Thank you, Denis [Hughes] and thanks to all of you for leaving your jobs, your loved ones, and your leisure to join us here today.

This is an historic moment and the MTA should take note of our solidarity.

We are all here — Denis Hughes, Randi Weingarten, Pat Lynch, Jim Little, my brothers Mike Fishman, Denis Rivera and Bruce Raynor, my sisters Barbara Bowen and Lillian Roberts, representatives of all the unions of New York — to speak with one voice on behalf of the dedicated, hard-working members of Local 100 and Roger Touissant.

What kind of man is Roger Toussaint?

Roger Toussaint is a family man — his sons and daughters, and his wife Donna, depend on him for his love and support.

Roger Toussaint is a working man — just like my father he came here from an island to work for the New York transit system and he’s put in more than 20 years with the MTA and just as many serving his local.

Roger Toussaint is a community leader – a political leader – and our entire community depends on him to guide us.

Roger Toussaint is the kind of man we depend on to help us make some sense out of this troubled city.

So if he’s such a good citizen, such a dependable leader, why are we sending him to jail?

Why the hell is our city sending him to jail?

I’ll tell you why he’s going to jail, brothers and sisters — it’s because Roger Toussaint is more than a community leader and more than a political leader.

He’s more than a family man – more than a working man.

Roger Toussaint is a union man.

And what kind of union is Local 100?

I know something about that because I learned my first lessons in trade unionism sitting with my father and listening to Mike Quill at Local 100 membership meetings.

Those lessons still ring true today.

“Get what the workers need … but don’t be greedy.”

“Speak the truth to power … but compromise when you must.”

“Give as much as you can …. and then and only then draw the line.”

Local 100 did all these things and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more reasonable offer placed before a more unreasonable employer.

But when the time came the courageous officers and members of Local 100 remembered the lessons taught by A. Philip Randolph when he said, “You get what you can take and you keep what you can hold.”

When Local 100 won the biggest transit strike in history they held the line for all of us — including the service unions, the building trades, our industrial unions, the teachers and city employees.

But the MTA went right to work undermining the settlement and now they are trying to win in the courts what they could not win at the bargaining table.

So now it is time for all of us to hold the line for Local 100 and Roger Toussaint.

That means raising money and contributing all we can towards paying off a $2½ million dollar fine.

And it means raising hell until we amend the Taylor Law and restore the right of public workers to strike.

Roger – all these leaders and brothers and sisters will join together and march with you to begin serving a 10-day sentence for being a union man – a union leader.

Roger – you are guilty only of standing up to a boss that is unwilling to even discuss sharing its riches with the workers who generate the wealth.

A narrow-thinking judge sentenced you to jail for the biggest, most unselfish transgression a man or woman can commit — refusing to obey an unjust law.

Many of the rest of us have gone to jail for engaging in ceremonial expressions of civil disobedience – and believe me, only a few hours in a cell can be chilling.

So we want you to know that the spirit you’ve aroused in each of us will be with you in your confinement and that we’ll be praying for you in a silent vigil every night.

We also want you to know that every day you are in there – every day – we’ll be pounding away at the MTA.

Thank you. God bless all of you and your families. God bless New York City and God bless America.

April 24, 2006

[Sweeney’s plane was delayed and he was unable to deliver this speech in person.]

Tags:

CONTRIBUTOR

Comments

comments

MOST POPULAR