Communique by the Rank and File Initiative, posted in dozens of New York subway stations:
Rank and File Initiative
This morning before rush hour, teams of activists, many from Occupy Wall Street, in conjunction with rank and file workers from the Transport Workers Union Local 100 and the Amalgamated Transit Union, opened up more than 20 stations across the city for free entry. As of 10:30 AM, the majority remain open. No property was damaged. Teams have chained open service gates and taped up turnstiles in a coordinated response to escalating service cuts, fare hikes, racist policing, assaults on transit workers’ working conditions and livelihoods — and the profiteering of the super-rich by way of a system they’ve rigged in their favor.
For the last several years, riders of public transit have been under attack. The cost of our Metrocards has been increasing, while train and bus service has been steadily reduced. Budget cuts have precipitated station closings and staff/safety reductions. Police routinely single out young black and Latino men for searches at the turnstile. Layoffs and attrition means cutting staff levels to the bare minimum, reducing services for seniors and disabled riders. At the same time, MTA workers have been laid off and have had their benefits drastically reduced. Contract negotiations are completely stalled.
Working people of all occupations, colors and backgrounds are expected to sacrifice to cover the budget cut by paying more for less service. But here’s the real cause of the problem: the rich are massively profiting from our transit system. Despite the fact that buses and subways are supposed to be a public service, the government and the MTA have turned the system backwards—into a virtual ATM for the super-rich. Instead of using our tax money to properly fund transit, Albany and City Hall have intentionally starved transit of public funds for over twenty years; the MTA must resort to bonds (loans from Wall Street) to pay for projects and costs. The MTA is legally required to funnel tax dollars and fares away from transportation costs and towards interest on these bonds, called “debt service.” This means Wall Street bondholders receive a huge share of what we put into the system through the Metrocards we buy and the taxes we pay: more than $2 billion a year goes to debt service, and this number is expected to rise every year. If trends continue, by 2018 more than one out of every five dollars of MTA revenue will head to a banker’s pockets.
This much is clear: the MTA’s priorities are all out of whack. This fare strike is a means for workers and riders to fight for shared interests together — but this is just a first step. All of us — the 99% — have an interest in full-service public transportation system that treats its ridership and employees with dignity.
The MTA is a shared, public service — fund it with tax revenues.
Eliminate free money for bondholders at the expense of taxpayers.
End the assault on worker’s livelihoods.
March 10 – The CNT, Spain’s anarchist labor union, issued a statement yesterday announcing that they will be convoking a nation-wide general strike for March 29 against the labor reform passed on Thursday by the Parliament.
This coincides with strikes that have already been called for Galicia and the Basque Country. In these regions the call was made jointly between “minority” unions such as the CNT and CGT as well as regionally-important unions linked to nationalist movements. On the national scale, however, the CNT has called the strike on its own.
According to Spain’s labor law, strikes are only official if called, or convoked, by a union or another official body. In the message announcing the strike call, the CNT said that they hope to give coverage to any workers’ organizations that want to take action.
Spain’s two main unions, the UGT and the CCOO, have also called for a strike on that day, but speak only of “amending” the labor reform. This is a continuation of their policy of social peace – in February they signed a major agreement with the employers’ confederation in which they gave major concessions. Recognizing the growing disillusion that many workers are feeling towards these unions, the CNT is promoting a different form of unionism, one which is not based on professional bureaucrats and policies of social peace, but rather on the direct action and solidarity of workers.
This appears to be the first nation-wide general strike since the end of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship to be called for by a union other than the CCOO or UGT, though it remains to be which unions, if any, will follow the CNT in calling for a general strike.
The CNT’s statement was clear that, although the strike is only called for March 29, this should be seen only as one step in a growing mobilization which seeks not only to remove this labor reform in its entirety, but also to go on the offensive with the goal of social transformation.
About one million people participate in the agitation.
The all-India strike organised by an alliance of eight central trade unions on Tuesday was “a resounding success” in Karnataka, according to trade unions, mainly because of the widespread participation of unorganised workers. “About one million workers in the State participated in the strike,” said Prasanna Kumar, general secretary of the Karnataka State Committee of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), one of the eight central unions that spearheaded the strike.
“This strike was successful not because workers in public sector banks, insurance companies and workers in the several public sector undertakings stayed away from work, but because a substantial part of the faceless workers in the State — anganwadi workers, headload workers at market yards, autorickshaw workers, construction workers, beedi workers and many others whose working lives are completely unregulated — participated in the strike,” said Mr. Kumar.
Garment factories that dot the Bangalore-Mysore Road were also “severely impacted” according to a trade union source. Twenty large garment factories, from Mysore Circle to Bidadi, were closed on Tuesday, he said. Many units on Tumkur Road and Hosur Road were closed.
According to Mr. Kumar, nearly 1.2 lakh anganwadi workers in the State, and 80,000 headload workers employed at 90 of the 144 Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee yards participated. Four lakh construction workers of the 20 lakh in the State also joined in the strike. A predominant section of beedi workers, mostly in Dakshina Kannada, also stayed away from work, Mr. Kumar said.