Wednesday, December 21, 2005

TWU Statement on Strike--Left Responses to the Transit Workers Walkout

NYC transit workers forced to strike!

Press statement from TWU President Roger Toussaint

People's Weekly World Newspaper, 12/20/05 15:20

NEW YORK CITY - With a one billion dollar surplus, the contract between the MTA and Transport Workers Union Local 100 should have been a no brainier. Sadly that has not been the case. Our contract expired midnight on Dec. 15.

In an attempt to save Mass Transit and in deference to our riders, we postponed our deadline and attempted to continue talking to the MTA. From the beginning, the MTA approached these negotiations in bad faith, demanding arbitration before even trying to resolve the contract.

Hours before contract expiration, the MTA got rid of its one billion dollar surplus -- a surplus which we believe continues to be understated by some one hundred million dollars. The MTA knew that reducing health and pension standards at the authority would be unacceptable to our union. They knew there was no good economic reason for their hard line on this issue - not with a billion dollar surplus.

They went ahead anyway, supported by the Bloomberg administration which wants to overrun Municipal Labor Unions and all City workers with down pressed wages and gutted health benefits and pension plans. This has been combined with continued attempts by the MTA, joined by the Governor and the Mayor, to intimidate and threaten our members and their families.

This is a fight over whether hard work will be rewarded with a decent retirement -- over the erosion or eventual elimination of health benefit coverage for working people. And it is a fight over dignity and respect on the job. A concept that is very alien to the MTA. Transit workers are tired at being under appreciated and disrespected. The Local 100 Executive Board has voted overwhelmingly to extend strike action to all MTA properties effective immediately.

All Local 100 representatives and shop stewards are directed to report to their assigned strike locations picket lines or facility nearest you immediately. To our riders, we ask for your understanding forbearance. We stood with you to keep token booths open, to keep conductors on the train and oppose fare hikes. We now ask that you stand with us. We did not want a strike.

Evidently the MTA, governor and the Mayor did. We call on all good will New Yorkers, the
Labor Community, and all working people to recognize that our fight is their fight, and to rally in our support with solidarity activities and events. And to show the MTA that TWU does not stand alone. -

Roger Toussaint, President, TWU Local 100

Transit workers show determination, high morale

Dan Margolis
People's Weekly World Newspaper, 12/21/05 11:09

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — All 34,000 New York City’s bus and subway workers, represented by Transport Workers Union Local 100, walked off the job in the early morning hours of Dec. 20, beginning NYC’s first transit strike in 25 years. According to TWU workers picketing in the cold at the Coney Island subway terminal, they were there for themselves, for future transit workers and for all working-class families.

At 3 p.m., exactly 12 hours after Local 100 leadership called the strike, nearly a hundred workers picketed the Coney Island terminal. According to Edwin Kippins, a motorman for the B and Q lines, over 60 pickets — some of them much larger — were going on at train and bus yards and terminals all over the city’s five boroughs.

Hazel Daley, the picket captain, said that she was proud to be out, and that she felt there was “very good morale” from the workers and the public alike. “We haven’t seen too many people walking by — Coney Island is sort of isolated when the trains and buses aren’t running — but people driving by are showing more support than we expected.” As if to emphasize her point, a line of cars went by moments later, all honking their horns, some with drivers giving the “thumbs up” sign.

“Other drivers asked to take some of our [picket] signs, so that they could display them in their car,” Daley said. No one wants to strike, but everyone interviewed felt it was necessary. The transit workers said that they needed to stand up to the transit authority, which, they say, treats them with contempt.

Although it is running a $1 billion surplus, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the agency that controls the trains and buses, demanded a two-tier pension system, where new workers would pay more toward their pension than current workers for their first 10 years of service.

It also wants new workers to pay more for health care benefits. “It’s a divide-and-conquer strategy that [the MTA] is pulling,” Daryl Ramsey, motorman on the Q and D trains told the World. “How can you have a worker paying 6 percent of his salary to his pension, while another worker, hired only two months before, is paying only 2 percent? That’s going to be divisive.” Ramsey also said that such a disparity is simply unjust.

Another picketer named Sterling held up the back of his digital camera for this reporter to view. “Look at that,” he said, pointing to an image that showed a filthy, overflowing toilet. “That’s the toilet we’re supposed to use at the 145th street station [on the B line] in Manhattan.” Pointing out another picture, which showed a room with a filthy layer of slime on the ground, the worker explained that it was their lunch area at the same station.

The slime on the ground, he explained, was raw sewage that came out of the toilet in the previous picture, when it backed up. Kippins said this strike, if successful, would benefit all workers. “They are slowly chipping away at the benefits of everyone, especially public employees,” he said. “The fire department, the police department — if we lose, they’re the next to get hit, and they know that.”

Daley said that she sensed a lot of support from other sections of labor. This support was on view the night before, at a rally of thousands of people to support the TWU. At the rally, leaders of public and private unions, including the City University professors, the building trades, Unite Here, the Screen Actors Guild, the Teachers Union and others all came out to pledge support in the event of a strike.

Daley pointed to a group of police officers who were there and said that they had been very friendly and supportive. Their union, the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, supports the TWU. One of the officers, when questioned, said that he was on duty, and was not allowed to say he supported the strike.

The workers are under fierce assault. The mayor, the governor, and many others are demanding that the Taylor Law be enforced. This law fines public workers two days pay for every day on strike. “There are some things higher than the law,” TWU President Roger Toussaint told the previous night’s demonstration. “One of those things is justice. If Rosa Parks had obeyed the law, many of us who drive the buses would have to sit in back of them.”

One of the Coney Island workers said that he was willing to pay the fines, if “push came to shove.” “It’s worth it,” he said. “I’ve been working for the MTA for eight years. I have decades to go. It’s worth it. We have to draw the line.”

Justice for NYC transit workers

They are fighting the rich and powerful to get a decent contract

Workers World Party Statement on TWU Strike

Published Dec 19, 2005 11:12 PM

Who keeps our subways and buses running? Not the high-paid executives of the MTA. Not the bankers who milk our transit system through huge interest payments. No matter how early you go to work, you’ll find subway and bus drivers, conductors, token booth workers, cleanup and track personnel already on the job. These women and men work hard, around the clock, often in hazardous conditions and in all weather.

The MTA wants to cut out conductors and make "one-person" trains, endangering the safety of workers and the public. It wants to cut benefits for new hires. It is offering wages that lag behind inflation. The workers have said, enough is enough! They face jail and fines if they strike for a decent contract. They're ready to fight and have the power to shut the city down. It's a power they haven’t used in a long time.

But the MTA may force them to do that or give up wages and health coverage and pensions that every worker deserves. MTA has the money No one wants to be inconvenienced. But think of it—this struggle will affect the workers of this city for years to come. Big business has been cutting away at wages and benefits, crying poverty. Poverty? Yes, there’s poverty all right, but not in the executive suites, not on Wall Street, not in the country club crowd. Their earnings are out of sight. And the MTA admits to having a $1-billion surplus!

But millions of workers can’t afford a doctor or medicine, can’t send their kids to college, can’t find decent, affordable housing, and are thousands of dollars in debt to credit card companies and banks. Most of them have no unions. The transit workers have a union—Local 100 of the TWU. It has a proud history of fighting the rich and powerful.

The MTA says it won’t touch “one cent” of existing workers’ health care and pensions. But it wants to cut those benefits for all the new hires. The TWU members, voting democratically in mass rallies of thousands, have said NO. Fighting for our future The big bosses don’t care what kind of a world our children live in. They’re trying to impose a “two-tier” contract—lower pay and benefits for future employees.

But the transit union is taking a stand for our sons and daughters. Let them know you agree! Get involved in supporting these workers. They help you every day. Now they need your help so we all can have a better life.

Issued as a public service by:
Workers World Party 55 West 17th St., 5th floor
New York, NY 10011
Phone: (212) 255-0352

This article is copyright under a Creative Commons License.
Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
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