Thursday, December 22, 2005

The NYC transit workers strike is a fight for every worker!

In defiance of threats of fines and imprisonment, New York City’s 34,000 bus and subway workers (members of Transport Workers Union [TWU] Local 100) walked off the job at 3:00 a.m. on Tuesday, December 20, in the first city-wide transit strike in twenty-five years after rejecting the ridiculous demands made by their employer, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

For all intents and purposes, the MTA forced the workers to strike by making a completely unacceptable “final offer”, which would have given workers a measly raise that didn’t even keep up with inflation, and require them to make absurd concessions on pensions, healthcare, and working conditions which they fought so hard for in the past.

This is a continuation of the one-sided war the bosses (read: the ruling capitalist class) have been waging on the working class for decades. Huge layoffs continue to occur (like the recent layoffs of tens of thousands of auto workers), wages and benefits are being drastically cut, social services are being dismantled and sold off, strikes are being broken, and workers’ unions are being viciously destroyed.

Destroying Local 100 of the TWU is a top priority for the ruling class because it still stands as a powerful union in a union town. A defeat for this strike would be a serious blow to the working class overall, and that’s why its of vital importance that every worker understands that this fight is our fight!

These transit workers – united in a powerful, multiracial union – are fighting for the future of our class as a whole; and they have the power to beat back the bosses’ continued racist, anti-worker attacks.

It is for these reasons that the bosses as trying hard as they can to make an example out of them. They want to send the message that the days of workers making any new gains are over, unions and strikes are a thing of the past, and that future generations will have to work harder and longer for less.

And they aren’t concealing their anti-union and anti-worker position, which was best summed up in a Daily News editorial, which – in the tone of a master who wants a slave revolt put down – demanded that, “The full weight of the law ... swiftly be brought to bear on the Transport Workers Union for having the irresponsible lawlessness to shut down the transportation system that is New York’s lifeblood... Jail [TWU President Roger] Toussaint and his bull-headed lieutenants. Impose fines on the TWU... large enough to bankrupt the union within days. Hit every transit worker who walks with a penalty of two days’ pay for every day out... There can be no amnesty for those who have broken the law" [--emphasis added].

The striking workers – who work hard, dirty, and dangerous jobs – receive wages of between about $34,000 and $60,000 a year, in a city with one of the highest costs of living in the world. Although this may sound like a lot – and the corporate media has taken every chance to portray the workers as overpaid – it must be taken into account that the real poverty line in New York City for a family of four is around $57,000. In fact, after taxes, medicare, pension and other fees are deducted, most workers make somewhere are $10 an hour!

The MTA claims they can’t afford to meet the workers modest demands; but at the same exact time that the MTA is crying poverty, they’re squandering a $1 billion dollar surplus! These are the same people that have been screwing over working people in New York for years, with continued fare hikes and service cuts. And who can forget the last round of negotiations when they fixed the books to show a $2.8 billion deficit so they could push their garbage contract on the workers and raise the fare, only to have comptrollers later show that they were holding onto a $500 million surplus?!?

Then we have the people who dare to call the transit workers “greedy” – a billionaire Mayor, a millionaire Governor, multi-millionaire bosses, and multi-billionaire Rupert Murdock, owner of half the media outlets in the city – who themselves are filthy rich parasites who gained everything they have off the back of workers, the only people in society who actually create wealth! These scum bags belong to the same class of people who sponsored the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq for their own material gain – while Iraqi and American workers shed their blood on the front lines!

The MTA and these people don’t care about poor and working people one bit; and now that the transit workers are standing up to them, they’re trying to sell off their interest as the interest of all, but we’re not buying it.

The Free People’s Movement – a revolutionary international working people’s association that fights for the interests of workers the world over – stands in complete solidarity with these brave workers, and will offer any and all support that we can, both in word and in deeds!

As a part of our unfaltering solidarity, we are putting forward the interests of our (working) class and its allies as a whole in the form of the following basic platform...

Shut Down The City!
Every working person has a stake in this struggle, and so must join in it! The MTA’s joke of an offer serves to pave the way for increased attacks on the workers of the city as a whole and subsequent lowering of our standard of living even further!

Bloomberg’s plan to defeat the strikers and beat back the working class by initiating an elaborate plan of forced car-pooling, turning taxis into jitneys, bringing out shuttles to scab, and encouraging alternate modes of transportation can, and must, be defeated by a united front of workers; not just those in the TWU!

Other unions like the UFT and even Brian McLaughlin of the AFL-CIO Central Labor Council have expressed their support of the transit workers. It’s time to put that support to the test and call on those unions, and all unions, to completely back the striking workers!

While the Taxi Workers Alliance has shown solidarity with the transit workers by calling on drivers to refuse to scab by taking on extra passengers, this is not enough. All drivers of taxis, livery cabs, vans, shuttles, and busses need to join in the strike, both in support of the transit workers and as a part of the fight for their own demands – including pay raises, gasoline subsidies, an end to harassment by the New York Taxi & Limousine Commission, and the immediate abolition of the racist “Real Id Act”.

The Metro North workers, who have been working without a contract for three years, have a huge stake in this struggle. Their promise not to cross picket lines is respectable, but not enough! They must join in the strike to bring the ruling class and its representatives to their knees. Their will be no better chance for them to get their demands met than to unite with the transit workers.

Workers at the Long Island Railroad, NJ Transit, and Staten Island ferry must join in this fight as well, as a part of the overall struggle of our class and its allies and to defend themselves and their own hard-won gains.

All public sector unions must also join with the transit workers in this fight; both in solidarity, and for their own interests – by uniting in the fight to smash the anti-worker Taylor Law.

Open meetings should be held, with invitations extended to representatives of other unions, working people, and the public at large, to turn sympathy into solidarity and united action.

Workers’ Power To Smash The Anti-Worker Taylor Law!
Workers in the first ever city-wide transit strike in 1966 showed that anti-worker laws could be defeated by united and militant workers. The workers fought against the attacks of the corporate media, the Mayor, the court systems, and the capitalist class that they all represent. The leader of that strike, Mike Quill, also stood firm in opposing the Vietnam War, opposing discrimination against Blacks and Latinos, and supporting the struggles of immigrants at a time when all of these positions were unpopular. The transit workers persevered in their 1966 strike, and after a little more than a week, won their greatest contract ever – in the process smashing the Condon-Wadlin anti-strike law. It is from the struggles of the past that we can learn how to best wage the struggles of the present and future. The demands that the Taylor Law be smashed and that transit workers be given amnesty from all penalties and injunctions must be made strike demands!

Beat Back The Rich! Make The Capitalists Fund The Transit System!
Polls show that the majority of bus and subway riders support the transit workers, even in the face of the ongoing media barrage of lies and attacks. This support can, and should, be increased by the transit workers adding No Fare Hikes and No Service Cuts their demands!

It is the rich who benefit the most from the transportation system. Everyday riders go to work in their businesses and increase their profits and spend money in their stores, and they contribute little to nothing towards its funding!

The NYCT receives less state funding proportionally than the public transportation systems in any other major city; and, instead of increasing funding, the state tells the Transit Authority to take out high-interest loans from Wall Street! We must fight for increased state funding, as a part of the overall struggle for full state funding of the transit system!

Tear down the turnstiles! Free transit for all!

Both of these responses stand in stark contrast to Toussaint’s program, which consists of empty appeals for riders sympathy and leaving any mention of an increase is state funding out of negotiations.

Stop shifting the burden to the working class through taxes and fair hikes! No more workers’ sacrifices to increase Wall Street’s profits!

Strike To Win! Fight For A Big Raise!
No Broadbanding & No Givebacks!

This is a crucial battle, and it must be fought to be won! A defeat of the transit workers and our class in this situation could have grave consequences for our entire class. But the transit workers have the power – workers’ power! As this strike has shown, the transit workers move New York. By bringing the “big apple” to a grinding hault, they have shown just how important they are.

In fact, the transit workers are in the strongest position they’ve ever been in (and with the city completely shut down their position could become even stronger!), and must put forward the demands A Big Raise and No Givebacks on Healthcare and Pensions! This strike must be carried out until their demands are met, and they must refuse to give in to the demands of the rich, ruling class.

They must remember the events, and victory, of the first strike in the city’s history in 1966, when, on his way to jail, TWU leader Mike Quill boldly declared, “The judge can drop dead in his black robes. I don't care if I rot in jail. I will not call off the strike.”

To put it plain and simple, ‘broadbanding’ means layoffs and an increased work load, and so must be summarily opposed by transit workers! Toussaint has already said that he doesn’t oppose job cuts as long as there are not “poorly thought out”. He even says transit workers can “live with ... sensible” job cuts, as long as they are “properly compensated” (New York Times, December 3). He’s wrong, and transit workers shouldn’t and mustn’t stand for any layoffs or future plans thereof. No Broadbanding must be added to the list of the strikers demands!

The bureaucratic leadership of the TWU didn’t want to call the strike to begin with, and did everything it could – including begging – to avert it. It was only because of the pressure of rank and file workers that this strike has happened; and that pressure must be maintained, and increased to avoid a sell-out. Union bureaucrats like Toussaint tend to work inside of the capitalist system, not against it (and thus in workers’ interest), and that’s why they’re so quick to accept a compromise. This has been treacherously demonstrated by the president of Local 100's parent union who has refused to support the striking workers, and urged them to take the MTA’s pathetic “final offer”.

Because of the continued failures and crisis of the capitalist system itself (which will only continue and get worse), our class has been put on the defensive – no longer fighting to achieve gains, but instead struggling to defend those we had made in the past. Workers must realize that we create all wealth, and that society itself cannot continue without us! This knowledge must be the basis for presenting, fighting for, and getting what we demands!

Because of the very real possibility of a betrayal by Toussaint and the rest of the union bureaucracy, transit workers (including dissident elected officials) are joining together to form a No Giveback Contact Committee. We encourage all transit workers to get involved in that committee (which can be reached by email at: nogivebackcontract@yahoo.com).

We also encourage rank and file transit workers to create democratically elected strike-committees amongst themselves to coordinate picket duty, maintain communications between workers, boost the morale of less-confident workers, and stop any attempt at scabbing.

It will require the workers themselves coming into the streets, not bureaucratic leaders taking part in “negotiations” behind closed doors, to defeat the rich and make this strike successful.

Take the bargaining out of the hands of the bureaucrats – and put it in your own hands!

Build an independent working people’s movement!
As they have shown time and time again – even with this strike – the Democratic party represents the same rich, ruling elite as the Republicans do. Their only differences lie in the methods and approach in which they represent the interest of the capitalist class.

Now, more than ever, working people must unite to build a movement independent of the bosses’ parties – to defend themselves, and more importantly to abolish the systematic exploitation of our class completely.

A much, much better society based on the principles of freedom, justice, and equality is possible, and we encourage workers and other oppressed people to join us in the fight for it!

5 Comments:

Blogger celticfire said...

any news on their new contract? It seems the strike was quelled by corrupt leadership -- but thats from an outsiders perspective.

10:07 PM  
Blogger Umer A. Chaudhry said...

Dear Comrade,

Thank you for your visit. Please join the email list of Communist Workers and Peasants Party, Pakistan. There are around 1,800 members. It would be informative if you send your news items to that list as well.

The link is http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cmkp_pk/

In Solidarity,

Vidrohi

4:05 AM  
Blogger Umer A. Chaudhry said...

Good to know that. I am a member of CMKP. What about you? Where are you from and do you have any links with any political group?

8:33 AM  
Blogger Umer A. Chaudhry said...

Please tell me more about your organization. Whats are principles and ideological traits that FPM follow?

Also please visit www.CMKP.tk.

In Solidarity!

12:58 PM  
Blogger Renegade Eye said...

I found this blog surfing.

Good powerful writing. The working class is under assault, as never before. The hard lesson is, if you give back, they take more.

Regards.

10:10 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home