As our local union prepares to negotiate a labor contract with New York City Transit, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proclaimed that a $2.00 subway fare was in the offing. The current fare is $1.50. Fighting the fare increase has brought a new set of coalitions into the fray.
A revolutionary feature of the new leadership of Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 is its alliance with subway riders. Even before winning the leadership elections in 2000, the rank-and-file movement led the fight to save and expand the Franklin Shuttle in Brooklyn. The top union leadership at that time had given up on that. Well, the Franklin Shuttle was not only saved, but totally rehabilitated.
In 2001, the union led the labor and community struggle to save all token agents. New York City Transit wanted to eliminate all token agents in favor of Metrocard vending machines. All token agents are still at work, no layoffs.
The recent victory of the Queens private line bus workers was another example of keeping the public on your side.
Now, that labor and community unity will be put to the ultimate test. In the past, the local union leadership made no attempt to hold down the fare, and there were no coalitions with the community. Unfortunately, the union leadership thought that the transit fare had to be increased to pay for union wage and benefit demands. That quid pro quo was never the case.
Local 100 organizers and shop stewards are handing out “Save the Fare” cards at subway stops throughout the city. They got the ball rolling during the recent massive wage demand demonstration by police and fire unions in Times Square. Local 100 President Roger Toussaint spoke at the rally in support of their wage and benefit demands. He also called on everyone to join the “Save the Fare” campaign.
The Annual Caribbean Labor Day Parade will be the next major “Save the Fare” effort. Over 1 million people celebrate Labor Day on that day.
There are already 20 major community organizations involved in this coalition, including the Straphangers organizations.
– A Transit Worker