NYC transit union boss reports to jail for leading illegal strike
NEW YORK – The city’s transit union chief on Monday began serving a 10-day sentence for leading last year’s transit strike, entering a Manhattan lockup after marching across the Brooklyn Bridge with a boisterous group of supporters.Roger Toussaint was walked to the door of the jail by the Rev. Al Sharpton and other community leaders around 7 p.m.The walkout crippled the city just before Christmas last year and violated a state law banning strikes by public employees. A judge ruled that Toussaint should be jailed for 10 days and fined $1,000 for contempt.”I stand here today because a judge has found me guilty of contempt of court,” Toussaint said outside the jail. “The truth of the matter is that I have nothing but contempt for a system that gives employers a free rein to abuse workers.”He said earlier at a rally in his support that he would “do 30 years before transit workers surrender. Working people have tried to obey the law, and we have gotten nothing but insults for it.”The Bob Marley song “Get Up, Stand Up” and cheers from a crowd of dozens greeted Toussaint as he arrived at the rally in Brooklyn before the march across the bridge.Tens of thousands of New Yorkers had to walk the same route during the three-day strike.Union leaders addressed the crowd, hailing Toussaint as a working-class hero who stood up for the rights of the common man by demanding fair treatment on pensions, health care and wages.”We’re with you, Roger,” Sharpton told the crowd. “We will be there every step of the way.”Sharpton, who called the punishment an immoral attempt to intimidate workers, promised to hold a vigil on the union boss’ first night in jail. He said he would stay in a tent outside the jail to protest.The 60-hour strike ended without a contract between Transport Workers Union Local 100 and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the state agency that runs the bus and subway system.Union members voted last week to approve an offer they had rejected in January, but the MTA has said it doesn’t have to accept the vote because the dispute is in binding arbitration.The 33,000-member union was fined $2.5 million for the strike and plans to appeal.Gov. George Pataki, at an appearance Monday in the city, said he wanted people to remember the plight of Matthew Long, a firefighter who was seriously injured when he was run over by a vehicle while bicycling to work during the strike.”I would prefer that the people of New York think and pray of the firefighter who has gone through many operations and faces many more before he can walk, instead of someone who actually provoked this illegal action,” Pataki said.—Associated Press Writer Sara Kugler contributed to this report.