CHICAGO, IL, December 27 –– For the third time in five months, transit workers and riders are facing a “Doomsday”(see CHALLENGE, 11/14/07) deadline. The bosses are threatening to slash thousands of jobs, dozens of bus routes and other service cutbacks if a new 5-year concession contract and state funding are not in place by January 20. These are especially racist cutbacks as they target a mostly black work force that serves an even larger black and Latin population.
Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) boss Huberman admits that mass transit creates $2 billion in value added wealth to the local economy by bringing millions of riders to work, shopping and events. But that $2 billion goes into the vaults of the biggest bosses and bankers. We create the wealth and they keep it. That is the secret to capitalism. The attacks on transit workers, the riding public and para-transit users are taking place as the economy slides into a recession and federal funding is cut to pay for the $12 billion-a-month wars in Iraq and Afghanistan!
City and state politicians are fighting over how to fund mass transit. Mayor Daley, the CTA and the ATU locals want the matter settled with a 5-year concession contract that creates a permanent two-tier system, a fare hike to $3.00 and service cuts. The CTA and Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) sent the contract to arbitration to keep it from being voted on by transit workers. The contract will go into effect as soon as the state politicians vote on funding, but they are fighting to tie funding to casino gambling. As with the Cook County health care cuts a year ago that closed half of the public health clinics, closed wards and slashed hundreds of jobs, the city and state politicians are Democrats, black and white, elected with union money.
Daley and the CTA had the union leaders (ATU locals 308 – rail, and 241 – bus), call for a one-day “job action” on December 17. They wanted us to demand funding that would saddle us with the 5-year concession contract, force new hires to work 15 years longer before they can retire, and use our “raises” to fund the shaky pension plan.
Most transit workers smelled a rat and wanted no part of it. Others were frustrated and wanted to take some action, like the three-day strike of 500 para-transit drivers in November and the one-day strike of PACE drivers in early December.
Had this been the start of a real strike to stop fare hikes and service cuts, and win a decent contract, the media and the bosses would have threatened us with jail and fines. But we didn’t hear a thing from them because they were behind it. Some workers notified the ATU International leadership and they threatened to put the ATU locals into trusteeship. The action was called off.
During this period, a group of transit workers took matters into their own hands, distributing a flier in several garages exposing the Daley-CTA-ATU charade. They called on workers to unite with riders to fight racist cutbacks. They got a very good response. As this struggle unfolds we have an opportunity to introduce more workers and transit activists to CHALLENGE newspaper and PLP. Communist revolution will be “doomsday” for the racist rulers, as we build a society that serves the needs of the international working class, not the bankers and casino operators.