Transit union president gets out of jail 2 days early


NEW YORK (AP) – Transit Workers Union President Roger Toussaint, who began serving a 10-day jail term earlier this week for leading an illegal subway and bus strike last December, was released Friday on good behavior.

Toussaint left the Bernard K. Kerik jail complex in Lower Manhattan and walked across the street to address a waiting cheering throng of about 100 supporters who chanted boisterously: “Roger! Roger! Toussaint!”

A passing city bus driver honked in approval.

Wearing a lightweight black union jacket with the words “President Local 100” woven into the fabric, Toussaint thanked the Department of Correction and its staff for “making sure that I was afforded dignity and respect while I was incarcerated.”

He told his union members “to stand strong and firm and never allow our organization to be broken or even bullied.”

A judge earlier this month found Toussaint in contempt of court for leading the walkout, which was illegal under the state Taylor Law that bars public employees from striking. The three-day strike crippled the nation’s largest mass transit at the height of the holiday shopping season.

Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Theodore Jones had sentenced Toussaint to 10 days in jail and fined him $1,000. Toussaint turned himself in on Monday evening. The Department of Correction determined that Toussaint was eligible to have his sentence reduced to seven days for good behavior.

Because the seventh day of his sentence would fall on a Sunday, he was released Friday, the department said in a statement.

Toussaint told supporters there were efforts to try to “crush” their union. Part of that effort, he said, in a reference to Jones, was “a judge who evidently was selected and placed on a mission and rewarded for that mission.”

All of this, he said, was an effort to intimidate working people and anyone who speaks out.

He complained that the “Taylor Law is a bad law, an unequal law, and it needs to be fixed.”

Until the city, state and the country ensure that working people have a decent wage and a secure retirement, Toussaint said, “struggle and defiance and unfortunately sacrifice will occur.”

As supporters waved signs that read “TWU Says Pay MTA, A Deal is a Deal,” he said all of the country’s leaders need to understand this.

The judge also fined the 33,000-member union $2.5 million and blocked it from automatically deducting union dues from members’ paychecks.

After thanking the crowd for their support, Toussaint was escorted to a big luxury black SUV.

AP-ES-04-28-06 1210EDT