League for the Revolutionary Party (LRP) Transit Workers Bulletin

December 14, 1999

No Contract, No Work!
No Time-Wasting! No Sellout!
Vote to Strike!

Support This Motion!

A TWU Local 100 member has prepared this motion and we encourage workers to support it:

That TWU Local 100 commence a strike at 12:01 am, Wednesday, December 15, 1999, if NYCT does not accept a contract which meets the following demands:

  1. A big wage raise;
  2. End of Workfare in transit;
  3. No givebacks.

Last week, chants of “Strike!“ by over 12,000 transit workers shook NYCT headquarters and echoed through the streets. That display of power sent management, politicians and even our own union leaders into a panic. Since then, all they’ve been thinking about is how to stop us from voting to strike. Threaten us? Bribe us? Confuse us? Divide us? There’s no telling what they’ll try to feed us. But no doubt they’ll try to surprise us with something.

The Best Time To Strike Is Now!

All these forces are lining up against us because they know that right now, we’re strong, and they’re weak. If we strike now, it’ll cost New York’s bosses millions in Christmas shopping profits. Management knows that if we strike, the bosses and politicians will be pressuring them to settle the strike quickly.

So we can’t afford to let this time to strike slip away. Management and union leadership may try to waste time, saying they’re close to a deal, or presenting us with a confusing offer at the last moment and insisting on a time-wasting mail ballot on a contract. The effect of these schemes would be to keep us working past the holiday period when the bosses are most vulnerable. We can’t fall for their tricks!

Transit workers have to do two things: 1) we have to draw a bottom line on what kind of contract is acceptable; and 2) we have to vote to strike if NYCT doesn’t agree to our demands by 12 midnight tonight, when the current contract expires.

Transit workers should support the motion that is being circulated (see above) that calls for a strike if NYCT doesn’t immediately agree to a contract with a big wage raise, an end to workfare and no givebacks. This motion doesn’t mean that we ignore other demands like changes to the disciplinary procedure. It simply draws a bottom line on the key issues and says clearly: No Sellout!

Giuliani’s Threats Show His Weakness

Giuliani’s threats to attack the TWU with the Taylor law shows just how weak the bosses and politicians are right now. Giuliani said he’ll sue the TWU for $25 million a day if there’s a strike. But he also said a strike would cost New York’s bosses $400 million a day! With the bosses set to lose that much, we can force NYCT and Giuliani to concede to our demands, including amnesty on any fines or penalties.

Breaking the Taylor law is not to be taken lightly, but it’s the right thing to do. Like segregation laws in the South, anti-union laws must and can be smashed. Many unions have fought such laws and won, including Local 100. It struck against a similar law in 1966 and won, without fines or dismissals.

If we strike now, when the bosses are vulnerable, we can win. But the union must make clear that it won’t settle without a full amnesty for all, meaning no penalties or firings. To “No Contract, No Work!“ we must add “No Full Amnesty, No Work!“

Beware Willie “Sellout” James

The biggest threat right now isn’t attacks by Giuliani, but betrayal by our own union leaders. Just look at Willie James’s record. He agreed to the last rotten contract that had no wage raise in the first year and introduced Workfare. No wonder James campaigned for Giuliani in the last Mayoral election!

Because of pressure from the ranks, James is still talking like he’s fighting for a decent contract. But he’s already proven his intention to cut a sellout deal. That’s the signal he sent when he promised a couple of weeks ago that he’d “keep the trains and buses running on December 15.” The Executive Board voted to in effect overturn James’s statement and reinforce that it is the members’ right to decide for or against a strike. Nonetheless, James continues to make his opposition to a strike clear by refusing to make preparations for one.

But in today’s mass meetings, as well as in a strike, we can hold James’ feet to the fire and prevent a sellout. The “James Gang” will try to scare us out of striking by pointing to the threats management and Giuliani are making. We should reject their scare tactics and vote to strike if NYCT doesn’t agree to our demands.

New Directions ... Directionless

Some workers may hope that New Directions offers a fighting alternative to the “James Gang.” But they haven’t so far. ND has been afraid to advocate a strike. Now that so many workers are calling for a strike, they’re going along with it. But what ND is saying shows they’re likely to fall for many of James’s tricks.

First of all, ND leaders so far have not called for a strike vote at today’s meetings. Activists in ND are only talking about a vote to authorize the Executive Board to call a strike. But that takes the power to call a strike out of the hands of the members and into the hands of an E. Board whose majority is tied to James. It also means that the contract expiration date will be allowed to slip by and the E. Board will be able to waste more time. No! We must vote to strike at today’s meetings.

Second, the latest edition of Hell On Wheels says that “A mass membership meeting is not the place for a contract ratification vote. That must be done by mail.” Nonsense! A mass meeting is where the members decide what the union should do. We must vote to strike, not authorize the E. Board to call a strike if and when they feel like it. And management and Giuliani couldn’t hope for anything better than ND’s idea that a contract must be ratified by a mail ballot not a mass meeting. A mail ballot would waste precious time and lose our chance to hit the bosses with a strike when they’re most vulnerable – during the Christmas shopping period.

The Bosses Aren’t Prepared

One argument against voting for a strike today is that the union isn’t prepared. Indeed the “James Gang” has not prepared us well. But the truth is that the ones who really aren’t prepared for a strike right now are the bosses. Any delay will give the bosses and politicians more time to prepare to fight us!

The best way to organize a strike at this point is to vote for it! Along with the vote to strike today, we must form elected strike committees to organize mass picketing and all the other work of conducting a strike so that it won’t be sold out.

No Compromise On Ending Workfare!

There are many ways the bosses and union leaders may try to confuse and divide us with a contract offer. One is a pay raise, higher than what NYCT has offered so far, tied to givebacks in other areas. For example, the New York Times (Dec. 12) reports that James is giving into NYCT’s demands for more flexible work rules. That will mean more work for each worker and pave the way for layoffs. We must reject such concessions.

One issue we must fight is the continuation of Workfare in transit. WEP workers now make up 4/5 of the NYC Parks workforce, replacing thousands of union jobs. James & Co. said that NYCT has sworn not to replace union jobs with WEP workers. But the Parks Dept. made the same promise and look what they did! NYCT may not be able to replace as many union jobs with WEP workers as in Parks. But don’t think they won’t try extending it significantly. Even in “white collar” sections of the city workforce, many union jobs were lost to WEP. Make no mistake: having a low-wage, non-union section of workers is intended to undercut our wages and jobs.

Moreover, WEP is a vicious, racist attack that forces welfare recipients into slave labor. We must not abandon our brother and sister Workfare workers. We must end workfare and win full-time union jobs for all those currently in WEP positions. Giuliani is a racist, anti-worker bastard who has earned the hatred of workers and poor people. With Giuliani right now trying to jail the homeless right before Christmas, we can win widespread support among the rest of the working class by taking a stand against workfare. Vote No To Any Contract With Workfare In It!

Spreading The Strike

Because of the powerful position of transit workers at the heart of New York’s economy, a transit strike is a winning proposition in and of itself. But transit workers shouldn’t limit their strategy. A transit strike could be a rallying point for all workers in the city.

Hundreds of thousands of city workers are furious they had “double-zero” contracts forced down their throats last time. Their contracts are up early next year. If Giuliani attacks a transit strike with the Taylor Law, it would be an attack on all city workers. It would raise the question: Why don’t all the unions strike? The TWU would be in a position to call for a general strike of all city unions against rotten contracts and union busting! The bosses are scared enough of a transit strike – imagine how terrified they’d be of a general strike!

Militant Workers Take the Lead!

The push for a strike so far has come from workers who know the time is right to fight for a decent contract. The next step is to support the motion for a strike if NYCT doesn’t agree to our key contract demands. Then we have to continue to fight to prevent a sellout.

Workers committed to fighting for an all-out strike and opposing any sell-out should begin to form an alternative leadership right now. We must elect strike committees of the most militant and trusted workers to carry our struggle forward beginning today. With such a perspective there’s no doubt we can win!