Media Center

ATU Fighting Battle for All Members, All Unions

I’m writing to you today from the picket lines of our school bus drivers and matrons in New York City, where the latest battle in the war on unions has taken center stage (see story on page 10).

No one should doubt that this is, indeed, a war; a war in which Billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg is trying to rob the wages and take away the jobs of our Local 1181 members in order to keep taxes as low as possible for those of his rich, privileged class.

This is no different from what Governor Scott Walker, R, did to public workers in Wisconsin, essentially repealing their collective bargaining rights.

The same thing is happening in Atlanta, where a “reorganization” of MARTA has been initiated as a tool to privatize their transit system and lower the wages of their workers now represented by Local 732.

It’s also happening in Canada, where Conservative politicians are looking for the right time to table right-to-work laws in the Ontario legislature.

The particular strategy used against ATU in Canada has been for provinces and localities to declare our work an “essential service” revoking our right to strike.

‘Transit theatre of war’

This is the “transit theatre of war” in an overall campaign against working people, driven by the money of the Koch brothers and their millionaire friends, and orchestrated by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  Corporate interests in both countries are the profiteers.

The struggles of our members in New York, Atlanta, and Ontario can appear to be local problems that don’t affect other transit workers.  But that’s because the enemies of Labor Unions made a strategic decision to deploy their forces at the state and provincial, rather than the federal levels.

Make no mistake this is an international war of attrition.  The enemies of transit workers are blaming workers for rising costs and budget shortfalls.  In city after city they claim ATU workers are paid too much and their benefits are too costly.

Slowly, but surely, they plan to de-unionize all public service work including public transit, and eventually outlaw all collective bargaining or render it useless.

Passengers and school kids victims too

ATU members are not the only victims in this war.  Our passengers, who have come to rely on dependable professional public transit, usually end up paying more for substandard service.

School children and their safe and reliable transportation are being used as pawns.

The poor, who depend on mass transit more than others, are most affected.  Not only is their physical mobility restricted but also their social mobility is limited by the service cuts that prevent them from getting to jobs that would help them move out of poverty.

This war helps the rich avoid paying their fare share of taxes, while complaining that those in poverty need to get off the government’s dime.

If nothing is done we can expect to see this battle plan continually played out in one city after another for the foreseeable future.  No one will be immune.

Our mission is clear. We must fight with all we’ve got to stop this process now in New York, Atlanta, and Ontario, not only for our members and passengers there, but for those who will be hurt by the anti-union battles that lie ahead if we don’t.