Revolutionary Transit Worker No. 50
Supported by the League for the Revolutionary Party
May 17, 2010
TWU Leaders –
Stop Talking, Start Fighting Layoffs!
Tuesday, May 12, 266 Station Agents turned in their passes and lost their jobs. Over 200 more await a court decision on when, not if, they can be laid off. And hundreds more MTA workers in titles from Bus Operator to Cleaner to Car Inspector face lay offs by late June or early July. Layoffs threaten economic disaster to workers and their families, and they threaten to further weaken and divide our union, undercutting everyone’s living standards.
Why? The MTA says it has to close an $800 million deficit. In fact, this deficit is billions of dollars a year in debt they’re shoveling to the Wall Street bankers. The latter have received repeated government bailouts of up to trillions of dollars. And this time they want to be bailed out with our jobs.
Workers must rely on our own strength to fight back. On May 4th, Station Agents facing lay offs chanted “We move New York – And we can make it stop!”
Local 100 must organize a real mass workers’ march to stop and reverse layoffs and cutbacks. A mass, militant transit workers’ mobilization can lead to a city-wide fight. In a General Membership Meeting, Local 100 members can discuss and vote how the union will mobilize against the bosses’ attacks.
Billionaire Bloomberg is threatening over ten thousand layoffs, while Governor Paterson, Democrat and supposed “friend of labor,” is trying to cripple state unions with unpaid furloughs of one day a week. In the face of all these threats and more, Local 100 can be the union that stands up and says: “Billions for Bankers – Layoffs for Workers? Hell No! Not one Cut! Not one Layoff! Re-instate every laid off worker!”
Build March on Wall Street to Stop Budget Cuts and Layoffs!
An escalating campaign of workers’ action can beat back the bosses’ current attacks. As a first step, Local 100 must build for a confrontation against the cuts and layoffs. A good start could be a demonstration at the NYCT’s building at 2 Broadway, followed by a march on Wall Street. Local 100 should openly, publicly urge city unions to endorse, build and join the rally, demonstrating, say, at City Hall and then joining the march.
To build this, the union must organize mobilization committees of militant workers, especially those threatened with layoffs, to go to quarters, swing rooms, depots, barns, etc. across the MTA to explain the need for mass action against all the cuts and layoffs. The hundreds of members who signed up for Steward training should participate in mobilization committees – what better union activist training could there be? These committees must also go to other unions’ leaders and members wherever possible–at their meetings, halls and worksites – to urge them to join the TWU Local 100 mobilization and build for a city-wide showdown to defend workers’ jobs and living standards.
There’s a precedent: the official Local 100 Stations Fight Back Committee which met on April 5 voted for mass rallies against layoffs. This Committee voted to meet again in two weeks, but the union leadership ignored the members’ will and called no further meetings. The Committee vote shows the potential for a Local-wide Fight Back Committee of fighting workers which would be large and strong enough to make the union leadership respect their decisions. They could ensure that the union use every resource available to build for a massive march on Wall Street Now is the time to stand up and fight! No Cuts! No Layoffs! Re-instate the Station Agents!
Samuelsen Relies on the Politicians
Revolutionary Transit Worker has always stood for workers relying on their own strength, our own ability to act together. Local 100 President John Samuelsen has a different plan. It obviously did not stop the layoffs of the 266 Station Agents and has shown no sign that it can stop the further attacks coming down on us all.
The international union website recently carried the headline “TWU, ATU, Rev. Jackson – Rally in Atlanta with MARTA CEO” (twu.org, May 12). They had a rally with the boss! “But,” some might say, “Samuelsen would never do anything like that.” You might want to take a look at the union’s official publication Transport Workers Bulletin. It shows an editorial cartoon from the business press with Samuelsen and Walder driving trains right at each other, symbolizing the conflict between the union and the agency that wants to lay us off and tear up our working conditions and living standards. Does the Bulletin then say, “This is indeed the situation. There can be no compromise with an enemy looking to destroy you. We need a plan of action to fight Walder’s attacks.” No! It says that the truth is “more complex” and that “Samuelsen invited the MTA Chair to accompany Local 100 to Washington” (Transport Workers Bulletin, Vol. 1, No. 1, p. 7).
That is why with hundreds of layoff notices out and financial devastation hanging over the heads of union members the Local organized just two demonstrations two months apart, on March 4th and May 4th. That’s why the Bulletin had pictures of smiling politicians (happy for the free publicity, though powerless to help stop layoffs) but no pictures of angry workers being organized to fight the layoffs. That’s why the Local 100 “e-alert” of May 14 tells Bus workers who want to fight to “[leaflet] riders and [visit] elected officials to carry the fight line-by-line while we continue the fight in Washington and Albany for funding for all.”
That’s why the flyer for May 4th did not say “Stop the layoffs” but instead “Transit jobs are green jobs” – because it aimed at a rally to build an alliance with politicians. The anger of the ranks made it a real protest, an expression of power against the MTA, but more workers did not come because it was not built like a real protest and that’s a betrayal.
We believe in the power of the workers and their ability to think for themselves. That’s why we put forward a plan in writing for discussion. That’s why we advocate a city-wide march, calling an emergency General Membership Meeting to plan how to fight layoffs, and building a local-wide fightback committee to organize the struggle. What is the local leadership’s plan of action? Why should we have to ask – why isn’t it in writing, on the website for discussion? As of May 14th, the only action on the website for workers to take to stop layoffs is ... to call Senator Schumer’s office assistant. It’s one thing to make demands on politicians using our collective power, but to tell workers to individually call a politician makes it seem like they have all the power and keeps us divided. We have to be united in action and that’s just what Samuelsen isn’t doing.
Fighting Spirit Grows
The ranks have shown that they want to fight. After the May 4 rally, several hundred TWU members marched from Penn Station Manhattan to MTA Headquarters. Many of the marchers chanted: “They Say Cut Back – We Say Strike Back!” and “We Make the City Run – We Can Shut it Down!” And it’s not just the MTA that’s trying to layoff workers to bail out the banks – it’s happening across the city, country and world. That’s why hundreds of thousands of Greek workers have built general strikes and made the news across the world.
We don’t have any time to lose to build the struggle against layoffs. Discuss this with your coworkers. Urge union activists that you know to fight for a city-wide demonstration and a General Membership Meeting. Call and email the union officials, telling them to do the same. Write to Revolutionary Transit Worker, let us know what you think and how we can work together to stop the layoffs. We must get the union leadership to change course.