Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The power of labor can stop the victimization of BART strike leader

by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

In 1997, during the negotiations at EBMUD , the water district here on the east side of the San Francisco Bay, I came under attack while I was a member of the negotiating team.  We were fortunate at that time to have a business agent who represented both our locals us and the white collar local, also an AFSCME affiliate.  I received a disciplinary letter and with the BA's support the pressure of both locals came to bear and we threatened to walk out of negotiations. The bosses backed off.

The short clip above describes a somewhat similar situation as a BART strike leader, George Figueroa is under threat of termination by the transit agency while in negotiations. It has been clear throughout, that the transit agency wants to force BART workers out on strike and blame them for the disruption this causes to the commuter.

As we reported earlier, the other transit union local, ATU 192, voted down a second concessionary contract yesterday brought to them by their leadership. This opens up the possibility of a joint strike by both the buses and the trains. It opens up the potential for transit workers to turn the concessionary tide that the labor hierarchy has ridden for years and the economic power of these workers and the rest of the labor movement can also build links with our communities in order to drive back the capitalist offensive and fight for free transit for seniors, the unemployed and those on assistance as well as increased services and jobs. Public sector pensions, working conditions and benefits can and should be expanded to all workers.

The silence from the heads of organized Labor with regards to this victimization of  BART strike leader George Figueroa is deafening.  From the state Labor Federation on down the call should be to withdraw from negotiations until the harassment ceases and George is reinstated.  We cannot tolerate this type of victimization. The negotiating table is a trap when the bosses have no intention of conceding unless they're forced to.  As the enemy of working people George Schultz once said, "Negotiations are a euphemism for capitulation if the shadow of power is not cast across the bargaining table."

The time is best spent taking the necessary steps to organize and mobilize that power George Schultz is referring to. No to austerity, fight for what we need not what the bosses say is acceptable.

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