Despite rough times, TWU spends $2 million on big trips to Great Adventure
Being in a financial hole didn’t stop the former leaders of the transit union from signing off on $2 million for worker getaways at Great Adventure.
According to information obtained by amNewYork, the cash-strapped Transport Workers Union Local 100 organized and dished out big bucks so its members could ride roller-coasters, chow on a buffet and groove to music at the New Jersey fun park.“We’re currently investigating all expenditures of the union from the last several years,” said Israel Rivera, TWU’s new secretary treasurer. Attendees got all the food, rides and games they could stomach, but still had to pay at least $60 a pop for tickets.
“I can’t remember the last time I saw so many union members having such a great time,” acting TWU president Curtis Tate said at the time.
Union dues are about $12 a week and go to lobbying, worker training and staff salaries. Last year, the union had a budget of nearly $30 million, according to accounting records.
Since 2001, the 38,000-member union has held a “Family Day” for workers and their kin, with dues, donations and tickets covering the cost. The event initially took place at Rye Playland and cost at least $500,000 for the park, said former TWU president Roger Toussaint, who helped orchestrate the trips.
But after the 2005 transit strike, the TWU was fined $2.5 million and dues weren’t automatically collected, so the union scaled back the event for several years, Toussaint said Thursday. The venue in 2008, for example, only cost $79,000, records show.
But in 2008, leaders wanted to throw a blowout after some difficult years, agreeing to pay $1.7 million to close off Six Flags Great Adventure for thousands of members and their families in June 2009, Toussaint said.“The rides and the food were unforgettable,” Barry Roberts said, the TWU’s vice president at the time. Meanwhile, the TWU was confronted by hundreds of thousands of dollars in unforeseen expenses last year, such as attorney fees for TWU’s ongoing contract dispute.
The union ran deficits of more than $5 million between 2007 and 2009, and was forced to tap coveted funds from the sale of its headquarters in 2006.
“We were truly surprised at the bad state of the union’s finances,” said current TWU president John Samuelsen, who has had to lay off staff since taking office earlier this month.
Toussaint defended the Great Adventure trip, saying he couldn’t cancel the reservation and agreed to renegotiate the contract after times had gotten tough. Instead of closing the park, the $1.7 million covered two trips for members in 2009 and a future date this year. Toussaint accused the current administration of playing politics, as they were aware of the deal, he said. This is a political issue more than anything else,” Toussaint said.
Rivera said the new administration will investigate all previous TWU financial dealings.
“All records will be made public to the members,” he said.
It was unclear by press time if this year’s trip is still on.