NYC Bosses Threaten
National Guard Occupation
Can’t Run the Subways with Bayonets!
a Solid Transit Strike, Mobilize All New York Labor!
With the December 15 contract deadline for New York City subway and
bus workers looming, the ruling class has switched into high gear whipping
up a fear campaign against Transport Workers Union Local 100. On Friday,
December 6, multi-billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg declared that if
there is a transit strike “people will die” – supposedly because of traffic
congestion blocking ambulances.
Two days later, Governor George Pataki’s office leaked that it was preparing
to bring in the National Guard to patrol the city in a strike. In their
strikebreaking zeal, the capitalist rulers would put NYC under martial
law, like after the September 11 World Trade Center attack last year. “Strike
Force” screamed the front page of the New York Post (9 December)
with a photo of a rifle-toting Guardsman. Now Bloomberg and Pataki are
in court to get injunctions banning a strike under New York’s union-busting
Taylor Law, as Mayor Rudy Giuliani did in 1999.
On Saturday, thousands of TWU members flooded into the Javits Center
in Manhattan to overwhelmingly vote to authorize a strike. But the Local
100 leadership under president Roger Toussaint, elected in 2000 as part
of a “reform” slate, is using this as a pressure tactic rather than gearing
up the membership for all-out battle. It is looking to the Democrats in
the City Council, who in turn are calling on Republican governor Pataki
The battle of New York city transit is not some isolated local dispute,
but hits at the heart of international finance capital. Without a steady
supply of workers delivered every workday morning, Wall Street can’t function.
A solid transit strike would also wreak havoc with Bush’s war on Iraq.
You can bet it would quickly be placed on the National Security Council
Already the bosses’ press is squawking about a “communist underground”
in the subways and “Toussaint’s jihad.” When they portray transit strikers
as “terrorists,” the unions should tell the red-baiters and labor haters
to go to hell. U.S. rulers are the ones who terror-bomb Afghanistan and
Iraq and seek to terrorize working people, minorities and immigrants here
into submission. What’s needed is to defeat the bosses’ war through
sharp class struggle.
The TWU ranks must prepare for a hard battle, and they must be backed
by the combined strength of the organized workers movement in New York.
NYC transit workers should join in struggle with United Air Lines workers,
whose union gains are threatened by court action, and West Coast dock workers
who were sent back to work under the slave-labor Taft-Hartley law.
Against threats by city and state governments to use strikebreaking
laws, transit workers should defiantly reply: You can’t run the subways
with bayonets! We say: Burn their injunctions and turn the scab
law into a dead letter. If any transit workers or TWU leaders are arrested
or fines imposed on the union, all city labor should walk out and shred
the Taylor Law!
at union rally before the last contract, 8 December 1999. (Internationalist
The Metropolitan Transit Authority’s insulting contract offer amounts
to a pay cut (no wage increases for two years, plus taking more from workers’
paychecks for health and pension funds). The TWU should declare “no
contract, no work, no extensions – strike now!” Make the scheduled
December 16 labor march across Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall into a mass
mobilization of tens of thousands of unionists and their supporters on
the first day of a strike.
Other unions should join in active solidarity with the transit workers
and tie the city’s elaborate “contingency plans” in knots. The TWU is fighting
for all of city labor: AFSCME is next up on the mayor’s hit list. We say:
down New York and keep it shut until Bloomberg, Pataki and the financiers
fork it over!
The MTA bosses are guilty of homicide. The Transit Authority’s refusal
to follow the most minimal safety rules, in force on all other railroads
in the area, has led to repeated deaths of transit workers. Two track workers
– Joy Antony and Kurien Baby – were killed in two days last month because
the MTA forced them to work without flagmen to warn approaching trains.
Local 100 should have struck the system then and there. TWU militants should
demand the formation of union safety committees authorized to shut down
traffic at any dangerous spot.
The MTA is trying to loot the pensions and sock transit workers with
rising health care costs. The TWU should make a non-negotiable demand that
there be full health care for all transit workers – no “co-pays,”
zero deductibles – and campaign for free, quality medical care for everyone.
Transit workers complain of the Transit Authority’s vicious “plantation
justice” system of imposing sanctions on its employees in order to “keep
them in line.” Since the last contract, management has written up as many
disciplinary notices as it has workers. The union should demand that all
disciplines be wiped out.
The TWU should champion minority and immigrants’ rights. The overwhelmingly
black and Latino WEP (“workfare”) workers should immediately be made
union members at full union-scale wages. The union should demand full
citizenship rights for all immigrants. Meanwhile, all police (such
as the revenue cops) should be thrown out of the TWU and the unions: police
are the armed fist of the class enemy, who we face on the other side
of the strike barricades.
New York City rulers are trying to set the population against the transit
workers union, even as they plan a whopping fare hike to $2 a ride. The
TWU could win huge popular support by aggressively demanding free public
transit. We say: rip out the turnstiles, train the clerks to
more trains to reduce overcrowding, and build the Second Avenue
The MTA, the mayor and the governor will plead poverty – pretty
ludicrous coming from this gang of millionaires and billionaires. The entire
city deficit could be paid off from Bloomberg’s piggy bank. The MTA talks
about “rising costs,” but what costs are rising – it sure isn’t
transit workers’ wages! The costs they’re talking about are overwhelmingly
debt service to the bankers, some $2.3 billion a year. Some of these “loans”
go back to the 1930s when the city took over the privately owned subways,
and they have been paid for many times over. The TWU should demand: repudiate
Clearly, such a revolutionary program is not going to be won by business-as-usual
business unionism, even dressed up in “reform” garb. A fighting leadership
of the unions must be forged, one that breaks with the Democratic and Republican
parties of capital (and second-string capitalist outfits like the Greens
and the Working Families Party) and undertakes to build a class-struggle
workers party that fights for a workers government.
We make the city work, and we can make it stop! The transit workers’
fight is the fight of all New York City workers, minorities, immigrants
and poor – that is, of the overwhelming majority of the population against
the tiny minority of the filthy rich who think they are masters of the
universe and can trample on everyone else. A leadership that has the program
and determination to stand up to this bunch of capitalist thugs could win
wide public support. We have the power – use it!
–10 December 2002