Revolutionary Transit Worker No. 46

Supported by the League for the Revolutionary Party

October 12, 2009

“Day of Outrage” Can Start the Fight-Back!

By Eric Josephson, Vice-Chair, Track Division, Local 100

Revolutionary Transit Worker shares the outrage of all transit workers at the MTA’s violation of the arbitrated contract. We hope that October 14 kicks off militant struggles against this attack. We’ll have to beware of management attempts to victimize us for our just opposition.

We have to wage this fight despite the anti-worker nature of arbitration and the contract’s tardy, inadequate wage hikes. Such a fight is all the more necessary given the unsafe conditions we see every day, which jeopardize workers’ chances of living long enough to collect the raise.

Clear, courageous leadership from our powerful union could begin a massive, successful fight on October 14. This could start by organizing “any worker or group of workers,” as our Contract says, to shut down unsafe work – all over the system. Management may hysterically threaten us with discipline or Taylor Law penalties. We can’t let them intimidate us out of the required enforcement of safety and other Contractual rights. Supporters of RTW will, as always, join with our fellow workers in enforcing our Contract.

The Toussaint/Tate misleadership of Local 100 called for this “Day of Outrage,” and told us to “Stay Tuned.” So far they have failed even to hint about how to express our outrage. They held one election rally on September 29, for capitalist Democratic Party politicians, which they disguised as a protest demonstration. The sole “plan” so far for October 14 is to “Rock n Roll” and “Give [the bosses] a taste of Hell!” With no visible plan or organization, this is mere bluster. Perhaps Toussaint, Tate & Co will say that they have some great plan – but they can’t tell anyone about it for fear of “tipping their hand.” If the workers don’t know the “plan”, it’s worthless. Claims of secret plans are always bullshit, aimed at hiding the union hacks’ bankruptcy.

In the absence of such clear leadership, rumors spread. According to the Daily News of October 9, “A text message urging bus drivers to “slow it down” during a “day of outrage” circulated among drivers in at least four depots on Thursday. ‘Do everything by the book,’ the text message making the rounds urged. ‘Slow it down. Pass it on.’”

The Toussaint/Tate crew disavowed this in a way which could hang militant workers out to dry. According to the Daily News, an unidentified union “spokesman ... said the union is not involved in the current texted call to action. ‘These texts are either made up or intended to misrepresent,’ the spokesman said. ‘They did not originate from TWU directly or indirectly.’

This response is cowardly and treasonous. It doesn’t even hint at another plan. It lets the MTA bosses figure that they can easily victimize fighting workers. Any union leadership with half a claim to represent the workers against the bosses would at the very least be in the field in force before and on October 14 to defend the members from MTA victimization. The Toussaint/Tate response shows that these bosses’ pets fear workers’ militant mass action. They prefer us to be obedient participants in passive protest.

Nor has the main opposition caucus in Local 100, Take Back Our Union (TBOU), been helpful. Many of them are now ranking union officers, or soon will be. They have expressed support for protest on October 14. In contrast to Toussaint/Tate, they haven’t repudiated workers who want to fight. But neither have they publicized or tried to organize any protest or shown how they would lead our outrage differently from the Toussaint/Tate crew.

RTW has tried to give guidance to workers who want to fight the MTA’s flouting of the law, in person in the field, and in writing. On October 14, we will also have leaflets for transit riders, explaining how the MTA’s cutbacks hurt both transit riders and workers, and seeking solidarity with our struggle.

Our statement of Sept. 29 says:

the union should send big teams of elected union reps and other union personnel into the field. They should campaign in crew rooms and quarters, and on job sites for mass worker turnouts against the MTA’s lawsuit. They should make use of this campaign to organize transit workers to vigorously, continuously Enforce Safety Rules. Through such a campaign, the ranks of the union should become more involved with deciding and carrying out actions. And we need a General Membership Meeting in October, where all members can speak, raise motions from the floor and vote to decide the union’s actions.

We feel that serious preparation for self-defense must include Preparing to Strike, even if all we can do now is discuss and debate the question. It requires championing the cause of the rest of the working class: No fare hikes or service cuts! We must point out that the MTA bosses, Bloomberg, the Post and other capitalist liars who blame us for “bankrupting” the city enforce the donation of trillions of dollars of workers’ taxes to banks and other financial companies. They never talk about the billions of dollars the same banks and financiers get from MTA debt payments.

On October 14 and generally, we will stick together with our fellow workers, vigorously enforce safety and watch our backs. From our actions and discussions, the best fighters can emerge as the core of a new leadership worthy of the ranks’ support.

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