Tag Archives: LA TRANSIT

Transit Bosses Make Workers Pay for Crisis

LOS ANGELES, June 15 — With the bosses cutting bus hours, health benefits and jobs, transit workers are under attack as the rulers try to solve their crisis on the backs of our class. But this is a capitalist disaster — not an act of nature. This crisis was created by those who profited hugely. Now that the capitalist economy is in decline, these same bosses and bankers demand to be bailed out. Workers are doing the bailing. With a salute to their commander-in-chief, the labor union executives have stepped in line behind Obama’s call for “shared sacrifice” to save their system. But instead of sacrificing, the richest of the rich are taking $2 or $3 trillion for the banks while workers suffer cuts in wages, benefits and vital social services.

The entire goal of the capitalist system is competition to produce maximum profits for a tiny group of capitalists, not to produce to meet the needs of the workers. In times of crisis, hard wired into the capitalist profit system, more goods are produced than people can afford to buy. The greedy bosses would rather destroy products than give them away to people who desperately need them. They take food, jobs, benefits and bus service away from us so they can pay huge amounts to keep their banks solvent. We don’t need their banks; we need to survive.

That’s why the main victory in this contract fight and in our coming struggles against their attacks will be unity and understanding that the source of these attacks is capitalism. We need to unite to fight for a system in which we produce to meet the needs of our families and our class, not to bail out the banks and to keep profits high for these blood suckers. We need to build a mass PLP to fight for workers’ power through communist revolution.

These attacks are coming home to MTA workers but the majority of the 9,000 mechanics, clerks and drivers know next to nothing about what’s going on with negotiations. The union leadership tries to keep the membership in the dark, only calling on us when it needs our votes to legitimize its murky deals. The last thing they want us to do is to unite against the capitalist system and to fight for a communist society without bosses, profits, banks or union hacks!

An independent strike committee is forming to call on transit workers to fight the union leadership as well as the company’s attempt to impose “shared sacrifices.” CHALLENGE readers will be active. A lack of leadership leaves many workers feeling defenseless.
We can learn from our fight for contract issues how the apparatus of the bosses’ government is used against us. From a strike, political lessons always become clearer. Our unity strengthens when we realize that the only solution to the constant attacks is to build workers’ revolution. This can never succeed without increasing the size of our communist party, PLP, among drivers and mechanics.

Why rescue a system that, in the name of profit, forecloses and empties thousands of houses while families live in camper shells? The LA Times reports cuts of more than 400,000 bus service hours since 2007 at a time when even more workers must rely on public transit. The madness and greed of the racist profit system must end.

If transit workers are against these foreclosures, layoffs, cuts and the job freeze at Metro, if we’re against bailing out the banks at our expense, we must understand that we’re against capitalism itself. To guarantee the future for the working class, we should unite against the coming war contract, build for a strike against any and all cuts and deepen that unity. We must build the long-term fight to get rid of the profit system and for a communist society where all workers will work and produce to meet the needs of our own class, not the bankers!

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Capitalist ‘SILO’ Tax Schemes Threaten All Transit Workers and Riders

LOS ANGELES, CA — You may never have heard of SILO, but this tax evasion scheme of the MTA is one of the reasons why school children lack books and clinics and hospitals in working-class neighborhoods have closed down. Taxes that should have gone to pay for these services were pocketed by the corporations in SILO: Sale In, Lease Out. Now that it has blown up in their face, the MTA and the public officials are going to make the riders and MTA workers pay in the upcoming contract.

Starting in the late 1980’s, Los Angeles MTA and Rapid Tranist Division (RTD) entered into rip-off tax deals with private investors. Over the years MTA sold $1.5 billion worth of transit assets to large banks for $65 million. In all, 1,000 LA Metro buses, trains, five transit divisions and even a parking lot were sold. (LA Times 10/18/ 08) After buying government property for pennies on the dollar, the banks stood to make extra money by leasing the property back to MTA. But, the big prize was the $4.4 billion nationwide tax swindle that these banks gobbled up.

LA MTA is one of the largest players in these illegal tax scams. After repeated IRS warnings, SILO’s were ruled an abusive tax shelter in late 2003. The investors had until the end of 2008 to settle up. Losing their huge tax break, banks searched for a way out.

As the U.S. capitalist economy plunged, the banks found their escape hatch. The insurer for the SILO’s was AIG, who crapped out so big they required two federal bailouts at $150 billion. When AIG’s credit rating dropped, the banks were off the hook. Thirty-one of the biggest public transit agencies in the U.S. were left holding the bag. Banks now own trains, buses and transit property valued at $16 billion that they no longer want to keep on leasing to the transit agencies but that these can’t afford to buy back.

Like the nearly bankrupt Detroit auto bosses, but with much less publicity, the heads of major transit agencies, including MTA’s Roger Snoble, scurried to Washington for help to buy back the equipment. Unlike the auto bosses, they didn’t get it.

They need public transit to get workers to work. But as with the auto industry, whether bailout or bankruptcy, a re-organization will land squarely on the backs of the workers and riders of public transit. Black and Latino workers who rely on public transit to get to their jobs will be disproportionately affected by racist cuts. If we look at the give -backs forced on auto workers by union misleaders, we can see what capitalism is planning for workers at LA Metro: lower wages, trashed work rules, costlier medical and pension plans.

The grinding economic train wreck is teaching us an old lesson anew: we have nothing to lose and everything to gain by getting rid of a system that has one ugly surprise after another for masses of workers, including those of us who work in and use public transit.

Our CHALLENGE in LA Transit

All three LA Metro contracts are up June 30, 2009. The heads of the unions, together with MTA’s new boss, will prepare take-away contracts for us. Our PLP transit club met to plan how to put CHALLENGE, in the hands of many more of our co-workers. By raising the number of readers and communist political discussions, transit drivers, mechanics, and clerks can advance under attack. With CHALLENGE’s revolutionary outlook and with deep, long-term relationships with our friends who read the paper, we can fight the bosses’ attacks and build a growing hatred of the racist profit system that threatens us, and finally steer it to the junkyard of history where it belongs.

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