Spitzer: Hold Union Leaders in Contempt

NEW YORK – State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer on Dec. 21 asked a judge to hold the leadership of a transit union in contempt of court.

“Hopefully, these cumulative sanctions will result in a termination of the strike,” Spitzer said in a statement. “If not, my office will be back in court seeking additional penalties until this strike is ended.”

More than 7 million riders have no choice but to find another means of transportation as 33,000 New York City transit workers are on strike. The transit agency and its 33,000 workers are fighting over wages and pension contributions; the strike is the first since an 11-day strike in 1980.

“Over the last two days, we have seen New Yorkers doing what they have to do to keep our city going,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Dec. 21. “They have stood on long lines to get on commuter trains; they have crowded onto ferries; they have carpooled with strangers. They are brave, resilient and determined.”

In mid-December, Spitzer’s office obtained a court order enjoining the unions and their members from striking. Since transit workers opted to strike, Spitzer’s office asked the court to hold the TWU in contempt, and to impose fines of $1 million per day, doubling every day. The court on Dec. 21 agreed that the union was in contempt of its order, and imposed a $1 million per day fine.

His office also went to court Dec. 21 proceeding against two smaller ATU local unions that represent about 3,000 Queens and Staten Island bus line employees, and asked the judge to hold these smaller unions in contempt and to impose fines of $500,000 per day. A judge found these two local unions in contempt, and imposed per-day fines of $50,000 and $75,000 per day.

Also on Dec. 21, Spitzer’s office asked for contempt sanctions against the leadership of the main TWU union that represents about the vast majority of the transit employees. The union leaders did not appear in court, and so the judge ordered them to appear before state Supreme Court Justice Theodore Jones at 11:00 a.m. Dec. 22.

Officials estimate the city is losing millions of dollars every day of the strike.

“As you know better than most, this strike was forced on us by the MTA,” Union President Roger Toussaint said to Bloomberg in a statement posted on the union’s Web page. “You know this because you share much of the blame. It is your provocative rhetoric about what givebacks we transit workers must accept for the next generation of transit – our children and new immigrants – that has pushed our members beyond the limits of their patience.”