It is becoming clearer each day that the MTA and the courts have just about succeeded in making the TWU's Roger Toussaint a hero and a martyr. Yesterday's long march across the Brooklyn Bridge seems to have cemented the iconization of Roger as the symbol of a besieged labor movement. As Barry Feinstein, MTA Board member and former labor leader told the Times, "There is little or no value in locking up a labor leader-it inflames people."
Well, not quite. There certainly is a value to Toussaint because martyrdom serves to deflect attention away from all of his blunders and, in addition, makes him once again the favorite to win re-election. Roger seems to have his heroic role down pat. As he marched off to the Tombs he told reporters, in response to his contempt of court conviction, "The truth of the matter is I have nothing but contempt for a system that gives employers free rein to abuse worker."
One does wonder what would happen if all of the transit workers were let go tomorrow. Our prediction is that tens of thousands of New Yorkers would be getting in line for the chance to get "abused" in an MTA job. The fact remains, however, that Toussaint's union opponents have their work cut out for them.
The reality that will help them lies in the arduous nature of the contract negotiations, a process that will undoubtedly drag on for months. Hopefully, in the months ahead the aura of martyrdom will have faded and Local 100's members will cooly face the mess that Jolly Roger has gotten them into.