[Marxism] Occupy Wall Street Affiliates Chain Subway Gates Open For Fare Strike
giobon at comcast.net
Fri Mar 30 09:31:36 MDT 2012
Occupy Wall Street Affiliates Chain Subway Gates Open For Fare Strike
By Nick Pinto
Village Voice, March 29, 2012
A group calling itself the "Rank and File Initiative" claimed credit
yesterday for opening up more than 20 subway stations throughout the
city for free entry.
Chaining open emergency gates at stations on the F, L, R, Q, 3, and 6
lines during rush hour yesterday morning, the anonymous activists
posted signs designed to resemble MTA service-change announcements
that read "Free Entry, No Fare. Please Enter Through The Service Gate."
A press release claiming credit for the action said it was carried
out by activists affiliated with Occupy Wall Street, as well as by
rank-and-file members of Transit Workers Union Local 100, which is
currently in negotiations with the Metropolitan Transit Authority.
The release cites Albany's chronic underfunding of public transit,
which has led the MTA to borrow heavily just to maintain its
operating budget -- debt which must be serviced in part with transit
fares that have gone up 50 percent over the last decade.
"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," the press statement reads. "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."
Last night we spoke with a representative of the Rank And File
Initiative, who wished to remain anonymous. He told us that teams set
out in the early hours of yesterday morning, disguising their
identities, to lock open gates at roughly 25 stations.
"It was three or four people to each station, so you can do the math
of how many people were directly involved," he said. Not every team
was successful -- one dispatched to a Bronx subway station had to
abort their mission -- "But everyone came safely back without getting
caught, which was our first priority."
The source stressed that MTA station agents were not aware of the
action, and no MTA employees were involved in actually locking the
gates open. But that's not to say that Transit Workers Union members
"We've been planning this for months -- Occupy people, other
activists, and union members," the source said. "Union members were
central to the planning. They told us the best places to go, they
talked to their colleagues about what was going to happen, and not to
be freaked out when we came in, and they gave the final green-light
for the mission in the morning."
Transport Workers Union Local 100 leadership denied knowledge of the
action, and the Rank And File Initiative source confirmed that they
were not notified. Relations between TWU 100 members and their
leadership have long been strained, dating back to 2005 when union
members, historically fairly radical, felt their leaders rolled over
in a standoff with the MTA.
"There are a lot of angry and afraid union members who wish they
could do more, but they're held back by the leadership," the source
said. "We listened in on a conference call with [TWU President John]
Samuelson and the shop stewards, and they were all telling Samuelson
the union needed to be doing more. He got so mad he was muting out
whole parts of the conversation, until it was just him talking on the
Yesterday's wildcat action -- carried out by union members without
the knowledge or coordination of their leadership -- violated both
the Taylor Law and the Taft-Hartley Act.
It suggests that TWU 100 leaders may be losing control of their
members, and also may lend some credence to claims by Occupy Wall
Street organizers that labor's rank and file will take part in the
upcoming May 1st "Day Without the 99 Percent" action, despite
skeptical statements from some union leaders.
The tactic isn't without precedent. San Francisco saw a fare strike
in 2005, and the Spanish Indignados, to whom Occupy Wall Street
protesters have often looked for inspiration, have been running their
own fare strike, Yo No Pago, since early this year.
The source said his group's inspiration for yesterdays action came on
November 17 of last year. During that day of action for Occupy Wall
Street, someone -- quite possibly members of Occupy's Direct Action
Working Group -- locked open doors at four stations.
"We wanted to do something like that, but scale it up," the source said.
Going forward, the coalition is unlikely to repeat the fare strike
tactic, the source said, though it will conduct other sorts of
actions. The group also plans to release how-to guides to help anyone
else who might want to stage a fair strike in New York subways.
"It's a great tactic, because it aligns the interests of transit
workers with the interests of the working classes throughout New
York," he said. "That's important, because whenever transit workers
get hit, it's bad news for everyone else who rides the subway too .
You see fare hikes and service cuts. It makes sense to make common
Here's the full press release concerning the fare strike:
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
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.
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