N.Y. transit union re-elects Toussaint

Workers’ Correspondence

Roger Toussaint, president of New York’s Transport Workers Union Local 100, has prevailed in a close and hard-fought union election.

The race ended on Dec. 15 with the election of Toussaint for a third three-year term. Candidates running on Toussaint’s “One Union” slate swept the two other highest offices, with the re-election of Ed Watt as secretary treasurer and Darlene Lawson as recording secretary. It appears that One Union candidates have captured three, and possibly four, of seven departmental vice presidencies and have won control of the union’s executive board.

In other results, One Union candidates swept the Transit Authority Surface department (TAS, mainly comprising TWU members working at bus depots in Brooklyn), and the Stations departments. Although previously headed by VPs hostile to Toussaint in this election, votes from these departments contributed significantly to Toussaint’s margin of victory. TAS, in particular, has emerged as an important base of support for Toussaint.

The One Union slate also won significant victories in the union’s Car Equipment Department (CED). The presidential vote in CED went to Toussaint by a slim margin. After a recount, the One Union candidate for departmental vice president was tied with his closest opponent; thus this vice presidential race will have to be re-run. If the One Union candidate wins the re-run, it will be the third case in which a Toussaint supporter will have defeated several other candidates to replace a hostile vice president.

Toussaint ran against four other candidates. Three of these headed slates vying with One Union candidates for union-wide and divisional offices. The stiffest challenge came from the “Rail and Bus United” slate and its presidential candidate Barry Roberts.

The Rail and Bus United slate was cobbled together from the union’s old guard, out of the Manhattan division of the union’s Operating Authority department (OA, comprising TWU members working at Manhattan and Bronx bus depots), and disgruntled former Toussaint allies out of the Maintenance of Way department (MOW, mainly subway maintenance workers).

Rail and Bus United was also reputed to have the backing of former TWU international president and longtime Toussaint foe Sonny Hall. Besides winning victories in the OA department, candidates from the Rail and Bus United slate took many departmental and divisional slots in Toussaint’s former base of support, the MOW department, and defeated a One Union candidate for vice president of the Private Lines department.

Many observers viewed this election as the final chapter of last year’s transit strike. During the election period, anti-union elements speculated that a defeat for Toussaint would represent a repudiation of the strike by the rank and file, a repudiation of Toussaint’s militant approach toward management and a rejection of the politically progressive direction taken by the union under Toussaint’s leadership. These results will likely mute such speculation.

It is widely recognized that the union’s next task will be to heal the wounds opened by the election and achieve unity among the leadership and rank and file.

— Gary Bono, a New York City transit worker