N.Y.-Phila. transit workers are in the war together

GRASSROOTS POWER

New York City Transit Workers Union Local 100 members boarded buses bound for the presidential electoral battleground state of Pennsylvania Oct. 9. As part of the AFL-CIO’s Labor-to-Labor effort, union members are reaching out to fellow unionists in a massive effort to defeat George Bush and the extreme right wing.

Meeting at the Seafarers’ International Union hall in South Philadelphia, unionists were ready and raring to go. TWU 100 President Roger Toussaint, and Jeff Brooks, the new president of Philadelphia’s TWU Local 234, greeted the volunteers. They spoke about the struggles facing working people and transit workers in particular. Brooks said TWU must be in the forefront to elect a “labor-friendly president.”

TWU members were dispatched to the working-class district of Overbrook, in the predominantly African American neighborhood of West Philadelphia. We were equipped with high-tech, bar-coded, “walk sheets” with the names, addresses, and union affiliations of the labor families to contact. Volunteers could record candidate preference and any issue the union voters were concerned about for later follow-up.

After canvassing we returned to the Seafarers’ hall for a barbecue and to swap the day’s “war” stories. Most union members visited said, “We’re all voting for Kerry here,” or “Bush has got to go.” Health care, taxes, Social Security, education and the war in Iraq were all concerns.

Philadelphia working people’s political sophistication was impressive. The same workers who had seen through the extreme right, dirty tricks in last year’s mayoral election recognized the importance of defeating the extreme right nationally.

As afternoon shadows began to lengthen New Yorkers boarded the buses home, but a group of union brothers, who had come separately by car, headed to Atlantic City, N.J. — not to gamble, but for solidarity picketing with striking UNITE-HERE workers.

— Gary Bono, TWU Local 100 member