Transit workers & subway riders join forces

Outrage has been the public response to projected New York City subway fare hikes. Despite the corporate media trying to make it seem like the hikes are inevitable, anger has been growing. From the streets to the limited public forums provided by the Metropolitan Transit Authority, that anger is beginning to gel into a movement.

In December, Bail Out the People Movement member Stephen Millies disrupted the MTA board meeting by emulating Muntadar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoe at George W. Bush.

 
Protest marches into hearing Jan. 14,
New York. In front is LeiLani Clark of FIST.
WW photo: John Catalinotto

BOPM members joined forces with members of Transit Workers Union Local 100 to hold a “People’s Public Hearing” on the sidewalk outside the New York Hilton when the MTA recently held its first public hearing about the fare hikes.

One hundred people, about a fifth of them transit workers, gathered an hour before the hearing—in weather that hovered below 20 degrees—to protest the proposed MTA budget. Then they marched inside, chanting “No fare hikes! No way! Let the banks pay!”

The MTA forum was jammed to standing-room-only capacity in a ballroom that could seat 700 people. The format was organized around three-minute comments at a microphone for a handful of politicians and people who had called weeks before to preregister.

Hundreds in the crowd jeered at the roll call of the 17 MTA board members’ names as they were introduced at the start of the program. Then they booed and heckled the MTA board members who tried to speak.

Weeks before the hearing, BOPM members and transit workers leafleted subway stations about the demonstration and hearing, getting some media coverage in the process. “We’re not just going to take these cuts and these booth closings without a fight,” Transit Workers Union member Marvin Holland told cable news station NY1 as he leafleted the Rector Street subway station the Thursday before the demonstration. “And we want the public to come out and fight with us,” Holland said.

The sidewalk People’s Public Hearing was led and chaired by TWU member Charles Jenkins. Among those who spoke were student Carina Nieves from LaGuardia College; Brenda Stokeley of the Million Worker March; Larry Hales of Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST); and Larry Holmes of BOPM.

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