The following leaflet was distributed by transit workers on December 5 at a public hearing conducted by the Metropolitan Transit Authority in the borough of Queens, where the planned hike in the subway and bus fare was discussed. Further hearings will take place in different parts of the city and surrounding region over the course of the month and we encourage readers to join us at those to protest this latest attack on the city's working class and poor. For more information, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The MTA fare hikes and the racist, anti-working-class attacks we can expect from president-elect Trump are connected. The MTA has been raising fares gradually, then more and more, till now it’s automatic. This is increasingly open class war to finance NYC transit at the expense of the poor and workers of color. This is Trump’s home city, which he and his emboldened Wall Street buddies want to cater only to capitalists and rich tourists. Workers, especially workers of color are in the way. We need to fight back now – we should have started a long time ago!
Another fare hike will be a terrible blow to this city’s working-class and poor. As the Community Service Society (CSS) explained in its recent report The Transit Affordability Crisis, over a quarter of low-income New Yorkers were often unable to afford the subway or bus in the past year, preventing many unemployed workers from applying for jobs and others from finding affordable housing. These consequences of the MTA’s fare hikes were especially severe for low-income working-age people of color, with 31 percent of Blacks and 43 percent of Latinos reporting that rising fares kept them from looking for or taking a job further from the neighborhoods where they live.”
Because the MTA’s fare hikes hit the poorest New Yorkers hardest, they fuel the racist policing that already makes the lives of Black, Latino and immigrant youth a nightmare, with our news headlines regularly featuring the latest murder of an unarmed person of color by police. Cops routinely lurk around subway stations, not looking to protect people, but to make easy arrests of young and poor people who jump the turnstyles because the fare is so high. The single most common reason given by cops for arresting people in this city is alleged farebeating with almost 30,000 such arrests in 2015, of which 92% of those arrested were people of color. The fight to stop the MTA’s fare hikes is, therefore, a crucial aspect of the struggle against the cops’ racist harassment, brutality and murder!
The incoming Trump administration has already inspired racists and reactionary thugs of all stripes to increase their violent attacks – and his actual rule promises much worse.
The Transport Workers Union Local 100 contract with the MTA is set to expire on January 15, just 5 days before Trump’s inauguration. Local 100 is uniquely positioned, both to benefit from rising protests against Trump and give the movement a powerful boost.
The TWU members who put out this leaflet think that powerful organizations like Local 100 have a duty to stand in solidarity with all who face attacks made or inspired by Trump. We also realize that this solidarity is necessary for our own struggle for a just contract now. More important, Trump’s election heralds a potential “extinction-level” event for U.S. unions (in the words of one union activist). If we allow ourselves to be isolated, we will be defeated. So below we propose steps for transit workers, other workers, our union and all who fight oppression in NYC to mobilize around. Such mass action could set an example for our city and the whole country on how to build a united struggle to beat back the coming onslaught.
The MTA and the politicians that they take their orders from are up to their old tricks: Divide-and-Conquer. They always try to turn the “public” against union workers, especially public sector unions, by pointing to the benefits we get. This was done to disastrous effect in Wisconsin, which all but outlawed union rights for public workers – and then they turned on private-sector unions. With Trump’s fake-populism, this dynamic is set up to get much, much worse.
If TWU Local 100 workers get a raise while the rest of city’s working-class faces stagnating wages, high real unemployment and more fare increases, it sets transit workers up for divide-and-conquer attacks in an increasingly dangerous world. The Republican Party platform already singles out federal workers for attack, saying “Federal employees receive extraordinary pension benefits and vacation time wildly out of line with those of the private sector” and so they “urge Congress to bring federal compensation and benefits in line with the standards of most American employees.”
That is their real plan. Trump talks of being pro-worker, but this plan will be accomplished by lowering workers’ standard of living, not raising it – and unions like TWU Local 100 stand in the way.
We should demand that the state and city stop paying billions to the bloodsuckers on Wall Street for loans they have already effectively repaid while continuing to cut their taxes. The TA’s debt to Wall Street has ballooned to $34.1 billion and it currently pays Wall Street $2.2 billion in debt servicing payments each year.
Federal, state and local governments should instead massively increase mass transit funding after years of cut-backs: funding so that our wages, healthcare and pensions can begin to catch up with what we’ve lost; funding to stop the ever-rising fare increases that tax the city’s working class; and funding to hire thousands more transit workers to cope with the massive increase in ridership in recent years, to ease the burden on current workers who face increasing pressure to work harder and faster, and to improve service and create new jobs that the working class needs.
De Blasio has promised not to cooperate with Trump’s promises to step up police harassment and deportation of immigrants, refugees, Muslims and others. However, De Blasio’s own policy of having police hide behind turnstyles to catch fare-beaters is an extension of his “Broken Windows” policy that led to the police murder of Eric Garner. This policy is racist. Under a Trump administration, every further excuse for the police to target people is exponentially more dangerous. This practice must be stopped.
We need a united movement to stand up against Trump and all he stands for. There should be weekly protests to bring people together, for instance every Saturday from Washington Square Park to Trump Tower. There should be assemblies and open mics to discuss the way forward. This should all point toward building the biggest possible protests on Inauguration Day, January 20, especially in Washington, DC as well as in cities around the country.
A united movement could pressure unions, such as TWU Local 100, and any other organizations which claim to represent people endangered by a Trump administration to build a mass mobilization! TWU Local 100 plans to pack the MTA Board Meeting on December 14, 9am, at 2 Broadway. We should encourage all workers and youth who want to fight the bloodsucking MTA to show up in large numbers!
TWU Local 100 President Samuelsen says that his leadership team opposes the fare hike. If he’s serious, he’d call for a mass demonstration at the MTA meeting. He’d throw the resources of the union into building it. He’d publicly call on other unions and major Black, immigrant and student organizations to build it! Make it a fight of the whole working class!
This effort has been initiated by transit workers who support the political work of the League for the Revolutionary Party. We hope to use the transit contract fight to build the broadest struggle possible, one that can point to the way we all must unite in struggle to stand up against Trump. We encourage you to contact us with comment, criticism or to get involved.
We’ll be distributing this leaflet at MTA board hearings on the fare hike and we urge other union members to raise motions in their unions to get them involved.
The Democratic Party has offered less and less to the working class and other oppressed people for decades, but never so little as in Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the presidency. Eight years after the outbreak of the financial crisis on Wall Street, with millions still suffering the effects of home foreclosures and job losses, her campaign offered not a single policy to address the plight of working-class people. In response to the Black Lives Matter movement of protest, Clinton pretended to care about Black people’s suffering at the hands of racist police, but she similarly refused to promise to do anything specific about it. She and the rest of the leadership of the Democratic Party hoped that Trump’s monstrous racism and sexism would scare so many people into voting for her that she would not have to offer the masses anything, thus making it easier for her to please her Wall Street backers and the rest of the capitalist class.
At the same time, the leaders of this country’s unions increasingly avoided mobilizing working-class and poor people in mass protests and strikes to defend their interests, the way that the unions were built in the first place. Instead, they told workers that striking was too risky, so they should elect Democrats and then lobby them for improvements. The result was a labor movement that grew smaller and weaker, lurching from one sellout to another.
The current Samuelsen leadership of Local 100 has continued that strategy, in recent years focusing on collaboration with Governor Cuomo. First, Samuelsen agreed with Cuomo to accept “Tier 6” pensions for NYCT employees hired after 2012, supposedly “less bad” than the pensions which Cuomo imposed on other New York public-sector employees. This closed-door deal negated possibilities for joint fight-back with other unions in exchange for a transit worker pension that still drastically undermines retirement security.
Then consider the last contract negotiations. A federal mediation board had sided with the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) unions’ wage demands, but management refused to accept them, leading to strike preparations. Cuomo turned to Samuelsen for help and got it, by agreeing to a deal lower than the LIRR unions were fighting for. Local 100 union reps went around the transit system at the time, lying that Samuelsen’s sellout contract hadn’t undermined the LIRR workers. But it is now public record that the LIRR union leaders argued in mediation that the TWU Local 100 contract “did not warrant acknowledgment as a pattern or even as a worthy comparator.”
In recent days, Cuomo has been criticizing Donald Trump, promising that New York State would be a sanctuary for victims of his racist and sexist attacks, especially immigrants. But Cuomo is merely posing as an opponent of Trump to further advance his political ambitions – at our expense. Until recently, Cuomo enjoyed Trump’s support, receiving multiple donations from him. Is it a coincidence that Cuomo chose not to take action against the fraudulent “Trump University”? Then during the trial of Chris Christie’s aides in the Bridgegate scandal, an official testified that Cuomo directed him to “lay off” the inquiry. That move is widely believed to be the product of a deal between Christie and Cuomo under which Christie would not support a Republican challenger against Cuomo in the next gubernatorial election.
Local 100’s contract struggle is thus a perfect opportunity to end the disastrous alliance of unions with Democratic Party politicians that have led us from one defeat to another, all the way to Trump’s election.