Tuesday, December 20, 2005

MTA Strike

Well, it's official: the Transport Workers Union. Local 100 (TWU), which works run NYC's MTA, went on strike at 3 am this morning. And as much as I'd be frustrated to commute in NYC right now (which I used to do) kudos to the TWU for standing up for their rights. A little inconvenience is nothing compared to workers fighting for fair wages and benefits. Unfortunately, because it's "illegal" for mass transit workers to strike, the 38,000 bus and subway employees will incur fines of two days pay for each day on strike.

According to New York Socialist Alternative:

On the eve of the negotiations, the MTA provocatively voted to squander $1 billion in surplus funds to make sure that there would be no money for pay increases or health and pension benefits for the workers. [On] Friday night, the MTA final proposal called for below inflation wage increases, pension and work rule givebacks and for new TWU members to pay 1% of their salary for health benefits!

Bloomberg's administration intervened in the negotiations in an attempt to intimidate and threaten the transit workers with retaliation and use of the anti-labor Taylor Law. The mayor's legal department has gone to court seeking an injunction that would impose huge additional fines on individual workers as well as the penalties on the Taylor Law against the members of Local 100. The MTA is threatening that not only union offibut alsoutalso rank and file workers would be jailed if there was a strike -- clearly a threat to bust the union!

Bloomberg, Pataki, Wall Street and the MTA bosses clearly have decided to viciously attack the transit workers as part of the overall plan to roll back the gains that workers and their unions have made in NYC in the past 70 years. As for the transit system, the aim is to fund the MTA solely through fares and interest-bearing bonds rather than taxes on businesses and transit subsidies as it used to be in the past.

Furthermore, the attack on TWU on pensions (for retirement at 62 after 30 years rather than after 25 years as is now) will open the door for what is intended to be a gutting of the public employee pensions and health benefits - with billions of dollars being funneled into the pockets of big business. Another attack is the demand for "broadbanding" (forcing workers to do additional tasks) which opens the way for the future destruction of thousands of jobs.

The transit dispute has touched a raw nerve among working people in the city who sense that this dispute is about the growing attacks on living standards, working conditions and the basic democratic rights of workers in the most unionized city in the country. Millions of workers in New York face a rising cost of living at a time when wages and benefits are under attack. It is disgusting to observe the big business media portray transit workers (or teachers, government employees or any union workers) as"overpaid" and "under-worked" while the billionaires and financial lords ofthe city are growing richer and richer.

In the 25 years since the last transit workers strike, when the system was shut down for 11 days, workers in New York City and across the country have seen the loss of millions of good jobs and a steady decline in wages and benefits.[...]

There should be a call to roll back the fare to $1 as a step toward a free transit system and for a program of massive investment to upgrade the entire transit system -- paid for by taxes on the rich and big business. This should be part of a program and movement that campaigns to put the needs of working people (healthcare, childcare, education, transportation, housing, a clean environment,) before war and corporate profits.

A clash with the 38,000 transit workers in New York City, the financial capital of the world, [pits] MTA and Bloomberg but also corporate America and the Bush administration against working people in this country. The implications [are] enormous as it could be seen as a way for all workers to resist against the corporate agenda of Bush and Wall Street in the US and internationally and could open the way for workers to build their own political party to challenge the dictatorship of big business.

Additionally disturbing is the venom being hurled at the striking workers -- regular people trying to earn a fair wage. Among the comments, found in this AP story:

"MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow called the strike 'a slap in the face' to all New Yorkers." (And yet a $2, one-way subway fare is not.)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg: "This is not only an affront to the concept of public service, it is a cowardly attempt by Roger Toussaint [TWU President] and the TWU to bring the city to its knees to create leverage for their own bargaining position."
(This position is, not surprisingly, being echoed in the strike coverage on Bloomberg's business news site, Bloomberg.com -- news coverage served with a steaming side of bias.)

"'I think they all should get fired,' said Eddie Goncalves, a doorman trying to get home to Queens after working an overnight shift." (I wonder if Goncalves is a member of Service Workers Local 32B/32J, of which a number of doormen are members.)

Join the TWU at these picket locations:

Gunhill Depot: 1910 Bartow Avenue
Pelham Barn/Westchester Sq. Yard: Eastchester Rd. & Water Street
Zerega CMF: 750 Zerega Avenue
180th Street Yard: 1151 East 180 Street
West Farms Depot: 1100 East 177th Street
Concourse Yard: 3119 Jerome Avenue
Jerome Yard: Jerome Ave. & Van Courtlandt Ave.
239th St. Barn: 4570 Furman Avenue
240th St. Barn: 5911 Broadway
Eastchester Depot: Interstate 95 at Exit 13
Yonkers Depot: 59 Babcock St.
Tiffany Iron: 1170 Oakpoint Avenue

East New York Depot/Shop: 1700 Bushwick Avenue
Flatbush Depot: Flatbush & Utica Ave.
Coney Island Yard: Avenue X & McDonald
Ulmer Park Depot: Cropsey Ave. & Bay
Jackie Gleason Depot: 871 Fifth Avenue
Pitkin Yard: 1434 Sutter Avenue
Livonia Shop: 824 Linwood Shop
Atlantic Ave/Bergen Street Shop: 1415 Bergen Street
Linden Shop: 1500 Linden Blvd.
Cozine: 50 Cozine Avenue

Fresh Pond Depot: 56-99 Fresh Pond Road
Jamaica Barn: 7815 Grand Central Parkway
Jamaica Depot: 114-15 Guy R. Brewer Blvd.
Corona Barn: 126-53 Willets Point Blvd.
Triboro Coach Depot: 8501 24th Avenue
College Point Depot: 128-15 28th Avenue
Maspeth CMF:
Woodside Electronic Shop: 33-33 54th Street

Kingsbridge Depot: 4065 10th Avenue
207th St. Yard: 3961 10 Avenue
Manhattanville Depot: 666 West 133rd St.
100th Street Depot: 1552 Lexington Avenue at 100th Street
Michael J. Quill Depot: 525 11th Avenue
West 53rd St Power/RCC: 53rd St. btw 8/9
126th Street Depot: 2460 Second Avenue