Being fined for NOT breaking the law


As just about everyone who lives in New York City is aware, the Transit Workers Union went on strike in December 2005 for three days. Under the state’s Taylor Law, the strike was illegal and the strikers were subject to some pretty harsh fines, including the loss of two days’ pay for each day that they were out on strike.

Of course, not all employees went along with the strike. Some actually obeyed the law, defied the union and showed up for work.

Now, the TWU is passing a resolution to fine the workers who didn’t go on strike two days’ pay for each day of the strike (plus loss of seniority and other perks). In the words of a union committee statement:

In other words, they made it harder for the union to break the law again!

I know that this is the Pit (and I put it here out of a sense of outrage), but I have a GQ for this as well: Could such a fine be legal? Can the union really fine it’s members for not breaking the law? And if it’s not legal, I think the New York Legislature* has to act quickly to make sure that such fines are not legal and that strikebreakers in an illegal strike are not punished by the union which broke the law.

Zev Steinhardt

*Yeah, I know. Getting the New York State Legislature to do anything is like asking an ant to move a mountain – but that’s a separate Pit thread.


Ummm…the strike being illegal under the Taylor Law, I would think anyone refusing to pay such fines and suing their employer if the fines are withheld from their pay by employer/union arrangement would win in court without requiring anyone to try to get the State Senate and Assembly to agree on anything (which I agree is about as likely as a hurricane forming in Long Island Sound).
– Poly (who personally knew and liked Don Taylor)

I know nothing about New York union law, but I can’t see any circumstance in which the TWU could actually enforce those fines.
They may have the ability to toss the offending workers out of the union, but that’s about it.


Sometimes breaking the law is the right thing to do.

Which, true or not, is entirely irrelevant to the discussion.

I also don’t know anything about New York or Union law, but I’m quite happy to shoot my mouth off.

My understanding is that one of the most basic tenets of contract law is that a contract that requires an illegal action is unenforceable. Whatever contract the union members have with the union regarding strike breaking or fines, it can’t be enforced if those things are against the law. Since the fine is a direct result of attempting to inforce an illegal contract, the union’s out of luck.

Just one more reason that I’m glad A:) I work for the federal government, and B:) even if I didn’t, I work in a “Right To Work” state. Fuck unions.

~Fush, who doesn’t understand why NYC didn’t just can the whole lot of the striking mo-fos.

Actually, I do know why. Training and all that. But if Ronnie Regan did it back in the 80’s…

True, but it sure as hell wasn’t right in this case.

I just had a talk with my dad (retired NYC bus driver, now living in Hawaii) about the strike. He told me that his garage in Flushing was covered by a different union (Amalgamated). The last time the TWU went on strike, Amalgamated did not; however, the MTA refused to let them show up for work–it locked them out, and declared that they, too, were on strike. So these workers, in a different union, who didn’t strike and tried to show up for work were locked out by their employer and required to pay the Taylor fine.

People who attempted to take vacation when they knew the strike was coming were investigated; some managed to keep their pay and didn’t have to cough up the fines, and others got screwed. My dad saw which way the wind was blowing and took vacation. He got to keep his pay and we were damned lucky–we had no other source of income.

If the MTA could do that to an entire union that didn’t strike at all, I don’t see why the TWU couldn’t do it to their own members who refused to strike. It’s terrible and unfair and it sucks and should be stopped.

Interestingly, the MTA did not do that this time either. The MTA is in the process of integrating the former Command Bus lines into the MTA. At the time of the strike, the MTA ran the lines, but the drivers were not a part of the TWU. Five bus lines from the former Command Bus were the only city buses that were running.

As an aside, it seems from the story that regular TWU workers who showed up for work were not subject to the Taylor Law penalties. It would seem that the MTA acted much better in this strike than in the last one.

Zev Steinhardt

You have the most amazing ability, with every post, to come off like a bigger dumbfuck than the post before. It’s truly uncanny.

Oh shove it up your ass. The time of unions here in the United States has come and past. Do you really believe that the absurdity that the TWU demanded, or that other unions demand for their members, can honestly be considered protecting its membership? Do you think that without a union, the riders in NYC are in any more danger?


Stinkpalms opinion below and I will not be providing cites so don’t ask

Unions are why 1000s of jobs are moving overseas everyday. Unions force companies to WAY overpay people who have no more than basic motor skills. Paying some guy $25/hr to put widget A in hole B 8 hours a day 200 days a year is horseshit. This is why it’s so expensive to manufacture shit in the US. Because unions want all of these high school educated laborers to be paid as much as a college educated manager. Back in the day unions were there to make sure laborers were being treated fairly. Now they are around to see how much they can soak US corporations for.

I say fuck the unions too. I’m in the military and have 3 union civilians working for me and the restrictions put on me as a supervisor are fucking ridiculous.

Yup…they succed in doing two things that I have observed. First, they drive up wages so that companies that used to manufacture in the United States move to places where the economy is so depressed that Americans will work cheaper, or move to Mexico…or Guatemala…or wherever. Second, they go on strike and prove to the companies that employ them that their employees are easily replaced. As soon as they show that…they are replaced. Unions are a tax on the system. Their only function is to continue themselves. Unions work for Union reps., not for Union Members. Some day, I hope enough people will realise this that they vote their unions out of their workplace. Unfortunately, the majority of union members aren’t smart enough to realise that when they get their 50c an hour and lose their dental and vision coverage, they are losing.

In an “open shop” state that’s true; but in a “closed shop” state an employer may not legally have authority to hire replacements except as allowed by exigency protocals. The result is that a union can–and many frequently do–use their leverage to extort demands out of a manufacturer or service provider that have little to do with the improvement of benefits and conditions for their membership. I won’t paint all unions with the broad brush of near-organized crime-type of behavior, but many do engage in practices that serve no other purpose than to wield authority and line the pockets of union leaders at the expense of not only companies, but customers, the local economy, and even their own members. The result is that companies started exporting their manufacturing facilities first to other states and now to other countries where labor laws aren’t so overprotective of union authority. And if you think closed shop states are bad, consider union shops–you pay the union dues whether you choose to belong or not.

I don’t mean to paint unions or their organizers as being all bad guys and the companies as lily-white protectors of lassiez-faire capitalism–clearly, unions exist because there are no small number of companies who would take advantage of employees inability to individually hold their employeers accountable–but unions do hold the legal advantage in many states and enjoy an eggregious degree of protectionism in the courts. I was once an employee (exempt) of a company in which union organizers (UAW) attempted to create a union; company officers were prohibited from publically speaking out against the union and organizer activities, while organizers routinely exaggerated or even outright lied about the services and protections that they would provide; and even though the union was voted down (resoundingly) three times, they were able to keep coming back in and behave in a disruptive fashion (organizing informational meetings during work hours, “inspecting” labor procedures, et cetera) without recourse.

Unions aren’t the only reason jobs are going oversees; Americans, in general, have become to a higher standard of living, greater educational and employment opportunities, et cetera, and so unions or no, it’s cheaper to off-shore many types of work, including nominally professional services like computer support, programming, engineering, et cetera. The United States is effectively a post-Industrial nation for whom manufacturing is becoming a less significant part of our economic infrastructure. That is neither good or bad, though it does make us increasingly dependent on other nations for duriable goods; it is essentially the same thing that happened when US agriculture became industrialized, devistating family farms and local producers. For customers, lower prices were a good thing; ditto with foreign-made commodity goods today. But we have to be able to justify our place in the ecnomic chain; selling speculative real estate back and forth to each other isn’t going to make us materially richer in the long run.

Anyway, unions: neither absolutely good or bad, but increasingly prone to making outrageous demands and contributing to the impetus to procure goods and services offshore. As for the TWU’s fines, it seems unenforcible to me–as others have noted, the fine is based upon a contractual provision that would otherwise require the recipient to violate the law, which would ordinarily nullify the contract–but labor law is notoriously convoluted and outstandingly arbitrary. It’s a pisser, but so it goes.


I’m sure the union can fine the members. I’m also sure that the MTA will have no part in collecting the fines (the TWU will be lucky if they don’t lose their dues checkoff privilige for along time). The only way the union can enforce the fines is to expel those who don’t pay them from the union. Big deal- I know someone who was expelled from our civil servant nion- she lost a few insurance discounts and the right to vote in union elections. They still had to represent her, because she was still an agency fee payer.

You don’t like unions eh ?

How about when the Government breaks it own laws on discrimination between the sexes, who will fight such a case when it will cost the Governement tens of mi££ions of £’s ?

The background to this case is that the employer concerned evaluated all the work carried out by certain grades of employee and then scored them on points in value to the employer.

The points were related to responsibility and work content, and when it discovered that the administration staff took lots of responsibility in terms of finance, in ensuring that prisoners had their parole cases heard competantly and the myriad other things, then the points awarded merited higher pay for many of those staff.£50m+equal+pay+bill+.htm

Please bear in mind that the employer in this case had actually lost in court previously, had agreed at pay negotiations to rectify their pay system, and then simply gone back on its commitment and had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the courts again by the union.

Oh…and who would have fought this woman’s case for her when she was hounded by her bullying manager ?

Maybe we should let the employer behave as disgracefully as it likes eh ?

What actually happened is that the employer simply ignored its own findings. despite the fact that it effectively awarded lower pay to women than to men who carry out work of equal value to the employer, note, this does not mean the same work.

Its taken a total of 10 years, 7 of those in the courts, with the employer agreeing that the employees were in the right, but yet still refusing to agree terms.

By dragging out their stone age male/female pay policy in the courts, this has resulted in a huge backpay compensation build up, at least £50 millions, and with pension entitlements it could be a good deal more.

Please remember that the 1957 cases so far are simply test cases, a class action if you will and it has established in law that the employer was wrong.

Of course, all the previous posters condemning the unions must(to use their logic of hyperbole and brad sweeping genralistaions) would obviously prefer that employers were free and unfettered in the persuit of breaking the law of the land, and would prefer that unions didn’t fight discrimination, you’ll note how sweeping this latter statement is, just as the posts of others are sweeping in their genralisations of anti union rhetoric.

Don’t you think that being part of the military shields youself from a great many of the problems that non-military staff face, such as instant dismissal, having done my time in the military myself, I also used to look down on unions, until I left the military and became one of those workers, suddenly a lot of the security and perks went, and suddenly I realised things were not as I had led myself to believe.

Many of those restrictions have their roots back in the day when employers were just exploiters, using casual labour and providing their employees without employment security from one day to the next, where gangmasters would pick and choose who to employ from the queues outside the gates, promotion and careers non-existant, and anyone raising so much as a murmer about safety would be dismissed on the spot.

Some unions do stupid things that are not in their memebers interests, nor the public, but so do employers, its way too broad a sweep you make with that brush.

If you don’t like the union in the NYC transport strike, and you think that they were wrong, then fine, but to then include all unions and try to bring in some wider debate where you stereotype all unions in all situations when you actually don’t provide cites, and appear to simply hold your own biased opinion is just poor intellectual rigour.

If you wish to comment upon a specific situation where a company moved its production overseas then do so, but also remember this, there is no way that any US workforce would be prepared to work for the same pay and conditions as, say, an Indian, or a Chinese and the gap between them is so great that production will always move to such areas where costs are lowest.

What it does show is that the consumer is only interested in low prices, not in anything else, and screw the US factory, that’s capitalism, and it shows you just how employers would behave in the US if they could get away with it, and this would drag down you own pay and conditions as the bad employer undercuts the poor, and is in turn undercut by the worst.

Never mind, maybe you like your knee to twitch, without any intervention from your upper conscuisness, some of us prefer to use the thing that sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom.

That may be true in the UK, I don’t really know. But unions in the US have gotten too large and too powerful. There are departments in my office I couldn’t get into without joining the union, which totally sucks. As was mentioned earlier, the day that unions were really needed are basically over. That’s not to say that some places don’t need help, but in general unions are outdated.

I’ll bet that the central point of my post still holds good, that there are some bad unions, just as there are bad employers and that there has been a massive over-generalisation.

You don’t read much about the mundane stuff that unions do on behalf of their membership, such as training, anti sex discrimination, enforcing health and safety matters, or simply welfare work for the memebers and their families following illness injury and death.

Its not very newsworthy, and in a nation that at present seems to be hostile to collectivist rights and basic humanity, (by this I mean the administration), it makes good propaganda.

I will not comment on the NYC transport strike, maybe in this case the union is wrong, but somewhere there will be issues that have not been given a great deal of publicity, and the media and the populace will only be interested in the inconvenience to them.

I’m non-union working with mostly union people who are horribly (mis)represented by their union. We can’t give our guys raises, because they are union. We can’t give them comp. time, because they are union. We can’t train them to do more advanced job responsibilities, because they are union. They have to bring a doctor’s excuse to use sick time, I just call in sick. They get 10 to 15 days of paid vacation that expires in a year, I get 22 days that expire after 2 years. They pay about twice what I do for medical.

They didn’t get fired for striking, but lots of records of every time they were found napping on the job, taking a long lunch, clocking out late or in early, and neglecting their job duties started getting pulled out of unofficial files and put in people’s work records. With enough documentation, you can get rid of even union workers. This particular strike ended with a contract that existing workers get more money than new hires. To meet the budget under the new contract, old workers had to go and all of them were ripe for the picking because they all always took naps, clocked in early and out late, stole cleaning supplies, etc. This type of contract is becoming more and more common and hurts long-time employees.