In June, track worker Eric Josephson was elected Vice-Chair of the Track Division in Transport Workers Union Local 100, the powerful union of New York City’s subway and bus workers. Josephson is well-known in the union as a consistent fighter for workers’ interests. He is also widely known for his revolutionary socialist views and his support of the League for the Revolutionary Party and the newsletter it sponsors, Revolutionary Transit Worker.
Josephson’s election campaign literature highlighted immediate demands of struggle for track and all transit workers such as the fight for safe working conditions, preparations for the upcoming contract struggle and for democracy in the union. It also prominently championed revolutionary socialism as the alternative to increasing misery under capitalism and raised a perspective of union action over a range of issues from racist police brutality and anti-immigrant attacks to the imperialist occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Josephson won election to the same post previously, in 2000, running against both the old-guard bureaucracy and the “New Directions” caucus which at the time had a reputation among the ranks as a militant opposition. This time Josephson did not face competition from other opponents of the incumbent leadership. His electoral victory by a 2-to-1 margin over a supporter of incumbent Local President Roger Toussaint certainly expressed a protest by many against Toussaint’s betrayal of the union’s 2005 strike and his increasingly dictatorial rule over the Local. But it also indicated the support Josephson enjoys as a well-known fighter against the bosses and the willingness of many to back his proposals for action.
It is a sad truth that the standard practice of socialists in the unions is to hide their true views and pretend to be nothing more than militant unionists for fear of alienating less politically radical workers. Josephson’s election demonstrates the potential for revolutionaries to openly promote their socialist views while winning support from their fellow workers based on a proven record of taking forward a united struggle against the bosses.
Not surprisingly, the election of an open revolutionary socialist to union office gathered quite a bit of attention, including a prominent article and interview in The Chief-Leader, Civil Service newspaper widely read by workers in New York.
While it is clear that most workers are not yet won over to our overall revolutionary perspectives, we aim to convince our fellow workers based on the shared experience of coming struggles. Only a leadership which is absolutely committed to building a revolutionary party for the overthrow of the capitalist system will reliably defend our class against the bosses’ attacks and champion our class interests. Building a revolutionary opposition in the transit union is part of the job of building a revolutionary party against the system altogether.