Banks and big businesses drove us into this economic crisis – and got bailed out with trillions of taxpayer dollars. Now they’re making the working class foot the bill with cutbacks, layoffs and foreclosures. TWU Local 100 has great organized strength and moves the working class in the financial capital of the world. That position and our contract battle give us a chance to help lead a united struggle of all workers hit by the crisis.
But that hasn’t happened. President Samuelsen’s administration has been a failure. He has failed to prevent a single layoff. He has failed to organize any kind of serious contract fight. And his opponents for the top offices offer nothing better – as we explain below.
Capitalist Attacks Intensify
The capitalist bosses divide and conquer us to bring down all workers’ standards of living. It’s past time for working-class people and the poor to unite against layoffs, cuts in services and benefits, union-busting and all other attacks. Nothing else can work for our contract struggle – but it requires a hard course change from the union leadership.
In past years, the bosses and government have imposed major givebacks: the loss of pensions for new hires at Con Edison, wage-slashing at Caterpillar in Illinois, virtual scrapping of public unions in Wisconsin, and more.
The Democratic Party government of Detroit has slashed many public services, fired masses of public sector workers and ripped up contracts, shutting public schools and making life there miserable to drive residents out. All this is in the name of “reducing the deficit”; that is, making big and growing loan repayments to the same banks and corporations which ruined the world economy.
In Europe, the bankers’ demands are destroying whole countries. Greece faces official unemployment of over 20%, with young adult unemployment over 50%. Wages have been cut by over 30%.
Greece and Detroit show where the whole system is moving: cutbacks for workers to pay for capitalist profits. The sick capitalist system is bringing us all down. A fight against its outrages must take on the system itself. That is why RTW has always said that the only way to end the attacks on our living standards is socialist revolution: the workers and oppressed rising up to take society into our hands and direct it in our interests. It is also why we campaign for building a revolutionary workers’ party, in the U.S. and every country.
Democratic Party – Graveyard of Struggle
The union leadership’s commitment to the Democratic Party promises only more defeats. For all their squabbling, the Democrats agree with the Republicans that the workers, youth and poor should pay for the economic crisis. The Democrats have long intervened in popular movements in order to keep us passively voting, not actively fighting the bosses’ attacks. The powerful protest movement against Republican union-busting in Wisconsin earlier this year raised the possibility of a general strike. But the union leaders called off the protests, occupations and pickets and replaced mass struggle with a vote-Democrat strategy that led straight to defeat.
This September we have also seen a strike by the Chicago Teachers Union against years of attacks by Arne Duncan, now President Obama’s Education Secretary, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, another top Democrat and close Obama ally. This line-up shows that the Democratic Party, from the top, is an enemy of the working class.
The fate of the immigrant rights movement over the past six years also shows the bankruptcy of this approach. In the spring of 2006, millions of immigrants marched in cities across the country to protest a Republican-sponsored bill. Yet the immigrant rights’ leaders advanced the slogan “Today We March, Tomorrow We Vote,” and channeled the mass movement into the dead end of campaigning and voting for the Democrats. The opportunity for immigrant workers to spark struggles by U.S.-born workers and strengthen both groups was lost. Anti-immigrant and anti-worker attacks escalated.
The union leaders and the leaders of major Black and immigrants’ organizations work overtime to make the Democrats appear as a real alternative. The Republicans’ extreme rhetoric, including racist attacks on Obama, can make them appear fundamentally different, but when push comes to shove, the Democratic Party always defends the interests of the ruling class and the racist U.S. system. (See our pamphlet The Democratic Party: Graveyard of Black Struggles).
The Local 100 Executive Board endorsed Obama for President. Samuelsen stated: “This is no time to hand the White House back to a candidate pledged to the privileges of the one percent.” But President Obama’s actions have shown him an effective defender of ruling class interests: bailouts for the banks and cutbacks for us.
The Democratic Party is dangerous – the velvet glove, the “good” cop – because they carry out the ruling class’s imperialist and racist capitalist policies while pretending to be on the side of the working class. The working class can only advance our interests through mass struggle against the system, which the Democrats always undermine. So even if Republicans want to carry out worse policies, tying our movement to the Democrats weakens us and hamstrings our struggle. Neither Samuelsen nor his opponents offer any alternative.
Samuelsen’s Record of Failure
The Local 100 contract negotiations pose a great challenge, but they could be an even greater opportunity. The bosses and bankers and their politicians are going after us as never before. The economic crisis continues, with unemployment still high and growing attacks on the living standards and working conditions of workers and the poor. The capitalists and their politicians offer public sector workers up as a scapegoat for their own crimes. The situation cries out for mass action.
Local 100 has a major role in the economy, large size and a multinational and interracial membership. We could play a key role in starting such a struggle. But Samuelsen’s leadership has failed at every turn. There have been three contract rallies – one more than the number of dinners he shared with MTA boss Lhota. Worse, the union leadership put no real effort into building those rallies.
Samuelsen has failed to build opposition to the MTA attack on welfare recipients and on the TWU with the reintroduction of WEP (Work Experience Program), where welfare recipients are placed in union members’ jobs, forced to work for starvation “wages” and barred from joining the union. He did not campaign for united mass action of the trade unions when ConEd workers were locked out nor when Verizon was on strike, nor when the New York state workers’ unions faced big contract take-backs.
Further, in our own contract fight we’re still divided on dues between paid-up and in-arrears members, with no serious attempt by the union leaders to meet in-arrears members half-way. RTW supporters have always urged all members to pay up in full. But we have also long advocated that members in arrears who comply with a payment plan be put into immediate good standing.
Samuelsen’s Stand United 2012 slate says that that the Local “framed our fight for justice for transit workers as a struggle for working families against the rich elites, the banks and Wall Street – an entire year before Wisconsin and ‘Occupy Wall Street.’” This verbal framing brought a series of media photo ops and sound-bites but no effort toward building a mass struggle that could back it up in action. In other words, hot air.
Samuelsen’s Top Opponents No Alternative
The only announced opposition slate is Joe Campbell’s confusingly named Transit Workers United. It offers no alternative to Samuelsen’s Stand United 2012 slate. Campbell is Chair of Car Equipment and is supported by former Local 100 President Roger Toussaint. His slate makes many criticisms of Samuelsen and spouts a few militant-sounding phrases but has no record to stand on or history of fighting for what they claim to believe in. His slate has the majority of officers in Car Equipment Department. If they were serious about waging a contract fight, they could have held meetings and rallies of CED to build a real fightback and campaigned for workers from all Divisions to attend. They could have been a rallying point. Instead, they waited until election season to bring all this up, seven months after contract expiration. There’s no reason to listen to empty rhetoric. We need concrete fightback proposals – and proof that you’ll fight for them.
For Workers’ Revolution
The interests of the capitalists and the workers are opposed: a gain for one is a loss for the other. So while the world’s workers could together produce more than enough for all, private ownership and private profit leave factories idle and workers jobless. We don’t need the bosses – they need us. But they control the cops and courts, the media and the army, while our own leaders keep us divided and tell us to accept the system.
Workers united in struggle can win gains. We need pickets, marches that shut down the streets and, eventually, strike action – indeed, general strikes – not photo-ops and glad-handing. A big step forward would be mass protests to demand what workers need: an end to the cuts and layoffs and a public works program to provide jobs for all.
But in the end, from Egypt to the United States, the only solution is for the workers and all those fighting oppression to overthrow the capitalist state that defends the profit system and to build our own state to direct the economy. A workers’ state would take over the banks and productive enterprises, putting people to work to produce what we need: houses, schools, better mass transit, a shorter work week – and the list goes on.
To get there, workers, youth and oppressed people who see the need for socialist revolution must work together today to start building the working-class party of revolution. That party could show the way forward in today’s struggles while working toward the overthrow of the whole system. The League for the Revolutionary Party is dedicated to organizing revolutionary-minded workers and youth as political leaders of our class. We urge all those interested to contact us to discuss these issues and more as we fight together for a better life.
The economic crisis has hit the working class hard, and working-class Blacks and Latinos hardest: first fired, last rehired, homes lost to predatory banks. Talk of “recovery” is a lie: times are tough and jobs are not coming back. Black, Latino and immigrant youth in the cities, unable to find work, are angry. These communities are the most likely to see a militant fightback against economic inequality, unemployment, and cutbacks.
That’s where the cops come in. Their first loyalty is to the capitalist bosses and their system: that means enforcing the bosses’ profit-making and control over the economy against workers. They beat down those who rise up against the injustices and hardships of this system. For people of color, hardship and injustice are a necessary feature of this system of racial oppression.
The cops use all sorts of military and legal weapons to intimidate, isolate, terrorize and even murder the victims of oppression and exploitation. The more the capitalists tighten the screws on the living and working standards of the masses, the more they rely on the cops to keep the victims down. The cops’ role is international; in South Africa, the ANC government sent the police to massacre 34 striking platinum miners, and even tried to indict the surviving miners for murder. And it’s for damned sure the case in the U.S. of A. This can be seen in both the NYPD’s “Stop & Frisk” policy, and the recent clashes between cops and protestors in Anaheim, California.
Stop & Frisk: Racist to the Core
For years now, NYPD cops in the “Stop & Frisk” program have systematically stopped ‘’suspicious’’ people on the street and searched them “if necessary.” The program has come under scrutiny from activists, the media and some politicians as the number of searches has exploded: from about 97,000 in 2003 to over 685,000 in 2011! But the program doesn’t stop or deter crime: the big crime drop in NYC occurred before 2002, when the program didn’t even exist. No, “Stop & Frisk” is a racist program that lets the cops harass Black and Latino men in NYC at will. Blacks and Latinos made up over 85% of the stops, while they are only a little over half of the population. There were more stops of Black and Latino men in 2011 than there are Black and Latino men in the city!
Democratic Party politicians at best criticize the program, endorse a few feeble protests and file lawsuits. Some even justify the program. None have tried to mobilize the masses of Black and Latino youth, the actual victims of these attacks, or condemned the police force as a whole for its racist, anti-worker role and intimidation of entire communities. Revolutionary Transit Worker and the League for the Revolutionary Party say: Stop “Stop & Frisk” and expose the racist role of the entire police force. It’s not just a few bad apples – the role of the entire force is to keep workers and people of color down.
Masses in Anaheim Protest Police Killings
The city of Anaheim has always been a study of rich and poor. Disney and other resort corporations built massive projects while the Latino community struggled with poverty and unemployment. The crisis of 2008 just made things worse. On July 24 and 25, cops shot and killed two Latino men, Manuel Diaz and Joel Acevedo. In both cases the cops claimed “self-defense,” as usual. In both cases the communities reacted in mass protests. And in both cases the police responded to the just outrage with heavy repression, including arrests, massed cops in riot gear, helicopters, tear gas, rubber bullets and a police dog. The protests continued for nine days in a row, but by themselves they have been hard to sustain and the killer cops have returned to duty.
Revolutionary Transit Worker and the League for the Revolutionary Party stand with the protestors and condemn the murders of people of color by the racist cops. While RTW has limited resources, unions – the only mass organizations the working class currently has, are potentially capable of leading a mass defense against police brutality. This is particularly true of TWU Local 100, with its history of militancy. Local 100 and other unions must stand together in protest with communities of color against cop harassment and brutality. This means more than paper statements and turning out staff from the union hall (although that is a start) – it means that the union should consistently reach out to members and mobilize thousands to protest police brutality and killings by cops.
For over 25 years, supporters of the League for the Revolutionary Party in TWU Local 100 have fought for the workers’ demands, no matter how small, partial or temporary – for safety and against harassment and mistreatment. Since 2001 we have published Revolutionary Transit Worker. And we have always explained that to win and keep our demands, workers need socialist revolution.
Workers who want to fight back can use this election season to publicize the program of RTW and vote for our candidates. We know that the odds are against us winning, and that if we do win, we’ll be a minority on the Executive Board. But no other slates or candidates have a record of serious fightback proposals and a record of fighting for them – much less a perspective for how to deal with a world in economic crisis.
We hope over time to convince workers of socialist revolution, the program of the League for the Revolutionary Party. If you’re not convinced of that but you see the need for militant defense of workers’ rights and standards, you should vote and campaign for RTW: Send the bosses and union leaders a message that you want to stand against all givebacks and for an action program to start fighting back now.
We start from the understanding that the working class as a whole must be as united as possible to defend against the bosses’ attacks. But we know that rallying that defense is far more likely if a powerful section like transit workers stands up to the attacks. This means resisting healthcare concessions and work rule changes which divide one title against another. It also means holding the line against cuts in real wages. In this regard, RTW supporters helped campaign against an attempted RTO contract deal that set workers against each other. Mass pressure helped lead to its withdrawal.
Further, Local 100 must make a serious effort on behalf of all those hit by the crisis. To do otherwise would trivialize their suffering, risk isolating us and lose an opportunity to build the strong working-class movement we all need. We have a chance to take a strong stand against the cuts in transit service and the fare hikes. We can demand that the MTA reopen and rebuild station booths.
We do not want any deals with the MTA that blunt the worst of its attacks on us only to have them diverted to other working-class sisters and brothers. We can and should use the contract fight as a means to build a fightback against the broader capitalist attacks. Instead of lobbying the capitalists’ paid politicians, we could be building for a mass rally against the more general attacks by inviting other union workers (especially Verizon workers, who are without a contract, and other public workers under the gun), as well as non-unionized workers, the poor, organizations of Blacks and Latinos, youth and the unemployed, to join us.
Union staff, shop stewards and activists could go to workplaces and neighborhoods throughout the city. They could use all available media to mobilize a mass demonstration against the attacks and for a real jobs-for-all program: “Billions for bankers, layoffs for workers? Hell no!”
Revolutionary Transit Worker Candidates for TWU Local 100 Executive Board
On the Executive Board we’d have a forum to speak to transit workers and others, publicize our program and start a real debate in the working class, pointing to a real mass fightback. In the past, we have run for Division Committee positions as well as EB seats. But given the crisis in the union and the mounting capitalist assault on all workers, we decided to focus our limited resources on the key political issues facing workers. We will work to bring together workers who see the need for a new leadership based on a political understanding of the economic crisis and the nature of the capitalist system.
Revolutionary Transit Worker Candidates for TWU International Convention Delegate
The TWU International represents workers in airlines, casinos and public transit. It should be responsible for helping those workers fight back. Instead, now-President Jim Little, as Secretary-Treasurer and TWU second-in-command in 2005, was part of the leadership that undercut our strike with an official call to scab. Lately he has been leading a vicious sellout of American Airline workers. The TWU International leaders’ greatest “achievement” has been to move its offices closer to Congress – its real friends but the workers’ enemies. A vote for RTW candidates for convention delegate sends Little and Co a message that this is not acceptable and could help workers in other TWU locals who hope to resist see that they are not alone.
If you want to help publicize a fighting program and send a message that a course change is needed, support, campaign and vote for Revolutionary Transit Worker!
Revolutionary Transit Worker Candidates for Executive Board Member;
Revolutionary Transit Worker Candidates for TWU International Convention Delegate (September, 2013)
John Ferretti, RTO Conductor
Jason Hicks, Track
Eric Josephson, Track
Seth Rosenberg, RTO Train Operator