US: The Transit workers’ fight is our fight

With the city plunging into fiscal crisis and facing the threat of bankruptcy, budget and services cuts are announced on an almost daily basis.

 

Text of a flyer produced by New York members of Socialist Alternative (CWI in the US).

CWI online.

The Transit workers’ fight is our fight

No fare increases
No tax increases for working families.

Guess who is picking up the tab? Is it Wall Street or the filthy rich who rule this city and extracted billions over the past decade? No — it is workers, the poor and their families. Billionaire Bloomberg has announced the closure of 32-day care centers for the elderly, eight firehouses, and funding for every city agency from transportation to tree pruning is on the chopping block. Bloomberg had promised to run the city like a corporation and that is exactly what he is doing. He is implementing a combination of "slash and tax" measures which include cuts in funding for schools, community education, library hours, family support, and infant day-care. Thousands of city jobs are threatened at a time when there is a cascade of new layoffs (like the 2,000 jobs in Verizon) in the private sector and a possible new downturn in the national economy.

Alongside the cuts, the Mayor is increasing taxes which overwhelmingly will be paid by working people: Cigarette taxes are now highest in the world, subway fares are to be increased and there will be an 18.5% increase in property taxes which will mainly hurt working families and small business people (while there will be an income tax windfall for the rich!). Subway and bus service will see drastic cuts which will disproportionately affect people in the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn. Destruction of the rent stabilization laws by the landlords will mean that hundreds of thousands of people may be facing massive rent increases and evictions next year mainly in working classcommunities as the yuppies rush in to take advantage.

The New York economy was already badly hit by the September 11 tragedy and things seem to be getting worse with a deficit standing at $1.2 billion for this fiscal year and an astounding $6.4 billion next year. With winter coming, the numbers of homeless people sleeping in cardboard boxes has mushroomed and 37,000 spend their nights in delapidated city "shelters"–the highest number on record.

Bloomberg is implementing the municipal equivalent of Bush’s national policy: make the poor and the workers pay the bill while the rich laugh all the way to the bank. Bloomberg and Pataki (who forgot to mention the looming huge state deficits during his "don’t worry–be happy" electoral campaign) are refusing to demand emergency federal help for the city worst hit by 9/11 (the funds that were allocated by Bush will only be used for construction in Lower Manhattan to benefit the big contractors) because they intend to use this economic catastrophe to launch new austerity attacks on workers and their families.

On the front line of these attacks are now the 34,000 members of the Transit Workers Union who make sure that millions of New Yorkers get to work and around the city every day with the MTA saying there will be no wage increases and the Mayor threatening to use the dictatorial Taylor Law against the union and every transit worker who participates or even talks about a strike for a decent wage, a pension and medical coverage without co-payments. The city’s threat to impose a $1 million fine on the TWU and a $25,000 fine on each union member on the first day of a strike — and doubling on each subsequent day — is a threat to try to break the union. Any such attempt must be met by the united and determined resistance of the whole NYC labor movement.

The fight of the Transit Workers Union for a decent contract is the same fight for firefighters, city workers, teachers, seniors, and all working class New Yorkers who will see their services slashed and taxes increased to make the rich richer and if it comes to a strike we must give the TWU 100% support.

The city’s media and political establishment agree with Bloomberg and Pataki: Make workers and their families pay for the crisis that decades of plunder by Wall Street and the rich has created. At a time when Bush is planning to spend hundreds of billions of dollars for more "empire-building" wars abroad and the top 10% of the city’s residents have more money than several countries, they will all agree "there is no money" for decent wages, for schools, for decent and affordable housing for all. This is after all what capitalism is all about! Two recent studies have shown how income inequality has worsened over the past two decades in New York with the richest 10% of families increasing their income by $45,480 or 40% while the poorest 20% saw their income fall by $2,900 to $10,770.

Over a million immigrant workers have come into New York over the past decade from every part of the globe to be used as cheap labor in tourism, restaurants, construction and services to the wealthy for the minimum wage (or less) without health care or other benefits.

A city (or a society) where the top 10% monopolize the vast majority of the wealth is, in the last analysis, incompatible with democracy. That is why the entire political establishment in the city and nationally have moved to impose repressive laws and police brutality, against free speech and democratic rights of workers and the poor.

In the recent period we have seen numerous demonstrations by firefighters, seniors and transit workers against Bloomberg’s plans. For the transit workers to be successful, they will need to be prepared to fight the establishment and its parties — both Republicans and Democrats, the media, defy the courts and be prepared to challenge big business in New York bringing together all those who will be hurt by Bloomberg’s agenda.

To fight for a decent contract and against the budget cuts, the Transit Workers’ Union will need the support and participation of workers. The TWU should immediately launch a city-wide coalition of all those who are fighting against Bloomberg, Pataki and their Wall Street and big business backers and organize a one-day conference to develop a program and coordinate the fightback.

  • No budget cuts – No cuts in services. Make the rich pay!
  • Support transit workers for a decent contract without a fare increase or service cuts!
  • For full funding of city services and programs Tax Wall Street and the rich
  • For an immediate $40 billion- federal recovery program to help rebuild the New York economy through a program of public works.
  • Money for jobs and education not war!

Socialist Alternative is part of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), an international organization with sections in 35 countries on five continents. Socialist Alternative campaigns against poverty, racism,sexism, low wages, and war. We are trying to help build broad coalitions involving all those who want to defeat big business and defend workers’ rights, jobs and services and run independent workers’ candidates for office. If you are interested in joining the struggle for a democratic, socialist alternative to capitalism and to find out more about our organization, contact the New York Branch of Socialist Alternative at: PO Box 5447, 11105, Phone : (866) 468-1545, E-mail: socialistalternative@onebox.com

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