US Class Struggle Sharpens

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THE TWU Local 100, the New York transit union, is on strike and has picked up the gauntlet flung down by Mayor Bloomberg, the billionaire who runs the city, on wages, pensions and healthcare.

34,000 workers are facing a fine of $1 million a day and also the prospect of their leaders being jailed, an action that will bring the entire New York labour movement out on strike.

The union states about the billionaires and millionaires who run the city: ‘They are the ones who shut down New York’s lifeline. They came in at the last minute with a take-it-or-leave-it 10 year 4 per cent pay cut for all future hires.

‘They risked your livelihood and the whole NYC economy over a proposal that top legislators in both parties say is illegal.’

And now they are calling the strikers ‘thugs’ and accusing them of being ‘morally reprehensible’, while the TWA is demanding: ‘Stop using transit workers as a punching bag to undo decades of pension gains for city workers. Stop demonising transit workers in the eyes of the public.’

Wage cuts, pension and health cuts, and massive job cuts, posing what the future is going to be for the children of the current generation of workers, are what is driving the New York transit workers forward.

These issues are also driving the whole of the US working class forward into explosive struggles that will have revolutionary, economic and political consequences.

We have already seen the massive anger mounting in the US motor car industry where General Motors and Ford have already forced major concessions out of the UAW auto workers union leadership.

These amounted to some 40,000 job losses, up to 20 plant closures and major ‘sacrifices’ over ‘deferred’ wage increases and higher health care charges and lower retirement benefits.

The real programme of the motor car employers was seen when Delphi, the former GM owned parts supplier, employing 34,000 workers, demanded a 62 per cent wage cut from $26 an hour to $9 an hour, and savage benefit and jobs cuts, as it put in for section 12 bankruptcy to help achieve them.

This drew such an angry response from Delphi workers and workers across the US that Delphi has been forced to drop these demands and tactic in favour of opening negotiations with the UAW.

It wants to see what the union leaders will offer them.

Meanwhile, GM is itself hovering on the brink of bankruptcy and is preparing new draconian demands on the UAW leaders.

It is clear that the union leaders will not be able to deliver the savage wage, job and benefit cuts that the employers want, and that there is going to be massive conflict throughout the US motor industry.

The mass industrial unions organised in the motor industry in the 1930s and 1940s in a series of huge battles which included occupations, sit-ins and armed battles with thousands of scabs, police and vigilantes.

The same revolutionary methods will have to be used to defend the enormous gains that the US workers made, bringing in a period of unparalleled prosperity which the employers are now determined to dismantle and destroy.

It is the defence of these basic gains that unites the transit workers of New York, with hundreds of thousands of motor workers and the US working class as a whole.

There is not the slightest doubt that defending these gains will see the US workers breaking with the Republicans and Democrats to found a workers party, and a section of the Trotskyist movement, the International Committee of the Fourth International, to guide it forward to the American Socialist revolution.