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NYC threatens to jail union leaders

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.breitbart.com/news/2005/12/21/D8EKR4V0L.html Jail Threat Ups Ante for NYC Union Heads By DAVID B. CARUSO Associated Press Writer Dec 21 2:52 PM
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 21, 2005

      Jail Threat Ups Ante for NYC Union Heads

      Associated Press Writer
      Dec 21 2:52 PM US/Eastern

      NEW YORK - The city and state stepped up their
      pressure on striking transit workers Wednesday in
      hopes of forcing them back to work, and a judge said
      sending union leaders to jail was a "distinct
      possibility." State Supreme Court Justice Theodore
      Jones, who is hearing several legal issues related to
      the strike, directed attorneys from the Transport
      Workers Union to bring president Roger Toussaint and
      other top officials before the court Thursday to
      answer to a criminal contempt charge. He said he may
      sentence the union leaders to jail for refusing to end
      the strike, calling such a scenario a "distinct

      Union lawyer Arthur Schwartz said Toussaint and the
      other officials are in negotiations with mediators and
      that hauling them into court could halt the talks.

      The possibility of jail time for union leaders was one
      of several developments Wednesday as millions of New
      Yorkers made their way to work in another
      bone-chilling commute without subways and buses.

      Michael A. Cardozo, New York City's corporation
      counsel, asked the judge to issue an order directing
      union members to return to work. If the order is
      granted, Cardozo said, the city could ask for
      $25,000-a- day fines per worker _ a punishment that
      goes beyond the docked-pay penalty that workers
      already are experiencing for the illegal strike.

      "We're doing everything possible to make the union
      obey the law," he said, adding that union members need
      to "realize the economic consequences of their

      The fines would be at the discretion of the judge, and
      most likely would range from a few hundred dollars to
      a few thousand dollars.

      Meanwhile, New Yorkers were out before sunrise, hoping
      to avoid the long lines and crushing crowds that
      formed at commuter rail stations during rush hour
      Tuesday. Outside Penn Station, several taxis had lined
      up by 7 a.m. to pick up passengers hoping to beat the
      rush. A trip across Manhattan took about 90 minutes.

      "A nightmare, disorganized, especially going home,"
      Aleksandra Radakovic said Wednesday morning in
      describing her commute.

      The White House also spoke out on the strike
      Wednesday, saying federal mediators have offered to
      help end the dispute. "It is unfortunate. We hope that
      the two sides can resolve their differences so that
      the people in New York can get to where they need to
      go," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

      On Tuesday, Jones imposed a huge fine against the
      Transport Workers Union _ $1 million for each day of
      the strike; Schwartz said the fine could deplete the
      union's treasury in the matter of days. The union
      vowed to immediately appeal.

      In addition, the union's 33,000 members already face
      the loss of two days pay for every day they are on
      strike. That means a prolonged strike could quickly
      eat up any increased pay they would get with a new

      Some of the strikers got an early start Wednesday,
      donning union placards and returning to their picket
      lines. Bill McRae, a bus driver since 1985, said he
      thought negotiations should have continued _ but he
      still backed the walkout.

      "The union executives called for a strike, and we have
      to do what we have to do," McRae said on Manhattan's
      West Side.

      Transit officials said about 1,000 transit workers
      came to work Tuesday despite the strike, and they were
      put to work cleaning and doing paperwork.

      As they did on the first day of the strike, throngs of
      pedestrians, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, on
      Wednesday braced themselves against the 24-degree
      weather and crossed the Brooklyn Bridge into
      Manhattan. Volunteers awaited them, offering hot

      Bloomberg urged transit workers to end the strike.

      "All the transit workers have to do is listen to their
      international (union) that's urged them to go back to
      work, listen to the judge who ordered them back to
      work, and look at their families and their own
      economic interests," he said. "They should go back to
      work. Nobody's above the law, and everyone should obey
      the law."

      The International TWU, the union's parent, had urged
      the local not to go on strike. Its president, Michael
      O'Brien, reiterated Tuesday that the striking workers
      were legally obligated to resume working. The only way
      to a contract, he said, is "not by strike but
      continued negotiation."

      Police say there have been no strike-related crimes,
      injuries or arrests with the exception of two minor

      On Tuesday night, a cab driver was arrested on the
      Upper East Side for allegedly assaulting a woman in
      his cab after they got into an argument over the fare.
      She sustained minor injuries. And earlier Tuesday, a
      police officer was accidentally bumped by a flatbed
      truck at a checkpoint in Queens.

      "The city is functioning, and functioning well
      considering the severe circumstances," Bloomberg said
      before ripping into the union.

      The TWU "shamefully decided they don't care about the
      people they work for, and they have no respect for the
      law," the mayor said.

      In its last offer before negotiations broke down, the
      MTA had proposed maintaining a retirement age of 55
      but increasing what new hires contribute to the
      pension plan. It would require new employees to pay 6
      percent of their wages for their first 10 years,
      rather than the current 2 percent. Union officials
      said that such a change was unacceptable.

      "Were it not for the pension piece, we would not be
      out on strike," Toussaint said in an interview with
      NY1. "All it needs to do is take its pension proposal
      off the table."

      The union said the latest MTA offer included annual
      raises of 3 percent, 4 percent and 3.5 percent; the
      previous proposal included 3 percent raises each year.

      The MTA asked the Public Employment Relations Board to
      formally declare an impasse, the first step toward
      forcing binding arbitration of the contract, said
      James Edgar, the board's executive director.
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