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City to Drop Lawsuit Against Transit Strikers

The New York Times

The city has agreed to drop a lawsuit seeking huge financial penalties against individual members of the city’s main transit union, while the union has accepted terms for payment of $2.5 million in fines assessed against it for its 60-hour strike in December.

The deal did not appear to bring Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union or the Metropolitan Transportation Authority any closer to the bargaining table, or to a settlement of their stalled contract. But it tied up legal loose ends for a union that is already under financial duress, and had been threatened with more fines.

Michael A. Cardozo, the city’s corporation counsel, appeared in court on Dec. 13, before the transit strike, and said the city would seek $25,000 in fines from each Local 100 member on the first day they walked off the job, and that the amount would double on each day of a strike.

Citing the economic disruption that a subway shutdown would cause the city, he said it would seek $1 million more a day from the union itself.

In a the deal disclosed yesterday, and signed by Justice Theodore T. Jones of State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, the city is to receive the $2.5 million already assessed against the union for violating the state’s Taylor law, which prohibits strikes by public employees. The payments will be made in 12 monthly installments starting June 1.

“No further purpose would be served by the city pursuing its own lawsuit,” said Georgia Pestana, chief of the labor law division of the city’s Law Department. She said the $2.5 million penalty would “warn the T.W.U. and other unions that contemplate violating the law that the law must be obeyed, and that public employees and their unions have no right to betray the public’s trust.”

“The city is pleased that the T.W.U. has agreed to promptly begin paying the $2.5 million penalty,” Ms. Pestana said.

The deal also provides the union with some breathing space in a separate penalty imposed by Justice Jones, who ordered that the automatic payroll checkoff of Local 100’s union dues be discontinued by the authority. Local 100 had said that the elimination of dues deductions from members’ paychecks was the harshest penalty confronting the union, since it would severely limit its ability to collect money and pay its bills.

Under the agreement, dues checkoffs will remain in place until the final installment of the $2.5 million fine is paid. Then, after three months, the union can apply to the court to have the checkoff reinstated.

Roger Toussaint, the president of Local 100, said yesterday that the agreement, by allowing dues checkoffs for another year, would provide an opportunity to “permanently replace dues checkoff with direct payments to the union.”

“We will use this as a challenge to reinvent Local 100 into a union driven by one-on-one contact with its members,” he said.

He also maintained that the Taylor Law was unfair, and that legislation was needed to protect workers from “out-of-control bureaucracies like the M.T.A.”

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