Winning the Contract Struggle and Beyond

If the MTA cuts our health benefits before December, and we have to strike, we’ll have to strike all-out, not limiting our demands to health benefits. We have to decide soon, in democratic General Membership Meetings, on our demands. Otherwise, we may find ourselves struggling like crazy for peanuts, or worse, givebacks.

A strike cannot be sustained if workers don’t think it’s worth it. A strike must have aims which are both achievable, and inspiring. We suggest the following general demands, which we’d bet most members already support:

As President Toussaint says, what determines the struggle’s outcome is the relationship of forces between the MTA and the workers, not the justice of our demands. It follows that if we are strong enough to win non-contributory health insurance for active and retired members, we’ll be strong enough to win higher wages, “dignity” and so on.

United Working-Class Action

Local 100 has the power to win these demands. Without us keeping the subways and buses moving, the city’s economy would shut down. And that’s precisely the awesome power that we have – the power to strike.

But Toussaint and Co. do all they can to avoid using this power. Their preferred method is to depend on capitalist Democratic and Republican Party politicians, “community organizations” and the “riding public,” and is the same as the old guard’s, even if Toussaint is more energetic about it. The capitalist politicians are the enemies of all workers. And since we’re in the public sector, they’re our bosses! “Community groups” are generally social worker and lawyer outfits set up to pressure the same capitalist politicians. Toussaint’s outreach to the riding public is the same kind of lobbying and pressure-group tactics.

The “riding public,” however, is the working class of the metro area. They have the same interests as we do. We’ve already pointed out in the lead article that anger at poor quality, expensive and inaccessible health care is widespread throughout the working class. A powerful struggle by transit workers in defense of our health benefits could win massive support, and even inspire a broader struggle for free, quality health care for all workers.

Further, to win popular support for our contract struggle we should, at a minimum, put forward contract demands for No Fare Increases or Service Cuts. More important, transit workers, because of our central position in the region, can show the way forward for all workers to defend themselves against the growing capitalist attacks on our jobs, income and benefits.

Revolutionary Party Leadership

Contract struggles are important opportunities to defend our interests as workers. But no matter how good a contract is as a result of our struggles, it doesn’t deal with the source of the problems we face. The capitalists control the political and economic system. We can try to slow down the attacks and lessen the exploitation, but we can’t stop it under capitalism. As economic crisis inevitably takes its grip on the profit-system, the economic attacks on the working class, and the racist and other attacks that go along with them, will only get worse.

The only real way to stop exploitation and attacks is through a socialist revolution that overthrows capitalism. Such a revolution would put in place a workers’ state, a government based on the interests of all workers, that would re-direct the economy from producing for private profit, to producing an abundance of what people need. In this way, a new socialist society free of all want and oppression could be built.

We need to begin building a revolutionary workers’ party to lead the struggle for socialism. This means fighting for revolutionary leadership in the unions which are today the most powerful organizations of the working class. Revolutionary change will not take place overnight. Still, we need a revolutionary leadership right now so that our current fights and struggles become a means to build our power, strength and fighting spirit and not end up in unnecessary defeats and demoralization as they do so often under the current leadership of the unions.

In transit, this would mean relying on mass mobilization and mass action. It would mean building real mass political actions, such as a general strike against the capitalist attacks on transit workers and all workers, instead of the lobbying and sucking up to the bosses’ politicians, which gets us nowhere.

More and more workers are seeing that things are getting worse. Beat back one attack and the bosses hit us with another. In the long run, we have two choices. We can accept the fact that the system will screw us and just try to make the best of it, only to find that life gets worse and worse. Or, we can stand up and fight for the only real alternative to a world of ever worse exploitation, oppression, and war – socialism.

For us, that means offering guidance to our fellow workers in every immediate fight, such as the upcoming transit contract struggle, and using this to prove our socialist strategy and the need to build a revolutionary workers’ party to lead the struggle.