Come all you good workers,
Good news to you I'll tell
Of how the good old union
Has come in here to dwell.
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
My daddy was a miner,
And I'm a miner's son,
And I'll stick with the union
'Til every battle's won.
They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there.
You'll either be a union man
Or a thug for J. H. Blair.
Oh workers can you stand it?
Oh tell me how you can?
Will you be a lousy scab
Or will you be a man?
Don't scab for the bosses,
Don't listen to their lies.
Us poor folks haven't got a chance
Unless we organize.
CLICK ABOVE TO PLAY BILLY BRAGG'S version.
CLICK ABOVE TO PLAY the orignal WEAVER'S version.
My advice to New Yorkers - get a supply of cotton wadding and stick it in your ears. This will help you resist the onslaught of intense, anti-union, corporate media diatribe to which we are being subjected.
Closed. But a good opportunity for walking and biking and...supporting the just cause of Local 100 and its members.
I refer to the press coverage of what is a just and noble strike by NYC transit workers and their union -- workers who have been beaten down and treated as if they were robotic machines and not the hard-working human beings that they are. They are abused by a truly-selfish and corrupt MTA, which just a year ago was the target of news stories exposing its cynical deceipt and corruption as they foisted a fare increase on New Yorkers based on phony pleas of poverty and justified by the keeping of a secret set of books.
"They are greedy thugs," shriek Billionaire Boss Bloomberg, Prince of Darkness Pataki and King Kong Kalikow. Pathetic. When the likes of MTA-Chair Kalikow, who is a giant landlord, acquired his billions by bilking tenants with exorbitant rents, he's lauded as "Bold! Daring! A good businessman." But workers who want to be treated with dignity and respect and who want to raise their standard of living (not to mention resist the reduction in those standards) are selfish. But what is selfish about resisting cuts to their living standards from the meager levels that were legally acquired in previous contracts? And what is selfish about saying NO to the never-ending give-backs that the MTA demands of its workers and which will be used to set the pattern for the other city workers and indeed, workers throughout the city, state and country? In my dictionary those actions are defined as courage not selfishness.
The fury that pervades the membership of Local 100 is anger born of decades of abuse at the hands of an aristocratic and scornful MTA. The workers, having been pushed to the wall, are saying enough is enough and they're saying it loud and clear. Roger Toussaint and the union leaders are listening to their membership. They've called a strike in the face of unacceptable demands for givebacks by the MTA. A strike is never to be taken lightly as it causes immense pain and suffering to the very workers who are striking as well as to the public. But to cave in to the pressure of the wealthy elite that run this city is to acquiesce to the further decline of organized labor.
Story after story can be told of the very trying conditions these workers toil under. In the December 12th Daily News, columnist Errol Lewis describes such conditions:
The great and growing disconnect between white-collar and blue-collar workers in our town makes it hard for office workers to see, understand or respect what is at stake in this labor standoff. Few riders know, for instance, that transit workers have to ask for a day off 30 days in advance. Back in October, in an annual ritual, some MTA workers slept on cots in bus depots so they could be first on line the next morning to ask for permission to take Thanksgiving off.And again in the News today, columnist Juan Gonzalez writes:
Such accumulated humiliations fuel much of the fury leading up to Tuesday's threatened strike. Train operators complain about the fear of driving through tunnels filled with debris; female workers recently went public with descriptions of the rusted, filthy, freezing bathrooms provided for them.
There is, of course, never a good time for any strike.This is the ugly era of Bush and Bloomberg with its vicious attacks on working Americans and their attempt to cut every social benefit that Americans have fought for over the years. On the national level, multi-nationals, particularly the oil companies and the hi-tech "defense" contractors, are given free reign. They earn obscene profits derived from illegal wars of domination, loot the Treasury of our tax dollars and would despoil the pristine Alaskan wilderness in a quest for more oil, all while health care and hurricane victims go wanting. The Oil President and his minions, willing servants of those corporations, are curtailing our Constitutional liberties, destroying social programs and sending our youth to fight in wars against people who never threatened our country. Talk about greed! Billions of dollars for Haliburton. But no money for our transit systems or the workers who operate them daily.
The timing was especially tough for Casiano, who landed his mechanic's job at the MTA after the 1980 transit strike.
On Monday, his doctor broke the news that the cancer in Casiano's spine had spread to his lung. He's already endured months of grueling chemotherapy. Now he faces applying to the MTA for disability.
What happened to this sick worker and to so many other employees at the MTA is as much the reason for this strike as a wage increase, pension or health care benefit.
"Ever since I started missing work for chemo treatments, my supervisor's been accusing me of chronic sick-leave abuse," Casiano said.
Nelson Rivera, shop chairman for the 300 mechanics and car cleaners at 207th St., says Casiano is not the only worker penalized for illness. Another mechanic with 30 years on the job recently had a heart operation.
"When the guy came back to work, the MTA demoted him to security guard instead of giving him light duties," Rivera said. "Since then, he's been disciplined twice and is now facing a possible dismissal in 30 days."
Local 100 President Roger Toussaint has repeatedly complained that the MTA issued a phenomenal 15,000 disciplinary actions against his members last year.
When so many workers are being punished and harassed daily by management, something is deeply wrong with the people at the top of that agency.
We should not be deceived. The fight on the local level is the very same fight between the very same forces. The mogul real-estate developers like Trump and Forest City RATner are having a field day with the Stadium Mayor who serves their interests like a glove fits your hand. They would re-make our city in their image and are turning it into a haven for rich people only - others, keep out!
Viewed in that context, it becomes apparent that this strike is symbolic of much more than simply 38,000 workers protecting their livelihoods and standard of living. Our country is at an important crossroads and the strike is taking place in the middle of the intersection. Progressive forces can still the hand of Bush and we can take the path of democracy and peace. The labor movement is, perhaps, the most important and certainly the strongest and best organized component of that coalition. It is a very important ingredient to stopping the Bush-driven path to fascism, endless war and repression. That is why it so very important for people of good conscience and progressive values to support the strike and this union with every bit of their energy. Now is the time to speak to family, friends and colleagues; to organize petition drives; to urge people to phone and write Bloomberg (tel: 311), Pataki (tel:518-474-7516) and the MTA (tel: 212-878-7274) with angry messages urging them to respect the workers and settle the strike fairly. Please leave your comments with any additional ideas you have. Let's get going!