Monday, May 4, 2009

We Can't Wait Until After the Election-by Steve Downs

We Can’t Wait Until After the Election bySteve Downs Division Chair, T/O Division

Hundreds of transit workers are under the threat of lay-offs. Local 100 is still without contracts at the TA, MaBSTOA, and MTA Bus. Service cuts and a fare hike are on the horizon. And the best Local 100’s leadership can do in response is to call for hearings in Albany and threaten to hold some anemic demonstrations outside the MTA offices. But Albany is part of the problem and the demonstration on April 24 was a show of weakness, not strength.

It’s clear that the current Local 100 leadership does not have a viable strategy for protecting our jobs or achieving a good contract. But we cannot wait until after the elections to address the problems our union faces. As a member of the Local and the elected chair of the T/O division, I propose the following immediate steps toward securing our jobs, a good contract, and a stronger union:

1. Convene a Joint Executive Board meeting Bring the Local officers, Executive Board members, division officers and section chairs together to discuss how best to stop lay-offs and service cuts and how to win a good contract. Forget the speeches from politicians and the posturing by Local officers. Let’s have an honest and open discussion about where we are and then take steps to get what we need. Better yet, hold a summit meeting of the current Local officers, Board members and Division officers along with all the candidates for those positions. Put all of our heads together for the benefit of the union and the membership.

2. Enforce all safety and operating rulesThe MTA wants to get more work out of fewer people. The truth is that we need more workers to have a safe, clean, and efficient bus and subway system. We need to strictly enforce all safety and operating rules. The Local needs to lead this effort and provide staff and resources to help make it happen. But the union reps can’t do this on their own. Every member needs to step up, coordinate with their co-workers, and work in strict accordance with all safety and operating rules.

3. Fight to suspend the payments on MTA bondsFor over 20 years, whether Democrats or Republicans were in office, the city, state and federal governments cut operating subsidies for mass transit. Under Pataki Albany refused to provide funds for the capital spending needed to maintain and improve the system. The MTA had to borrow money to buy subway cars and buses and rebuild tracks and stations. The bonds the MTA issued provided fat commissions to bankers, safe returns to investors – and drain off money from the farebox. Now, although the MTA is threatening layoffs, service cuts, a fare increase, and a wage freeze, the interest payments that are at the root of the MTA’s budget crisis are not being questioned. Local 100 should lead the coalition of MTA union’s in demanding that the interest payments on the MTA’s debt be suspended as a first step toward resolving the MTA’s budget crisis.--

Steve DownsChair, T/O Division of TWU 100 for more information and updates go to

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