lawyers, Dan Bright, said one was unlikely because his client essentially pleaded guilty to criminal contempt.

"Obviously we find the fines and sentences to be regrettable, but we will deal with it," Toussaint said.

In a statement, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Peter Kalikow said the contempt rulings reflected "the gravity of the union's decision to knowingly and willfully violate the law."

The hearing continues today, with Jones expected to make a decision on up to $3 million in contempt fines against the union. The judge is also being asked by state lawyers to suspend the union's ability to collect dues from members. The penalties would cripple the union, according to Local 100 lawyers.

"The potential danger to the continued existence of the union rests with the adjudication of these fines," Jones said.

Before sentencing, Toussaint spoke to the court, saying the strike was provoked by the MTA's insistence on creating a new pension tier for workers. "The authority's attitude in these negotiations was cavalier and provocative," he said.

Neal Abramson, an MTA lawyer, told the court that Toussaint failed to demonstrate even a "small smattering of contrition for the harm to the citizens of this city."

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