The MTA is stepping up attacks on both transit workers and riders. They are planning to lay workers off and cut bus and train service. Everywhere government agencies and private businesses are cutting back and laying workers off. However, there are attempts to resist these attacks, with protests planned for March 4. The leaders of TWU Local 100 have stated support for the March 4 protests and will hold a demonstration at the MTA hearings on Thursday, March 4, at the Fashion Institute of Technology at 27th street and 7th Avenue
The layoffs are just the most recent attacks, but not the last. The MTA continues to sand-bag the 2009 – 2012 contract, despite its low wage increases and new, broad-banded Station maintenance jobs. The MTA bosses, backed by the rest of the ruling class, from Bloomberg to the racist New York Post, say that even this cheap contract is too good for transit workers.
The MTA’s threat to end free student transport to public schools affects all working-class and middle-class families. Further, they plan serious bus and subway cuts in the spring and more fare hikes and service cuts in the future. Attacks on workers come from all the bosses of the public and private sectors. Public schools are closing all over the country, under the Federal “Race to the Top” program, leaving poor students and students of color further behind. Public and private universities are raising tuition and reducing access to required classes.
Federal, State and Local governments are pushing the working class down and blocking the path upward. Democratic and Republican Party politicians support the same attacks, if at different speeds. Growing numbers of workers are starting to realize: we all fight our way up together, or we’ll all go down together.
The media, bankers and politicians tell us that the “great recession” which started in 2008 is over. For workers, students, and the poor, however, there has been no recovery. The employers and the mass media blame supposedly “greedy” workers and pensioners for unemployment, higher fees and service cuts: divide and conquer is one of the bosses’ oldest strategies. They never tell us that much of their budget goes in interest payments to banks and other corporations.
But there are signs of resistance. Militant students, faculty members and workers in California are calling for a national day of action against tuition hikes and education cuts on March 4.
NYC student groups have called for rallies in New York on March 4th. They are demanding retention of student metrocards and opposing fare hikes and service cuts. They are putting the blame for these attacks where they belong: ON THE MTA AND NYC BOSSES AND POLITICIANS, not on transit workers. They are calling for transit workers, other workers, students, and riders to unite to fight the bosses’ attempts to make us pay for their crisis. They plan to rally at Governor Patterson’s Manhattan office and march to the MTA public hearing at the Fashion Institute of Technology. They are looking to TWU Local 100 to play a leading role.
A variety of groups and individuals with varying political viewpoints are involved in this movement, which is strongest in Northern California. There are calls for a state-wide student strike, but making it happen will be difficult.
RTW and our supporting organization, the League for the Revolutionary Party are working in the movement in New York, where we have some forces. Despite political confusion and the limited size of the movement, honest militants who want to fight are involved. We are trying to explain to them that a big, militant movement can start to reverse the attacks, but that lasting working class victory requires socialist revolution.
Massive transit worker participation is essential to build a powerful movement. Our union should help organize and turn out large numbers on March 4th. TWU local 100 has the power to shut the city down. We can set an example by building struggles with other workers, students, and community groups. By supporting riders and students under attack, Local 100 can show that transit workers are not to blame for service cuts and fare hikes.
This solidarity is vital. Given the depth of this crisis, no union or group will be able to take on the bosses and politicians alone. A truly successful fight-back requires working class unity.
Revolutionary Transit Worker and our supporting organization, the League for the Revolutionary Party, hope to convince workers and youth that the MTA and other government authorities and agencies must Repudiate the Debt to banks, corporations and the wealthy. The “solutions” put forward by even left-wing Democrats would all lower the living standard of a section of the working class – allegedly for the benefit of another section. We say, The workers must not pay for the capitalists’ economic crisis!
The new leadership of Local 100 under President John Samuelsen has been in office almost 2 months, mostly of business-as-usual. Now, however, the leadership of TWU Local 100 has declared in favor of the March 4 actions. We have a chance to take the MTA head-on, together with militant youth and other workers. With full TWU participation, such united action would be formidable indeed.
But Samuelsen and Co are not mobilizing for one united show of militancy, despite their stated support. They are not mobilizing the Local for the march. They plan a demonstration/press conference and speak-out at the MTA hearing, with sell-out union bureaucrats and pro-Taylor Law Democratic politicians. All of the politicians accept some cut-backs in education, transport, or both. They seek a brokered compromise, not a militant fight-back. They are not welcoming militant workers or students to speak from their podium, so as not to upset the capitalist politicians.
Workers, students and riders who want to fight should phone and email the union hall demanding that Local 100 mobilize fully and publicly for a united march, demonstration and speak-out on March 4, and urge their co-workers to do the same.
There are some new Local 100 officers who say they want the Local to go all out for March 4. Some of them even claim to be socialists. These officers have a special responsibility to demand loudly and publicly that the Local leadership mobilize for March 4. They should move for their Divisions to mobilize the members for the March 4 protests and demand that the whole Local do the same.
If Local 100 misses this chance to build unity, many Local members, students and education workers will feel abandoned. Bring the pressure on Samuelsen and other Local 100 leaders: Make the support for March 4 real – publicly, massively support, build, and participate in the March 4th rally and march.
The MTA has just announced layoffs of 450 Station Agents and 600 non-union administrative employees. Before laying anyone off, the MTA plans to redeploy workers for whom they can find a job in-house, as required by the current contract with Local 100.
Local 100 leaders say that we will take action against this attack. Good! But according to a Post story of Feb. 23, President Samuelsen said, “The union will fight to defend its membership, but our position has been substantially weakened since previous administrations gave up a no-layoff clause in 2002,” and that “the current contract does have a clause that says workers can be shifted to other jobs, and [that he] will use that language to try and keep his members on the payroll.” That sounds more like considering a retreat than mounting a defense. Samuelsen doesn’t mention that as a follower of Roger Toussaint in 2002, he campaigned for that contract, which also had a 0% wage hike the first year.
Local 100 can take some immediate measures. Members at Division meetings and Executive Board Members should move and vote for the Local to do mass emails and phone-blasts to the members to RALLY AT BUDGET-CUTTING GOVERNOR PATTERSON’S OFFICE, 41st STREET & 3rd Avenue AT 4PM, together with youth and other workers who want to fight, and then MARCH TO THE RALLY AT THE MTA HEARING.
Local 100 should as soon as possible hold the twice-postponed GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING, so the members can raise motions and vote to decide Local 100 actions.
The MTA is not planning to stop with these layoffs. They figure on hundreds more layoffs of Surface workers this summer. If we are to fight and win, we must prepare to strike. We are not in shape to strike now, but we can at least begin to discuss the subject. Striking to win will require massive, impassable picket lines, and amnesty from Taylor Law penalties before we return to work. If we strike for the demands of the youth and other workers – No Fare Hikes or Service Cuts – as well as our own wages, hours, conditions and benefits, we can defeat the bosses’ and media’s attempts to divide us against each other.