Tag Archives: Transit workers

Union Hacks Screw Transit Workers Despite Rank-&-File Defiance:


SAN FRANCISCO, CA — The ruling-class media has created a divisive, lynch-mob mentality against 900 Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station agents and train operators in ATU Local 1555 who stood up against a plan to blatantly rob them and other subway workers of $100 million over the course of a 4-year contract.

Newspapers called workers spoiled and lazy, while radio talk-show hosts called for workers to be fired and replaced. BART spokesman Linton Johnson suggested that passengers harass and confront workers who rejected by a 2-1 margin a 4-year wage freeze and take-aways of three
holidays, work rules, medical and pension benefits.  The last BART strike in 1997 lasted six days and caused devastating traffic jams costing the capitalists millions in lost production and profits.

Feeding the fascist frenzy were the union traitors who openly cried about the “grim economy” and tried to convince their members that
“everyone must sacrifice” and take this junk. Linda Isler, the president of the mechanics, janitors, and clerks union, SEIU 1021, proudly claimed that a 4-year wage freeze wasn’t a wage-cut.  The SEIU never taught her about inflation!  The SEIU accepted it 3-1. ATU 1555 leaders shackled
workers’ hopes for a lousy 1% wage increase at the end of the contract to BART’s sales tax revenue, ridership totals and pension contributions.

Yet where was the vilification over the $100 million payout to Citibank trader Ed Hall after working-class taxpayers bailed out Citibank to the tune of $45 Billion?  Apparently the life of one parasitic financier from a bank that helped ruin the lives of tens of thousands of working-class homeowners is more important than the future of over 3,000 transit workers. These transit workers actually provide a valuable service which is more than can be said for a “trader.” Such a rotten profit system must be eliminated!

The ATU and SEIU leaders are worse than dead. They are in solidarity with capitalism and complicit in the impoverishment of the working class. They cannot and will not fight for our interests.  They don’t understand the long-run tendency of the rate of profit to fall and exploitation of workers to increase. They try to limit workers’ opposition only to the rotten BART managers instead of showing how capitalist crisis and their needs for war are the main causes of BART’s budget woes. Some of the opposition just wanted a two-year contract in the hopes capitalism will rebound.

We must carry on this fight ourselves with CHALLENGE, class struggle, and base-building.  Bus drivers of ATU 192 (AC Transit) were building solidarity among workers by passing a motion not to work any scab overtime if their brothers and sisters at ATU 1555 went on strike. Their contract is up next July.  Members of PLP passed out several hundred leaflets and sold CHALLENGES at the rejection vote.  We called for no concessions to capitalist crisis and war budgets and for more workers to become communists. Our class must fight the media’s divisive attacks with communist class consciousness.

After the vote the BART board voted to impose an even worse contract on the workers and the ATU was forced to call for a strike — initially planned for the next morning. They changed their mind and delayed the strike call two days.

While the bus drivers and CHALLENGE sellers intensified their efforts over the weekend, BART bosses, Democratic party politicians, and union leaders united to thwart the strike.  This time they came up with another tentative agreement that restored the three lost holidays and tied the pipe-dream of a measly raise to the savings of a union-sponsored plan to increase the time to qualify for retiree medical benefits from 5 to 15 years. This plan continues the union strategy of dividing the membership and making new workers pay for capitalist crisis.

We are planning more activities’ leading up to the contract vote.  We are struggling with our co-workers to help us spread our analysis through distributing CHALLENGE and taking more leadership in the fight-back. Class struggle sharpens contradictions and we must engage it, develop it, and strengthen it through collective actions. J

…and After

Members of ATU (Amalgamated Transit Union) Local 1555 were angry and fired up as they walked into the union hall where voting on the latest tentative agreement took place. For several weeks, they had sustained vicious attacks by the Bay Area ruling class’s media. Management’s latest contract offer was a rehash of the same contract workers rejected by a 2-1 margin on August 10 (see article above). The strategy of management and their henchmen, the ATU Local 1555 leadership, to wear workers down with scathing attacks and litanies of “shared sacrifice,” won the day on August 26.

The victory, however, showed that workers’ support of the union’s leadership is limited, as the contract was approved by less than 50% (albeit 75% of those who voted) of the union membership. In any case, the role of the union hacks became quite clear. Instead of organizing workers to fight back, they threw the workers under the train by encouraging them to vote in new BART board members at the next election, saying this was the best they could do given the current economic climate. They spewed the empty promise of “we’ll get them next time.”

This latest attack on the working class of the Bay Area won’t be the last. One by one, under leadership of the hacks, unions are bowing to the demands of capital. One worker declared, “The union movement is dead!” At the first contract vote on August 10, a young black BART worker put it best.  “You (all) are disgusting! You’ve sold us out!” as he called out the union misleaders. “You say you’re for us, while you sit there idling as we’re losing station agents. If one walks, we all walk, that’s what you should be organizing.” He went on to say that the union needed a PR person to go up against “these vicious dogs,” showing that some workers still have illusions in mistakenly thinking that union officials rather than masses of workers can win our fights.

Teachers at West Contra Costa Unified have been asked to “sacrifice” their medical benefits resulting in a cost of $900/month to insure their family. UTR (United Teachers of Richmond) members have authorized a strike, but once again, the union’s leadership has been passive at best. Instead of organizing teachers to build a strong strike, they’re giving management time to solicit scabs and prepare for the eventual strike. The unions push the electoral system, “sacrifice,” and wishful thinking as answers to the ongoing attacks.

PLP members wrote two leaflets and went to talk with BART station agents and operators. Several recognized one of our young teachers commenting, “Hey, you’re that teacher and you’re going on strike, aren’t you? We’ve got to stick together.”  Our flyers called on ATU members to vote no and to join us in building a communist movement. The flyers sought to build class consciousness and empower workers with the analysis that we must fight back as a class.

Building solidarity with other transit workers is crucial and the Party members also helped organize a No Overtime (NOT) Pledge amongst AC Transit [bus] Drivers. Through our involvement, our politics influence these struggles. The president of another ATU local kicked out one of her own members for distributing our flyers at the union hall; saying he had no business “interfering with their [ATU Local 1555’s] business.” We later discovered that our flyer was faxed to all the station agents by one of their own!

We had successful discussions with various workers and distributed a modest number of CHALLENGES. These activities have reinvigorated several young Party members and a weekly
CHALLENGE sale is being organized. A young teacher brought a few students (Summer Project attendees) to distribute our flyers. There are signs of growth and development in Party members that bodes well for working-class people in the Bay Area.

This struggle is an example of what the working class is facing nationally and internationally. The current economic crisis will see another nine million families lose their homes by year’s end with racist, predatory lending practices leading to black and Latino workers bearing the brunt of these attacks, while banks rake in record profits. With the national debt forecast to reach 20 trillion in 10 years, capitalists will resort to wars to defend their imperial empire in Afghanistan and elsewhere, trying to avoid the bankruptcy of their system.

Workers must rely only on our class and not on politicians, elections or union sellouts. Only when we organize as a class and fight as a class can we accomplish any real change, a change that must ultimately be the creation of a communist world. Our involvement in this struggle has shown us that the opportunity for spreading communist politics and building our Party is out there. CHALLENGE is the best working-class PR there is and we will continue the struggle as the battle shifts from transit workers, to teachers, and eventually all workers in the Bay Area.

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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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As Economic Crisis Looms Over Contract Fight: Forging Communist Base Among LA Transit Workers

LOS ANGELES, April 6 — “One of the first things I do each day is put CHALLENGES or leaflets in my backpack,” said a PLP member. “I think about who I’m going to get the paper to today or what kind of political discussion I’ll try to develop. I am motivated by a deepening anger against the storms of crisis, war and fascism that confronts our class, an anger that is growing in many of my co-workers.”
Building a base of communist workers for the Party means knitting together a network of CHALLENGE readers, organizing study groups, forums, and personal social and political visits, as well as becoming part of class struggle. It also involves our own families, in trying to have the time and space for all this. Ideally it means integrating our family’s participation in this process.
We’ve been working in the transportation industry for 10 years. Our PLP club now regularly distributes 55 CHALLENGES — having six veteran members, four new members and another five readers who help distribute one or two papers each.

We’ve worked with many workers over time. Some have responded immediately. Later, when they understand the seriousness of the situation, they may pause to think about it. Others are more cautious from the beginning and slowly get closer to us. Others want our literature and to help the Party in some way, without committing themselves completely. Others have joined and are advancing, taking more leadership.

Recently we’ve organized four forums involving 30 different workers —Latino, African American and white, and some from Russia and the Middle East. The forums concerned the history of the working class and the need for PLP and the fight for communism as the only viable alternative to the world-wide crisis of capitalism, imperialist war and fascism.

There’s a great potential to recruit new members in a short time. Building a communist base requires patience and urgency — patience because it’s not so easy to change workers’ minds. Much consistency and persistence are needed.

Consistency: we can’t just take people CHALLENGE once and then, after a few months, bring them another one. We have to take the political development of each worker seriously and follow up, but without being mechanical. Many times we want to force the process of development because we’re not viewing things dialectically. If you plant a fruit tree, you can’t expect to be eating mangos in one month. It won’t happen! Then you could decide to abandon it and leap to a new one, and on and on, without success.

We’re involved in the class struggle. We’re forming a strike committee, with PL’ers, readers and co-workers to fight around the contract this summer. Three years ago, during the last contract fight, we formed a committee that gave communist political leadership during the strike, organizing protests, meetings, leafleting, articles and CHALLENGE sales, and bringing other workers and students to the picket lines. The current economic crisis — which our contract fight is a part of — is an opportunity to expose the capitalist system and show workers the vision of a new communist world.

Besides inviting all the CHALLENGE readers to the May Day Dinner, we’re also struggling with them to invite their friends and families. May Day offers the chance to clarify PLP’s communist ideas, enabling us to build a mass communist party of the working class. To achieve that, we need many communists, and for that we need an expanding network of CHALLENGE readers that becomes a mass network.
These advances come from sharpening the political struggle inside the club and the leadership to spread PLP’s communist politics.

“When are we going to talk about politics?” a transit driver asked a CHALLENGE seller at a work site. “I’ve got a lot to say and some questions to ask you.” In the past, this driver occasionally took a paper. He was friendly but not particularly interested in PLP’s communist ideas. Today that’s changed. He, his wife and two children are all victims of capitalism’s crisis. In the “tender” phrase of the bankers, this family is “underwater” — they owe substantially more on their house than it’s worth, even after paying $100,000 down. He’s one of millions being sacrificed to bail out the billionaire swindlers. Stung by the betrayal of his “American Dream,” we hope this driver and more like him will come to the May Day Dinner where he can learn about the historic battles against capitalism and begin to participate in the current movement. We plan to involve him in PLP activities during the contract struggle and upcoming Summer Project.

Now, even before the contract expires, the collapsing U.S. economy is falling on our heads and on the rest of the world’s workers. The bosses’ media complain about the speed of the collapse of manufacturing, but transit workers could be next on the chopping block if they need us to transport fewer workers to the factories. The economic meltdown increases our opportunities to win these workers to PLP’s politics while fighting the attacks on our co-workers’ and riders’ lives.

During the last contract struggle we encouraged drivers and riders to unite, held social events and explained that “Contracts only spell out the terms of our oppression; they don’t stop exploitation.” Some transit workers who participated in these activities became more interested in the long-term possibility of communist revolution.

We say everyone can help fight for communism. A retired comrade, no longer driving, has helped circulate CHALLENGE and communist leaflets to transit workers. Not being tied to the time clock, he can visit drivers and mechanics on all shifts. Guys ask him, “How is retirement?” He replies, “I love not being a wage-slave, but this system is after us old folks too. A pension based on capitalist investments is a contract written on toilet paper. The contract struggle will involve retiree issues. The company will try to play active transit workers against retirees by saying there isn’t enough money for both with this budget deficit. Sure, I retired from the company but you can’t retire from the class struggle and the fight for communism.”

One thing is certain. The capitalist crisis will continue to push workers “underwater.” As bosses under Bush allowed workers to drown in Hurricane Katrina, the bosses under Obama will not, and cannot, rescue our class from the ravages of this economic hurricane. PLP’s goal of communist revolution is the only lifeline in these storms.

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TWU Hacks Attack Rank-&-File, Help Rulers Squeeze ALL Workers

NEW YORK CITY, NY, November 10 –– The city’s bosses are ganging up on mass transit’s riders and workers, who are mostly black, Latino, and immigrant. The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) is considering raising fares 23% while proposing to lay off 2,800 workers and attack seniority in at least one department.

These racist attacks come just weeks before the current contract between the MTA and Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 expires in January 2009. Instead of mobilizing demonstrations against fare hikes and organizing job actions, Roger Toussaint, the president of Local 100, pledged not to lead a strike “now or in the future” in return for reinstating automatic union dues check-off.

The courts took away Local 100’s automatic dues check off after the union broke the state’s Taylor Law (barring public employees from striking) in a 60-hour strike in December of 2005.

Without automatic check-offs the union had to individually ask members to enter into payment plans. Instead of using the opportunity to mobilize workers to raise money to fight the bosses, Toussaint’s leadership denied any and all union services to members who weren’t paid up in full or in “bad standing.”

About 50% of the members are in “bad standing”—some to save money, others experiencing glitches with union plans, and many out of resentment with Toussaint for calling off the 2005 strike without a deal. These workers can’t call the union, go to union meetings, enter the union building, participate in union classes, vote in union elections, or receive union representation in grievances without paying up in full. Now, automatic dues check-off will collect millions in current dues but won’t restore past debts, leaving members in bad standing without rights.

In September the local’s executive board used dues to suspend three track division union officers. When one called for restoring members to good standing immediately as long as they paid the normal dues and an extra catch-up amount. The executive board charged him with calling for “dues amnesty.” Another was accused of running the August track division meeting while being in “bad standing.” The third was charged with defying union staffers attempting to shut down the August meeting.

Transit workers told CHALLENGE that the meeting almost came to blows when the union staffers tried to prevent workers from talking until the members in bad standing left the room.

The real issue is that the three track officers were leading job actions to prevent eliminating regular days off on the weekends for the track department, The executive board is opposed to any job actions.

In addition to dividing the workers, the bosses aim to pit the public vs. workers with a local TV news report accusing track workers of running personal errands on the job, and working only 1-2 hours a day.The bosses want riders to blame “lazy” workers for fare hikes but the real thieves are the MTA bosses, Wall Street banks and city and state politicians.

To fill the budget gap created by the lack of government funding, the MTA colluded with major banks to borrow money in the form of bonds.

Now two billion dollars, nearly 20% of the MTA’s projected 2009 budget, is going to “debt service,” the fastest-growing part of the MTA’s deficit. In plain English, “debt service” means paying interest on bonds backed by Wall Street banks. These banks’ corporate officers are stealing billions from transit employees and riders without doing a drop of work. Hundreds of higher managers in the MTA make six-figure salaries without ever picking up a tool or operating a vehicle. And the media calls workers lazy!

To fight these attacks, transit workers and riders will have to unite against the bosses as well as the sellout union leaders. Victory in the struggles for lower fare and a “good” contract should be measured in the unity of workers in fighting these attacks and in the  building of the revolutionary communist PLP. We can’t wait for someone else to take up this battle.

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Red Transit Workers Mean‘Doomsday’ For the Bosses

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.

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