On behalf of all the city’s scumbag profiteers, Billionaire Bloomberg and Millionaire Pataki have been calling us “greedy” for weeks. Now they’ve got a judge hitting our union with fines of a million dollars a day. They’re even talking about arresting Local 100’s leaders! But we know we are on the side of justice. United, we can beat these attempts at union busting. Our victorious strike will inspire workers everywhere.
The MTA’s “final offer” of outrageous attacks on pensions, healthcare, wages and working conditions amounted to a declaration of war on Local 100 and the entire working class. In the face of the bosses’ threats, Local 100 members stood firm. We warned them that if they insisted on these attacks there’d be a strike. Now they’ve got one.
The Local 100 leadership at first hesitated and let our contract expire on December 16 without a strike. But ranks responded immediately to the Executive Board’s decision to strike on the 20th. In safe and orderly fashion, they shut the system down like clockwork. They set up picket lines throughout the system. Many hundreds of transit workers joined in, as did workers from other unions and still other workers with no union at all, who know our fight is for all working-class people.
Picket lines are the backbone of our strike. Keeping them strong, in spite of fatigue and the bitter cold, is essential. But with the bosses and politicians escalating their attacks we need a plan to step our strike up. We must show we’re more committed than ever. Here are our suggestions:
As we explain in our history of the 1966 transit strike (see How Local 100 Won the Strike of ’66), Local 100 won amnesty from anti-strike fines that time and it must do the same now. So far, President Toussaint has not raised this demand. In fact there have been plenty of signs that he’s merely hoping to lead a strike whose gains mitigate the fines. Indeed one union leaflet against scabbing says that in our strike “we all go out, and we all will be subject to Taylor Law penalties. Don’t try to find a way out of it.” This is hardly encouraging. Transit workers have shown real courage in being prepared to take fines in the interest of our just cause. But we can’t risk mounting fines weakening our morale, and there’s no need to. In the 1966 strike, then-Local 100 President Mike Quill demanded amnesty and the workers won it. President Toussaint must raise the same demand this time.
Bloomberg’s acting tough in front of television cameras. To show we’re not intimidated, Local 100 should organize a massive picket of City Hall. During the 1966 transit strike, Local 100 President Quill did this to then-Mayor Lindsay. It was a key to the strike’s victory and we should follow that example. We should call on President Toussaint to mobilize for this, call on the other unions to mobilize their workers for it and call on strike supporters throughout the city to join the picket as well. If we find out that Bloomberg is out on the Brooklyn Bridge demagogically rallying commuters like he did on the first day of the strike, let’s confront the bastard! If he’s hiding in his Brooklyn bunker, let’s picket there and show who’s really scared! And if Toussaint doesn’t lead this, rank-and-file transit workers will have to take the lead themselves.
Power only respects power. In negotiations with management, President Toussaint offered a number of concessions. He said he was willing to lower our wage raise demand from 8% a year to 6% in return for a promise that management would file fewer disciplinary charges against us. He also said he would accept some of the MTA’s rotten broadbanding demands and probably offered other givebacks. He shouldn’t have made these concessions in the first place. He must now withdraw them in response to these new attacks. Now that we are on strike it only makes sense to fight for: A Big Wage Raise! and No Broadbanding–NONE!
LIRR and MetroNorth workers’ unions have agreed not to cross our picket lines. That’s great. But those two systems are being used as part of the Mayor and Governor’s “contingency plans” to break our strike. Many LIRR and MetroNorth workers have already said they are in favor of striking in solidarity. Some of those workers are working without contracts and have a personal interest in striking now to win their demands. President Toussaint should call on those unions to strike now. If they don’t, we should call on our fellow workers in these unions to force a strike. This can pave the way toward even broader strike action.
The AFL-CIO Central Labor Council’s President Brian McLaughlin has declared his support for our struggle. So have numerous other union leaders. The Taylor Law that Bloomberg and Pataki are trying to use to smash our union is used as a weapon against all the city’s public sector unions. Indeed, on the first day of our strike, Bloomberg told a press conference he was looking to force similar changes to the pensions and healthcare of all other city workers that the MTA is trying to force on us. To defend Local 100, the right to strike, and the wages, pensions and healthcare of all city workers, President Toussaint should call on the CLC to back a strike by all the public sector unions. Again, if their leaders refuse, we should encourage their members to force a strike.
Spreading the strike in this way will inevitably raise the question of bringing out all the unions in a General Strike to beat back the bosses’ union busting. The entire working class is facing attacks on its wages, healthcare and pensions and will rally to our struggle if there is a strong call for them to join with us. If the MTA and politicians don’t back down in the face of spreading strike action, a powerful general strike will be necessary and could force them to their knees, begging for it to be over.
Local 100’s strike is holding the line on wages, pensions and healthcare for the rest of the city’s working class. Other union workers understand that, as well as the fact that we’re fighting for their right to strike. But Bloomberg and Pataki are posing as defenders of commuters. We must expose their hypocritical claims to care about working people and rally public support for our strike. One obvious way to do this is to make No Fare Hikes or Service Cuts! a contract demand. One reason why our strike has already had so much support from the public is that they know they’ve been getting screwed over by the MTA for years. We can turn their sympathy into active solidarity by showing that we are the true defenders of the working class and poor and even of the middle-class ridership. This is essential for our strike to win.
RTW wants to hear our fellow workers’ ideas for taking the strike forward. This struggle is unleashing transit workers’ creativity and we are sure there are other ideas that should be supported.
At the same time, we are convinced that the six steps listed above are essential. Local 100 members can fight for them by helping distribute this edition of RTW and by making placards with these demands to display on the picket lines. But what is most important is calling on all Local 100 elected officials, from the Division level to the Executive Board and President, to adopt these demands and tactics and fight like hell to put them into effect.
The unity in struggle of Local 100 against the bosses is now more important than ever. As long as President Toussaint and the Executive Board are standing up to the bosses, we will stand with them 100%. But we do not trust them.
RTW believes that President Toussaint’s refusal to call a strike in our last contract fight and the deal he stuck us with (including behind-inflation wage “raises” and the giving up of our no-layoff clause) was a horrible betrayal. We believe he was looking for a similar deal this time but the bosses demanded way more givebacks than he thought he could sell to the ranks. Indeed, the concessions to management that we know he made on our wage demands and broadbanding are sure signs that he was trying to cut a rotten deal, to be sealed with another hug of MTA boss Kalikow like last time.
We cannot trust Toussaint not to try to end our strike with such a deal. All transit workers should stand with him for as long as he is fighting the bosses. But all of us should be ready to oppose any concessions he may make, and be prepared to take the fight forward if he attempts an outright sellout.
From RTW’s perspective, these leaders cannot be trusted because they accept the limits of the capitalist system. That is why we fight for a revolutionary socialist leadership. We know that many of our fellow transit workers want to make this the strongest possible, winning strike, and don’t trust the current leadership to make it happen. But most do not yet agree with us on why this is, or on the need for a revolutionary socialist party. Therefore we are ready to join with other militants in calling for a local-wide strike committee, elected from our picket lines. Such a committee would support and pressure our current leaders as long as they bring our struggle forward. But it could prepare to replace them if and when they try to betray our strike movement. In the course of struggles like this, we are confident that many more workers will come to agree with our commitment to overthrowing the capitalist system, and will join with us to build the party that we need to lead our all struggles to victory.
Today we can all agree that our union and our struggle needs a fighting leadership and we can take steps in that direction. In the course of united action, we revolutionary workers are confident that more workers will come to agree with us about the need to fight against capitalism altogether. More workers will join with us to build the party that we really need, to lead unite the struggles of the working class and the oppressed for the goal of overthrowing this miserable system altogether.
RTW wants to become a voice for all transit workers. So let us know what’s happening in your division, either in the union or on the job. If we think your letter raises issues that are important for all transit workers to read, we’ll publish it in RTW.
Let us know what you think of our views. If you agree, let us know. If you disagree, let’s discuss it.
Write to us at:
RTW, P.O. Box 1936
Murray Hill Station
New York, NY 10156
Or send us an e-mail!