The bosses are using the financial crisis to bludgeon workers all over the country, and the action has begun at the D.C. Metro Transit system. The Metro bosses have declared that there is a $154 million operating deficit for the coming fiscal year. That could mean layoffs and position reductions of up to 15% of the workforce. Despite the rising demand for mass transit, the local governments that own Metro have decided to cut service and lay off workers. Whether this is their real plan or just a ploy to justify a fare increase is yet to be seen.
Rank-and-file workers at Metro are getting ready to fight back. A public hearing on cutting back Metro runs in D.C. is planned for February 19 at Metro Headquarters. Workers will be there in large numbers to say no to cutbacks in service, no to layoffs, and no to fare increases, with no help from the union leadership. Although the union contract expired on June 30, 2008, a new one has not been negotiated. The union has refused to mobilize the membership to fight for a new contract. The union president’s excuse is that the workers don’t want to fight, and instead is relying on her political friends. Some good that will do! But many workers remember the mass demonstration we had with communist leadership during the last contract fight and declare that we should do more bold and militant actions.
A fight-back is needed! In addition to service cuts and layoffs, the workers’ pension fund is in trouble, having lost about 1/3 of its value due to the crash, and the bosses are trying to weasel out of their contractual responsibility to make the fund whole. The bosses are building racism by using the crisis to pit D.C. area workers against the mainly black workforce of Metro.
Metro bosses have joined in this racist onslaught and have begun a terror campaign against operators. Minor safety violations, which have always been punished with a written warning, now result in a five-day suspension. Talking on a cell phone while laying over is now a five-day suspension. An operator with a poor work record as defined by the bosses can be terminated without warning, i.e. no final warning. These attacks are to soften up the workers to be savaged by the bosses who want to take out their crisis on our class.
There have been no actual layoffs at Metro since 1995. At that time, we organized large numbers of workers and riders to protest the cuts in service and the loss of jobs. The bosses backed down and reduced their plans for cutbacks. This time the crisis is much more serious, and our efforts must reflect that.
We must unite with the community as well to oppose any fare increase that the bosses may be planning. Our brother and sister workers who use Metro are being squeezed from all sides by the bosses. We must not be part of this.
A system that can find billions (and even trillions!) of dollars for oil wars and to bail out bankers who still get billions in bonuses — but can’t pay Metro workers without further soaking the working class — such a system needs to be smashed with communist revolution. Metro workers and riders should join in this fight.