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Hear me out, says Toussaint

Published: January 18, 2006

Publication: Daily News

By Pete Donohue

TRANSIT UNION boss Roger Toussaint wants a jury of New Yorkers to decide whether he should be jailed for making them walk during last month’s three-day bus and subway strike. Toussaint, president of Transport Workers Union Local 100, could be sentenced to a cold cell or slapped with a fine for flouting a judge’s order not to wage an illegal strike. “Roger wants to tell the full story of what went on during negotiations,” union lawyer Arthur Schwartz said, adding that the union has a “provocation defense.

” That includes the claim that Toussaint and the union were pushed to strike last month in part by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s allegedly illegal demand that pension changes be agreed to during negotiations, Schwartz said. Toussaint also would argue that the deck is stacked against public employee unions. Although transit workers, teachers and other public employees can be punished for illegal strikes, there’s nothing to compel government negotiators to successfully bargain fair pacts on time, labor leaders have argued. City teachers, firefighters and police all have been forced to work without contracts. The mother of Firefighter Matthew Long, who was struck by a private charter bus while bicycling to work during the strike, has blamed Toussaint for the accident. She has urged Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Theodore Jones to put Toussaint behind bars. A spokesman for the state attorney general’s office said it would consult with the MTA before deciding what, if anything, it will recommend to Jones as far as punishment for Toussaint and two of his top deputies. A Friday court session previously set by Jones to deal with issues related to the transit strike is expected to be postponed, sources said yesterday. One big issue is whether Toussaint and other union officials must be granted a jury trial on contempt charges. A postponement would avoid any judicial actions from having an impact on the tentative deal reached between the TWU and the MTA, sources said. The deadline for workers to vote on the contract is noon Friday. If adopted, the pact goes before the MTA board for a Jan. 25 vote.

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