This morning tens of thousands rode the New York City subways for free in a Fare Strike organized by Occupy Wall Street in coordination with rank-and-file transit workers.
Fare Strikes are one of the most effective ways for transit system employees to fight in solidarity with working class riders without stranding them in heavily transit-dependent cities like New York. And it hits the bosses where it hurts the most, at the fare box. Some comrades attempted an indefinite Fare Strike in San Francisco in 2005 with mixed results, although revenues went down in the tens of thousands of dollars during the first two days -- despite the hike in fares and it being the first week of school. These kinds of social strikes work, so hopefully the Occupy Movement will find other ways to take the class war on the offensive by making more social services free, while fighting in solidarity with the rank-and-file in the affected sector.
All Power to the NYC Subway Fare Strike!
Occupy Wall Street
Wednesday, March 28, 2012 — 10:30 AM
Rank and File Initiative
rankandfileinitiative [at] gmail.com
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.
The Fare Strike tactic is
The Fare Strike tactic is spreading around the world:
I thought this was a very
I thought this was a very good action and a definite step up from what OWS has been doing previously. I did have two questions though that I can't seem to find out (any might not be able to):
- The statement mentions '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', however does anyone know what the split between these two groups was?
- Where were the stations that this was done? I ask because there's obviously a massive difference between doing this in Bed-Stuy to doing it in the Lower East Side or whatever.
Can't wait to see some
Can't wait to see some updates, what wonderful news to wake up to and have coffee with! Solidarity!
Quote: does anyone know what
Are you asking what's the distinction between TWU and ATU?
TWU Local 100 represents most of the NY City subway workers, and MTA bus drivers and maintenance workers in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.
ATU also represents MTA bus drivers and mechanics, mostly in Staten Island & Queens. They also represent paratransit and school bus drivers.
I think they're asking what
I think they're asking what the split was between Occupy activists and transport workers, though that may not be the best thing to disclose on a public forum...
Where do you get 'split' from
Where do you get 'split' from in the text?
By split I think they mean
By split I think they mean the breakdown between Occupy and Union people, as in what proportion of the activists were from each group.
Ok sorry that wasn't very
Ok sorry that wasn't very clear.
I was trying work out whether it was mainly comprised of OWS activists or of subway workers. I was mainly interested in whether there was anyone posting here who has been involved with the occupy stuff in New York and knew more about this and what the general reception of TWU/ATU staff was. I agree that it's not too good to give exact details on the internet and I wasn't trying to get anyone ratted out, more that I've seen stuff like this before where 'in conjunction with rank and file workers from the Transport Workers Union Local 100 and the Amalgamated Transit Union' can just mean say a token individual used to represent a whole. Anyway I'm sure this is just a hangup of my OWS prejudices, like I said this all seems pretty cool..
From The Village Voice: A
From The Village Voice:
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 weren't involved.
"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 line."
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 cause."
I think this kind of thing is
I think this kind of thing is really interesting for several reasons. Firstly, it's a form of 'strike' which hits the bosses whilst aligning workers and service users interests. Second, together with the anti-evictions stuff it seems to mark a clear move by (at least some in) OWS into class conflict. I think it makes sense to downplay workers' involvement in unlawful actions in public, but we can infer from the absence of uproar in the coming days the sentiments of the rank and file (as opposed to the leadership, who will presumably condemn/distance themselves from the action).
This is fucking great! It's
This is fucking great! It's also helping to alleviate some of my OWS prejudices...
Do we know if there's been any repercussions for transit workers, either from mgmt or the union?
Any other mainstream media coverage folks could link me to?
Outstanding. Brings to mind
Outstanding. Brings to mind the "auto-reduction" actions in Italy years ago.
Quote: the F, L, R, Q, 3, and
all heavily used. the lex (6 and the express versions 4 and 5) is the most heavily ridden line in the country.
ps - i really like that general-strike-in-the-form-of-an-MTA-announcement poster
I think that nyc would have
I think that nyc would have an amazing time doing something similar to the Scandinavian free-rider campaign, planka.nu.
Gothamist.com wrote: The
Pftt at Feds and 'ultra-leftist emotions.' Anyone suppose that if MTA workers were to lose their jobs over this that it would be a catalyst for more direct action from fellow workers with the additional support of Occupy? I could only hope so...
I was reminded more of Reclaim the Streets linking up with RMT members for tube parties and the like. There's obvious scope to do this in London and elsewhere in this country.
how would you do this in
how would you do this in London given the kind of barriers we have that can't be chained open?
Of all the obstacles (boom
Of all the obstacles (boom boom) to fare disruption/strikes in London, I'm sure how to keep the barriers open is the least of anyone's worries.
but surely its a practical
but surely its a practical thing to consider? To know whether it can actually realistically be physically done before working out more difficult stuff?
don't they generally have a
don't they generally have a gate to one side of the barriers you walk through?
no.25 wrote: Gothamist.com
Right, heaven forbid the union actually defend their station agents, or make cancellation of the MTA debt and dramatic reduction of fares a contractual issue.
The issue of some stations
The issue of some stations being open and some not applied to the New York strike too though, only 20 were open. As for most user's have weekly or monthly payment on their cards, is there any stats on Oyster usage. Still, I would guess a sizeable amount of folk only use prepay so it'd be a wee bit of help. Some days I spend more than a fiver just going from one place to another.
Nearly every station in
Nearly every station in London has NY-style 'service gates', the minority that don't will have the baggage gate, which can be opened with extreme ease by any worker with a staff-only oyster.
Also, theres no reason why it
Also, theres no reason why it wouldn't still cause a big amount of economic damage, a lot of people with oyster don't necessarily buy a season ticket because it's much easier to top-up etc.
Some kind of sticker over the
Some kind of sticker over the sensor or disabling the gate would work, at least temporarily, but as you need to swipe to get out, and get fined if you dont, then I'm not sure if it would work.
generally positive reaction
generally positive reaction from mainstream/consumerist site:
Organizer: New York City Fare
Organizer: New York City Fare Strike Continues Trend of Militant Self-Organization
- J.A. Meyerson
Union Leader Won’t Disown
Union Leader Won’t Disown Occupy for Fare-Beating
Only just got round to
Only just got round to reading up on this and it is truly inspiring.
I'd also like to back up other folks maintaining that this sort of thing is possible in a London context. Let's not miss the wood for the trees here, the point is that unlawful activity is possible en masse on a vague sliding scale (ie the greater the numbers, the greater the possibility)...
anonymous douchebag snitch
anonymous douchebag snitch from the gothamist article
More info has been coming out about this.
Rank and file support (outside those who were involved) has been enthusiastic and was instrumental in forcing the above semi-endorsement of the action by Samuelson.
So despite the slanders and alarmism of that early account by that "TWU employee" (read: a NYU graduate student in CPUSA (!) interning at the union to bring out the votes for Democrats, you can't make this shit up...) there likely will be no disciplinary proceedings against these workers.
Why? Word on the street is that a couple of days after the action Local 100 made a call to the MTA telling them that the moment the first disciplinary hearing begins every train and bus in NYC stops and 32,000 workers hit the street.
I doubt they will call TWU's bluff, but we'll see!
So, for those folks on the
So, for those folks on the ground, the TWU seems to have come out in pretty strong support of this. What's going on there? Is it sincere? Pressure from the rank-and-file? Radicals in the leadership?
Also, didn't that local lose their rights to dues check-off after that last big strike? Have they gained that back? If not, have a majority of workers begun paying dues again?
Schwarz wrote: anonymous
Excellent, that's great news. The CPUSA is garbage.
Quote: So, for those folks on
of these, i'd say pressure from the rank and file. there is a good tradition of solidarity in the local historically, though i don't know the specifics here.
i don't think so.
yes it is.
In typical fashion, the ISO
In typical fashion, the ISO weighs in:
Schwarz wrote: In typical
I like how all these lefty organizations are pulling a line that seems to be to the right of the union leadership. I know that the ISO has always been pretty awful, but is it just me or have they become even more conservative in the past year?
redsdisease wrote: Schwarz
Part of their strategy for replacing the CPUSA as the "yes... but" vanguard of anti-revolution.