The ILO said the Taylor Law ban on public sector strikes violates the Freedom of Association protected under ILO Conventions 87 and 98. While the United States never ratified those conventions, the US is an original founding member of the ILO and agreed to the ILO Constitution so the United States is bound by the principles of these conventions through the original treaty according to this decision. The Daily News noted that the US stands with a handful of nations such as China and the Sudan in not ratifying the Conventions. That says a great deal about where this country stands.
The complaint was filed by the Transit Workers Union in 2009 because of what happened in 2005 when the TWU staged a three day strike which led to a judge imposing the harsh Taylor Law penalties on the union. As a result then union president Roger Toussaint went to jail, strikers were fined two days pay for each day of the strike and the union almost went broke after it lost automatic dues check-off for eighteen months.
Subsequently, the next TWU contract was decided by arbitration but the employer, New York City Transit, would not implement that judgment even after a court sided with the union.
The ILO decision is only symbolic at this time but when a UN agency decides that the law in New York State is violating fundamental worker rights, public sector unions need to go on the offensive to push for a change. Without the right to strike, our hand is severely weakened in any labor dispute.
Perhaps this decision by the UN agency that is made up of representatives from governments, employers and unions will spearhead a change in union outlook toward demanding that the oppressive penalties of the Taylor Law should be abolished. The UFT should take the lead in this movement as we now have the weight of a United Nations’ agency upholding our right to peacefully strike.
As of today, I still have not seen any reaction to the ILO judgment from the UFT. It should be noted that TWU’s current contract expires in January.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone. You can read the entire decision from ILO here.
PS- Since our last post, my wife Camille, our friend Stuart from Springfield and I had the pleasure of attending Barbara Kaplan-Halper's retirement party. UFT was represented by District Representative James Vasquez.
Barbara served with me on the UFT Executive Board for three years. She was the Chapter Leader at Forest Hills High School for many years. We wish her many, many happy and healthy years in retirement.