December’s elections swept out the corrupt old guard in TWU Local 100. They rejected the boss-loving policies of International President Sonny Hall and his candidate for President, Ed Melendez, and Hall’s previous comrade-in-crime, ex-president Willie James. The members overwhelmingly voted for New Directions, the long-standing reform caucus of Divisional leaders claiming to be a “rank-and-file” group.
This vote shows the members’ desire to stop saying, “Yes, Boss,” and to start fighting back. Our strike movement of November-December 1999, showed our will and ability to mobilize against the MTA, Mayor Giuliani and the other Republican and Democratic party politicians, the cops, the courts and the rest of the capitalists. Only pro-capitalist union misleadership thwarted our struggle. Much of the vote against the old guard came from the members’ disgust at the exposure of the former’s looting of our dues money. But the Local 100 election also expresses the members’ desire to continue, somehow, the blocked struggle of ‘99.
The ND slate continued their dominance in the Track Division Committee. However, undemocratic election rules knocked one ND Vice-Chair candidate, Marc Albritton, off the ballot. The rules require members to attend a certain number of meetings in order to run for Division office. I (Eric Josephson) ran as one of two “Independent” line candidates for the position and won by a 2-vote margin over the lowest scorer, Lennox Charles, with 167 votes out of the 769 cast.
(The minimum meeting rule, by the way, aims at restricting Division officers to a small clique of sell-outs, although honest militants also attend union meetings. I oppose this rule. Any member in good standing should be able to run by being nominated in meetings of the Division or Divisions which the post represents. This can open up the leadership to fighters who are disgusted with bureaucratic meetings.)
I thank everyone who voted for me: I know that for many it wasn’t easy to vote for a communist, especially since Brother Charles got ND’s endorsement. I’d like to think that hard campaigning and a long reputation as a fighter helped me win. My election is far from a mandate. I’ll have to work very hard to show that my program of militant, mass action can defeat MTA attacks and win gains – and further, that our common struggle will show the way to socialist revolution. I expect a lot of pressure and criticism from my fellow members: bring it on! We should have high standards for our leaders and call them on it if they fail to live up to them.
I voted for ND and urged other TWU members to do so – but not to trust ND for a second. They have long been Division leaders in Track, T/O and elsewhere, but they haven’t consistently tried to mobilize the ranks in any Division. Rather, they call in the anti-worker courts, D.A.’s, and other agents of the capitalists’ government to prosecute the workers’ union.
ND didn’t organize our uprising last year, though they were for a time swept up by it. Indeed, ND was afraid of the unleashed power of the ranks. The Taylor Law, the cops, the politicians, Wall Street and the media were against us, but the timing could not have been better for us: had we gone out and stayed out solidly we could have won. ND found themselves in de facto leadership of our movement, and they handed it back to James, Hall and Co. – that is, to the MTA.
In voting for ND, I solidarized with the ranks’ desire to throw out the old guard and clear the way for further struggles. In no way does this mean any let-up in my hard and consistent opposition to ND’s opportunist leadership. They are now on the hot-seat. They can no longer excuse themselves from working for a militant fightback by blaming the old guard’s obstruction. Transit workers will expect results, and I intend to help keep the pressure on ND. As Track Division Vice-Chair, I will be able to do so more effectively.
Toussaint says he wants to mobilize the ranks. Fine! I support every real step to fight the bosses. But I intend to oppose and expose and backsliding, sellouts or betrayals. I’ll continue to warn my fellow workers to trust their own power and mobilization, not the pro-capitalist ND leadership.
We got rid of one bureaucratic obstacle. Now we have to prevent ND from becoming a new entrenched bureaucracy. By placing demands on ND to defend the union and putting forward a strategy of mass action to fight the bosses, I aim to show that the real alternative to bureaucratic betrayals is to build a revolutionary leadership which puts workers’ interests before the capitalist system and fights for socialism.