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Transport Workers Union Can Automatically Collect Dues Again

November 13, 2008
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The Transport Workers Union on Monday, November 10, regained the right to have dues automatically collected from members’ paychecks after a pledge by its president that the union does not intend to strike in the future.

A Brooklyn judge had prevented the union from automatically collecting dues from its 38,000 members for the past 17 months as a penalty for the 60-hour strike that brought the city to a standstill in December 2005. The union was also hit with a $2.5 million fine for the walkout, which violated the Taylor Law barring public sector unions from striking.

Though many members continued paying dues, stripping the union of having the dues automatically deducted from paychecks, called “check-off,” was a staggering blow to the union. “The impact on the union’s finances has been severe,” union president Roger Toussaint wrote in a court affidavit.

The Transport Workers’ Union had the ability to reapply for dues check-off beginning in September 2007, but the Bloomberg administration, which had been incensed at the three-day strike, filed an amicus brief insisting that check-off should not be reinstated until the union made it clear that it would not strike in the future.

The union had previously said it did not assert the right to strike, but in a filing last month, Toussaint affirmed that the union would not strike in the future, a position endorsed by the union’s executive board.

“The union does not assert the right to strike,” Toussaint pledged. “And … the union has no intention now or in the future of conducting … any such strike.”

Although the pledge makes it unlikely that the union would strike under Toussaint’s leadership, it’s unclear if it would be binding under a new president. There has been one transit strike roughly every 20 years dating to the 1960s.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which had sought the initial check-off penalty, and the city, which had fought against its reinstatement, dropped their opposition in exchange for Toussaint’s vow not to strike.

“New Yorkers can rest easier now that the TWU has finally pledged to the court that it will obey the law and not conduct another illegal strike,” said Michael Cardozo, corporation counsel for the city.

Filed by Daniel Massey of Crain’s New York Business, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce com.

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