Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Transit Strike in NYC!

I remember sitting in meetings over the past several years talking bout how 'we were going to shut down the city' or how we were going to build support for a 'peoples strike'. Well, all of a sudden we find ourselves (those who live in NYC) in a place where workers have literally shut down major parts of (arguably) the worlds most important city as the Transit Workers Union (TWU - Local 100) officially went on strike at 3am this morning.

Im frustrated personally because im in the middle of a crazy editing period as we are about to go to production with the new issue of Left Turn but i urge everyone who can to get involved in strike support whereever they can. The easiest way to do this is to check out the TWU blog and head to one of the listed strike locations which can be found throughout the five burroughs. People can also check out the discussions on the NYC indymedia website for ways to get involved locally.

This is a historic strike, as the Transit Workers have only gone on strike once (1980) since the enactment of the Taylor Law, which is one of the great pieces of anti-worker legislation that was passed after the first transit workers strike took place in 1966. The defiance of the Taylor Law is a big step for one of the largest and more militant unions in the country and they deserve all of our support in the fight against Bloomberg, Pataki and the corrupt MTA. If this strike is broken by the city it will probably be a long time before we see another labor action of this magnitude. I know its cold outside, but for those who can, please show your support, pass out leaflets, organize solidarity actions, bring coffee and food to the workers outside, whatever makes sense...


kazembe said...

I was flyering today on the corner of flatbush and ocean avenue in the People's Republic of Brooklyn (there was a supposed carpool lane, but no cars stopped at all.) Support for the strike is high among the dozen or so people I had contact with. I think its important for all those doing solidarity with TWU is to do as much flyering and propaganda as possible. The mass media is trying to paint transit workers as criminal and make the focus about the individual inconvenience of communters.

The real issue is the attempt by the state (Pataki, Bloomberg and their lap dog Kalikow) to break the unions in NYC. This could be seem by the recent UFT contract where more displinary measures were placed in the contact along with a longer working day.

Jonathan said...

Great post! Solidarity from Boston! Support the strikers!

Anonymous said...

Maybe you guys didn't see the pregnant lady walk 14 blocks in 20 degree weather, or the poor people who rely on public transport to go to jobs that pay barely enough for the car ride home, or the near riot conditions in grand central or all the businesses that may go out of business because the had to strike during the busiest shopping season. Maybe it will be fine when a few people die because they can't get to a hospital and maybe the old ladies can cope walking 2 miles in the frigid cold.

TWU has lost all respect in my book- I can't wait for the day its all automated.

Christine said...

I'm an American living near Amsterdam where the city public transportation has gone on strike at least three times in the past year and the trains (yes, the whole country) twice. I was shocked to learn that a transportation strike in NYC could be illegal and dismayed to see that the concerns seem to be about what this is going to "cost the city."

A transportation strike makes life difficult. Think about how valuable those people and those functions are and take care of them!

Ann said...

We need to hear peoples views on this. Right now there are too many politicos who are more concerned about money than the middle class getting a fair contract.

With every raise there is a huge give back. How are people supposed to survive in this city of $1,000 rents?

Anonymous said...

Hey anonymous,

TWU is striking to keep decent jobs decent--the action is led by older workers who could more easily sellout the younger workers. They've also fought to keep trains and busses running in the cities poorest neighborhoods. You are simply wrong.
Its the difference between 1 day of walking in the cold or a lifetime of it.

kateg said...

that was me above. Plus--why is it the unions fault poor folks have to walk? what about empoyers that are making people come in even thought the subways aren't working?

I think we can't wait until they are destitute to be sympathetic to trasit workers and see thier fight as part of the broader one for working people in new york.

pps--Local 100 also stood against the neo-slavery crap of welfare-to-work in New York city.

kateg said...

Call the MTA and Gov Pataki

MTA - 212-878-7274

Governor Pataki - 518-474-7516

Anonymous said...

Solidarity from Italy. Go on with the strike, show TWU your solidarity: this is an important struggle for all labors movement all around the world. It can be a turning point in labor relations, and all movements in NYC should join the TWU picket line. If anybody has pictures from picket lines, please post it. Giorgio

anonymous said...

Solidarity from the west coast! We're gonna win this one.

Anonymous said...

Solidarity from london wobblies!
I hope people are indeed helping in ways such as those suggested.
This has to be supported a 1000% percent, it doesn't happen every day & it can have a profound influence on people. How I wish I was in New York now!!

Btw., the London IWW is at the moment helping to organise subway cleaners.
Always remember how strong workers - especially in some sectors - can actually be.

Roey said...

Its more interesting to me what happens to a major city when public transit suddenly becomes unavailable. People suddenlly discover they have legs and that picking up strangers to carpool isn't such a bad idea. Personally I think car coops will soon be the wave of the future.

Anonymous said...

The idea of a relatively well-paid union going on strike less than a week after their contract expired is like a five year old throwing a temper tantrum. Except the key difference here is that this temper tantrum is hurting tens of thousands of the working class by robbing them of a day's wage at jobs that they won't get paid for if they don't show up at. Most of the middle and upper classes will get by more or less okay by tele-commuting, working from alternate work locations, using up vacation time, or calling in sick. People in the working class (including the self-employed, the ultimate expression of workers liberation) are being robbed of a day's wages at jobs that they won't derive income from when they don't show up.

The best way to get people to lose any and all respect they've ever had for unions is to pull the selfish kind of bullsh*t that the TWU has. Unions have done some great things for the working class over the last 100 years, but a stunt like this is putting tens of thousands of nails in the coffin of what was once unionism.

ness_1 said...

solidarity from finland!

max said...

Email list for info on how to support TWU !

This is forwarded from a local NYC email list, perhaps its usefull to folks.

"The most important US labor battle of 2005 is taking place. Right
here. Right now.

Despite a brutal onslaught from our billionaire mayor and the major
media, the transit workers still enjoy a surprising level of public
support. But they need to see that support. So do the millions in
the New York area who want them to get a good contract, but also want
to get the strike over.

There are more things than you might think that supporters can
do--and are already doing--to put our collective thumb on the scale,
on the workers' side. Please sign onto the new "strike support
practical logistics" list

The list is simple, it is practical and it is temporary. NO article
forwards. NO opinion posts. NO off-topic posts. Nothing except
concrete material on *how to support the strikers* allowed. Period. This will be strictly enforced.

To subscribe visit


Please forward widely and thanks,

-max said...


The New York Times reports that New York State Supreme Court Judge
Theodore Jones has ordered TWU President Roger Toussaint and the top leaders of Local 100 to appear in room 227 of Kings County Supreme
Court tomorrow (Thursday) at 11 AM. The Times reports that Judge
Jones said he wants the union leadership in court tomorrow because he is considering sentencing them to jail for calling the strike.


1. COME TO COURT: Room 227 is the biggest court room in Brooklyn. It
seats several hundred people. The hearing is open to the public.
Kings County Supreme Court is at 360 Adams Street, near Borough
Hall. The main entrance is on Court Street at Montague Street. There
is another entrance on Adams Street. The Court is only a few blocks
from the Brooklyn Bridge. People coming from Queens, East New York
or Bed/Stuy can take the Long Island Railroad to the nearby [Flatbush
Ave. stop] Brooklyn Terminal at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues [one
mile walk/bike].

crucifying the union and trying to portray the image that the public
is against the strike. Tomorrow will be an excellent opportunity to
meet the press before the court hearing and make statements of
support and solidarity with the strikers and their union and to show
the transit workers that they are not in this fight alone.

3. CONTACT ELIOT SPITZER - Attorney General Spitzer is representing
the state in the lawsuit before Judge Jones. According to the Times
Spitzer has not yet said he supports imprisoning the union
leadership. Convince Spitzer that jailing the union leaders will
create chaos and make negotiations impossible. More importantly, tell
Spitzer that you will not vote for him for governor if he does not
oppose jailing the union officials. Spitzer's phone number is

TommyD said...

I can understand, why working people blame the TWU for this strike, but I think this should be a minor in contrast to the effect this thing has in the public.

I'm from Germany and I wish our underdogs would once stay up and haul the upper class people over the coal...

Go on, stay on your course, each of you has all my respect!

reddove17 said...

solidarity from greece
i hope it will be expressed more than literally
and remember that any attack on workers' rights always starts on those who have won more advantages. It wont stop there.

Troublemaker said...

Solidarity from a Rank and File Member of Amalgamated Transit Union 1555 in Oakland California

Peter said...

The end of the strike yesterday is being framed as an end to three days of hardship for the majority of New Yorkers - people who had a difficult time getting to work and getting around town in the holidary season. It's also being painted as an end to an illegal (how dare these filthy holigans break the law of the US of A) action by a greedy thugish union. The diatribes of Bloomberg, Pataki, and the corporate media have been disgusting and certainly not "fair and balanced." So too have the reactions of many of my fellow New Yorkers. For instance, I saw one guy on New York 1 earlier tonight who said Pataki should have brought in the National Guard and fired all of the transit workers.

While all of these sentiments, as well as the political and social ramifications of this major loss will be (which will no doubt be far reaching and require much more resistance and analysis) there are some serious lessons and hope that has come out of this struggle for us to draw on.

What lessons there are to be learned from this ongoing struggle we all need to reflect on a bit more (yes I know, a cheap way for me to get out of laying what I think they all are out here and now but it honestly deserves much more thought).

And after spending the last few days on the picket lines and in endless conversations with folks about whats been happening, I feel the need to echo a point Kazembe made in his post: A lot of folks (unfortunately not a majority but a significant number) supported the transit workers in their job action, regardless of the personal inconvience it caused them. In addition, in giving rides to strangers, the strike forged a common bond between many of us and brought out our capacity for compassion, community, and solidarity. Of course, it also brought out the worst in folks, like overcharging people for rides in vans and cabs and praying for Pataki to call in the national guard Homestead style. But this too is a lesson for us; a lesson on the dynamism of human nature and possibilities for social change; particularly we need to recognize what not having a mobilized left movement capable of doing serious solidarity work can do or not do.

I'll end with highlighting another of my brother Kazembe's points: we need to keep the real issue, that being the American states strategy of crusing the unions in NYC and throughout the rest of the country, and world, in the forefront of our analysis. What this means for everyone in NYC, the US, and the world is what we need to figure out how we communicate this, and what we can and should do about it, to the majority of the people in our world (call them the working class, multitutde or whatever floats your boat).