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.
On March 22nd the second general strike in four months took place in Portugal, ending in confrontations with the police in Lisbon, and once again illustrating the shifting landscape of resistance to the IMF-imposed austerity measures, and capitalism in general. The strike was called by the largest union, CGTP, closely connected to PCP, the communist party, one of the few in Europe who reclaim the ideological heritage of the USSR. Although still a powerful union, the CGTP has lost a lot of influence in the past decades, both because of the historical changes going on in the workplace, but also due to its almost anachronistic methodology and discourse, which alienates a lot of the work force, as well as a lot of the energy dedicated to anti-capitalist struggle. More interesting is the way in which a rising current of new social movements have found in this and previous general strikes opportunities for mass mobilizations, taking the stoppage and interruption of the economy to new spheres, outside of the factories and public services in which the unions still have some power.
Wednesday, March 28th @7:30pm
360 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY
F, G to Carroll Street
Tired of being treated like a servant by your customers? Tired of management demanding more and more for less and less? Feeling alone or frustrated? Come to the first Precarious and Service Worker Assembly to network with others who share your interests!
As service workers, we are often both overworked and underpaid; with Management forcing workers to work ever faster in an ever shorter amount of time. Productivity and speed-of-service requirements increase while hours per week are slashed. It’s clear: The harder we work, the less we get paid, and the richer they get!
Many of us are already in tough situations as parents, immigrants, young people, and students. Racism is blatantly apparent at many of our workplaces, with Latino and immigrant workers confined to back-of-house positions, maintaining a racial hierarchy to keep us separated. For some, a job at a restaurant or a cafe is a 2nd or even 3rd job, a result of the declining wages for other careers. Even worse, we often find ourselves forced into student loan and credit card debt because of low pay. All the while, rent, food, and transportation costs climb through the roof.
Solidarity and support among local service workers can be empowering for all of us. Remember, they can’t run these places without us. Bosses thrive by pitting us against one another, but if not for us, Management wouldn’t make a dime. So let’s take what’s ours!
Bring some goods to share from your place of employment if you’d like, and feel free to bring a friend or two –as long as they’re not the boss! We’ll be discussing how we can make our collective situation much more interesting and how we can engage together in upcoming actions like the May Day General Strike.