NYC Transit: MTA workers on track to build worker-rider unity
Sunday, June 2, 2019 at 10:01AM

New York, May 29–Recently a subway conductor for the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) got stabbed while sitting on a bench in his uniform.  Meanwhile, toxic silica dust will be released during major repairs of the L Train subway tunnel and will affect both transit workers and riders. To top it off, the MTA bosses just raised the fares.
The billionaire capitalists who run New York City and control the MTA blame the workers for these problems.The MTA’s plan is to try to drive a wedge between transit workers and fellow workers who ride the train. The vast majority of transit workers, have resisted their attempts, by not playing into the bosses’ fear mongering. They don’t fear the riding public, and are eager to help whenever they can. Similarly most riders do not blame the workers for train delays or unsafe conditions.
Mental health
Actually, the stabbed conductor was closer to the truth: ”What’s going on is that there’s a heavy mental issue … And I think this really needs to be dealt with... Someone like him, he’s possibly a victim of mental illness … so it’s something that we have to take care of” (abc7news, 4/22).
This “heavy mental issue” is capitalist exploitation of the working class, so bosses can make maximum profits. It is the job of communists in the Progressive Labor Party to not only fight for safer working conditions, but also to unite workers to fight against the whole capitalist system.
Mental health is a major issue in this country. The stressors caused by racism and exploitation are the main drivers of mental illness. Many workers never receive the care they need, due to the closure of mental health hospitals. “The disappearance of long-term-care facilities and psychiatric beds has escalated over the past decade, sparked by a trend toward deinstitutionalization of psychiatric patients in the 1950s and 1960s, says Dominic Sisti, director of the Scattergood …”(NPR 11/30/17)
Silica dust kills workers, as bosses profit
At a recent Transit Workers Union (TWU) meeting it became clear that the bosses and the union have the same “solution” to the silica dust health problem:“Educate” workers about the health risks it poses, while scheduling workers for routine medical evaluations. As for the health risks to riders, the bosses have no answers and the union says, “We’ll get back to you.” This is how the working class is treated in liberal New York City with a Democratic mayor and governor.
Progressive Action is a group of transit workers organizing against the dangers from silica dust. They also held a march to City Hall to demand that Transit Authorities take action against the assaults on transit workers. Unfortunately, this march has led to demanding more police to ‘protect’ transit workers, which is a dead end. Kkkops will more easily harass Black and Latin transit workers; no MTA badge will change that. This “solution” will also send more workers with mental illnesses to prison. “The Treatment Advocacy Center reported American prisons and jails housed an estimated 356,268 inmates with severe mental illness in 2012 ... That figure is more than 10 times the number of mentally ill patients in state psychiatric hospitals in the same year—about 35,000 people” (The Washington Post, 4/30/2015).
Fare hikes
But wait! The bosses want to squeeze the workers some more by raising the fares. Then they can get the media to blame the lack of money for transit repairs on fare beaters.There was a big media blitz about how workers don’t pay the fare on the busses and jump the turnstiles to ride the subway. That won’t be a problem under communism as public transportation will run everywhere and it will be free. Here the MTA bosses and the TWU union sellouts have a “disagreement.” The bosses want more cops to go after workers who apply for too much overtime! But the union, and even the Progressive Action group within the union, want more cops to supposedly protect the transit workers. They want the cops to protect the transit workers from other workers. When asked what the union was doing to improve the relationship between MTA workers and riding workers, union reps replied with, “y’all ain’t got to worry about that because no one’s gonna want to fight with a guy swinging a Jerry [slug hammer].” This was probably the most callous, and individualistic thing heard from the union misleaders. The union member responded that he cares about the safety of all workers, not just those in his division.  
Then the media went after workers who worked “too much” overtime. “The study found MTA workers are putting in so many extra hours … that the agency spent $418 million on overtime last year (CBS New York, 4/23).”With over 50,000 transit workers, a majority is required to work seven days a week. These workers are not rolling in the dough. There is lots of overtime because the MTA bosses refuse to hire more workers.
All things change
After the union meeting a PLer had a lunchroom discussion with his coworkers. At first they were afraid he would lose his job for criticizing the company. Many felt it wouldn’t change anything raising the issues with the union. They were right about the sell-out union. One worker mentioned how hard it would be just to get the workers to a union meeting, himself included. The PLer’s response was that all things change. The PLer also proposed a flyer to pressure the union and to address mental illness. The workers are in the midst planning a struggle.
So what do the MTA bosses, politicians, and media lackeys have in store for the working class? More fare hikes and pay cuts in workers salary overtime. Not to mention, exposing workers and riders to toxic silica dust. We need to fight back with a united working class and eventually seize power with a communist revolution for the working class.

Article originally appeared on The Revolutionary Communist Progressive Labor Party (
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