My name is Eric Josephson. I have been a track worker for almost 19 years. Throughout this time I have consistently faced down and fought the bosses on the job – for safety, fair work distribution and dignity. I have continued this in my position as Vice-Chair of Local 100’s Track Division since 2001.
I am a supporter of Revolutionary Transit Worker (RTW) newsletter, the voice of militant class struggle in Local 100 that advocates mobilizing our fighting power against the bosses to defend and improve our rights, wages and working conditions. With RTW, I have consistently argued for Local 100 to strike to win our contract struggles. And I have fought the abuses of power by the bureaucracies of TWU International President Sonny Hall and current Local 100 President Roger Toussaint.
Now I am campaigning to run for Executive Board Member for the Track Division. The election contest between the Toussaint and “Members First” slates in the upcoming elections shows that Local 100 has a crisis of leadership. More than ever, we need an independent voice of militant class struggle on the Executive Board.
Further, with the U.S. economy falling deeper into crisis, and its rulers launching wars of conquest around the world, a militant who’s totally committed to representing workers’ interests and doesn’t give a damn about the bosses and politicians is an urgent necessity.
Working to unite all workers around a program of militant struggle, I have also sought to win an audience for the ideas of revolutionary socialism: principally, that capitalism offers us only a worse life of exploitation and oppression and that the working class must organize to overthrow it and build a classless socialist society the world over. But you don’t have to agree with my revolutionary, anti-capitalist views to sign my petition and vote for me – we can discuss politics while we unite to fight the bosses and the union bureaucrats who hold us back.
Supporting my campaign means supporting a fighter with a proven record of keeping his promises. Others b.s. about militancy and democracy, and then turn around and act like pussy cats with the bosses and bureaucratic tyrants with the ranks. From my history and my program, you know I tell the truth about what I believe and what I will do. With your support I can get enough petition signatures to get on the ballot.
Three years ago, most Local 100 members voted to throw out TWU International President Sonny Hall’s gang of sellouts led by then-Local 100 President Willie James, and replace them with the New Directions slate led by Roger Toussaint. The ranks thought that Toussaint was a sworn enemy of the MTA bosses and that the new leadership would fight any more contract givebacks and would unleash transit workers’ power to shut down the city with a strike to win our demands.
Instead, Toussaint has used the union to increase his personal political power.In order to build a bureaucracy of yes-men to hold back workers’ struggles, Toussaint launched some of the most outrageous purges and attacks on democracy the Local has ever seen. Toussaint organized our mass demonstrations as pep rallies for Democratic (and occasionally Republican) politicians. During the 2002-03 contract round, and facing growing pro-strike sentiment among the ranks, Toussaint tricked workers into believing he was prepared to strike. Then he betrayed our strike votes and cut a sellout deal with management. He gave up our no-layoff clause and stuck us with a cut in real pay in return for some window-dressing gains. Then he and his choir praised the deal as the greatest win since 1966. Moreover, Toussaint’s cowardly sabotage of our strike movement left other state and city workers, who don’t have as much power as we do, left to face layoffs and pay cuts alone.
The other Local-wide slate in the elections, “Members First,” is no better. It’s an indigestible stew of many of Toussaint’s past New Directions partners whom he since either purged or otherwise pissed-off and who gathered around the Rank and File Advocate (R& FA) paper, together with left-overs of the discredited Sonny Hall/Willie James gang of boss-lovers. The R& FA supporters mouth occasional militant words, but they refused to join with other Local 100 members to campaign seriously against Toussaint’s sellout contract. Their current hook-up with supporters of the old regime, against whom they fought for years, shows how unprincipled they are and what we can expect from them in the future.
The Track Executive Board members, James Mitchell and José Iglesias, vanished into the bowels of the Local 100 Hall after getting elected. Instead of aggressively trying to lead Track and other Local 100 members in the fight against the bosses, they vote obediently as Toussaint instructs.
The clique of Toussaint yes-men that currently run the Track Division, grouped around Division Chair John Samuelsen, reproduce Toussaint’s bureaucratic, boss-friendly regime on a smaller scale. Isolated from the ranks of Track workers, they rely on publicity in the media, ties to capitalist politicians and wild hyping of occasional modest achievements to maintain their little slice of power. Despite occasional militant rhetoric, they serve Toussaint as the voice of bureaucratic “partnership” with management in track. For example, they have done nothing to push for my motions for a system-wide shut down in response to any job-related deaths. Samuelsen pooh-poohs mass, militant workers’ action and only rarely and grudgingly makes any attempt to mobilize the ranks. He avoids membership votes and singlehandedly decides major policies for Track. The members, in turn, are reluctant to rise up at the call of elected (and appointed) leaders who don’t even answer or return phone calls.
The Local must back up fighting words with strike action to win improved wages, benefits and working conditions and to win back our no-layoff clause (everybody knows the MTA is planning job cuts). I will oppose any attempt to give back or trade off any previously won gains the way Toussaint did in the last contract and the way the Hall-Seda-James sellouts made concessions before him. And I’ll fight any attempts to keep the membership in the dark, keeping the ranks constantly informed of the union’s activities and what the bosses are up to.
Almost every year, track and other workers die as a result of management’s unsafe work conditions. I’ll fight to mobilize the ranks in mass actions that shut down unsafe work conditions. And I’ll fight to commit the Local to shutting down the entire system – subways and buses – in immediate response to any more deaths due to unsafe work conditions. That’ll force the bosses to make our work safe. I’ll also fight for one-year, time limited picks to be voted on by the membership, so management can’t use picks to their advantage.
Local 100 must prepare to strike not just for the sake of transit workers. As New York City’s most potentially powerful union, Local 100 can lead the fightback against the current wave of layoffs, pay cuts and other attacks. By shutting the city down, a transit strike could win the support of the whole working class in the struggle against job losses, pay cuts, budget slashing and racism. And we could smash the Taylor Law forever.
That also means giving no support to the politicians of the two capitalist parties, the Democrats and Republicans, who stab us in the back every time. Instead, it means relying on the workers’ own power to strike and win.
As the economy falls into crisis, the capitalists are whipping up wars abroad as in Iraq to secure U.S. business interests and intensify their exploitation of the masses of the so-called “Third World.” At home, they’re escalating racism and particularly anti-immigrant attacks to keep the working class divided and exploited.
Under Toussaint, the Local has officially taken positions against the war on Iraq and in defense of immigrants under attack, but has done nowhere near enough to back this up with action. I’ll fight for the Local to mobilize in mass actions against these and other ruling class attacks in the future.
At the Dec. 7, 2001 General Membership Meetings, Toussaint denied the ranks the right to raise and discuss motions and take binding votes, sticking us with a motion for a strike that gave him the power to call it off. This allowed him to cut his sellout deal. I’ll fight for really democratic membership meetings where the ranks have the right to raise, debate and vote on motions and decide all the big questions facing the union.
Now I ask my fellow trackworkers to sign the petition to put me on the ballot to run for Executive Board member from Track, and to pass the petition around to other trackworkers, asking them to sign. For more information, e-mail me at EricJosephson4EBoard@yahoo.com or call (212) 330-9017.
As I have always told my co-workers, I am a supporter of a group called the League for the Revolutionary Party (LRP), an organization of revolutionary socialist workers and youth. As Marxists, the LRP believes that the current slide into economic crisis in the U.S. is a warning of the future capitalism offers humanity: economic depression, intensifying exploitation and oppression and bloody wars.
But capitalism has built a world economy with the potential to produce an abundance of everything humanity needs. Starvation and every other form of want can be done away with – if the working class seizes control of the economy and redirects it from private profit to producing for social needs. For that to take place, revolutions will be necessary the world over.
Further, capitalism has created the social class with the power and interest to overthrow it: the working class. As they have in the past, workers in this country will again be forced to launch mass strikes and other struggles (as workers around the world are already doing) in order to defend themselves against the capitalists’ attacks. In the course of these struggles, the working class will learn that it has the power to shake the world and every interest in overthrowing the capitalist system and building a socialist society of freedom – so long as a revolutionary socialist political party is there to lead the way.
The LRP is dedicated to building such a revolutionary party, and with its comrades in the Communist Organization for the Fourth International it works to do this around the world.
In Local 100, I seek to win an audience among my fellow workers for socialist ideas by uncompromisingly fighting for workers interests against the bosses and their accomplices in the union bureaucracy. But you don’t have to agree with my revolutionary views in order to support my campaign for the Executive Board. Rather, through my campaign I call for workers to support the program of militant mass workers struggles against the bosses that I outline in this flyer. In the great struggles ahead we will be free to discuss and debate the best road forward for the working class.