Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Unions Standing With (And On) Wall Street Protesters

Today, hundreds of union members plan to march with Wall Street protesters. At least 4 major New York unions have officially thrown their support behind the movement, in addition to some national unions and Richard Trumka.

One of the New York unions that proclaimed its support of the movement is the TWU (Transport Workers Union) Local 100, whose members work for the Metropolitan Transit Association (MTA).

However, MTA busses and drivers were commandeered by the NYPD to help transport the 700 demonstrators who were arrested for marching across the Brooklyn Bridge last week. While it was reported in the that one driver told the passengers to get out and wait for the next bus, it appears that all or most of the other drivers dutifully collaborated with their bosses and the police to help suppress protesters.

It seems rather hypocritical and wimpy to proclaim support for a movement and at the same time collaborate to suppress it.

In what some might call a better-late-than-never move, the union will ask the New York State Supreme Court for a restraining order against the city to prevent the NYPD from any more "forced use" of Local 100's bus drivers. "

Yet, it is entirely possible that they will lose in court and continue to be compelled to collaborate with the police. Then what? Will they withdraw their support from the movement, so as to be logically consistent, or will they continue to “support” the movement in words, while suppressing the movement in action?

A fighting union and real solidarity both require personal sacrifice, including the risk of jail and job loss. If TWU workers really care about the success of the movement, they will refuse to drive protesters to jail, regardless of the courts and the threats of their employers and they would have done this from the start.

And if they are subjected to retaliation by their bosses, they should immediately stop working entirely, which would paralyze the city and create a virtual general strike, as workers and shoppers would be severely hampered in the ability to get to work and shopping. Furthermore, other unions should also strike in solidarity if this happens, increasing the TWU members’ strength and sending a strong message to the bosses.

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