Occupy Wall Street Affiliates Chain Subway Gates Open For Fare Strike

SubwayTurnstile.jpg
MagicJosh12
FREE entry!
A group calling itself the "Rank and File Initiative" claimed credit yesterday for opening up more than 20 subway stations throughout the city for free entry.

Chaining open emergency gates at stations on the F, L, R, Q, 3, and 6 lines during rush hour yesterday morning, the anonymous activists posted signs designed to resemble MTA service-change announcements that read "Free Entry, No Fare. Please Enter Through The Service Gate."

A press release claiming credit for the action said it was carried out by activists affiliated with Occupy Wall Street, as well as by rank-and-file members of Transit Workers Union Local 100, which is currently in negotiations with the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

The release cites Albany's chronic underfunding of public transit, which has led the MTA to borrow heavily just to maintain its operating budget -- debt which must be serviced in part with transit fares that have gone up 50 percent over the last decade.

"This means Wall Street bondholders receive a huge share of what we put into the system through the Metrocards we buy and the taxes we pay," the press statement reads. "More than $2 billion a year goes to debt service, and this number is expected to rise every year. If trends continue, by 2018 more than one out of every five dollars of MTA revenue will head to a banker's pockets."

Last night we spoke with a representative of the Rank And File Initiative, who wished to remain anonymous. He told us that teams set out in the early hours of yesterday morning, disguising their identities, to lock open gates at roughly 25 stations.

"It was three or four people to each station, so you can do the math of how many people were directly involved," he said. Not every team was successful -- one dispatched to a Bronx subway station had to abort their mission -- "But everyone came safely back without getting caught, which was our first priority."

The source stressed that MTA station agents were not aware of the action, and no MTA employees were involved in actually locking the gates open. But that's not to say that Transit Workers Union members weren't involved.

generalstrikecrabapplesmall.jpg
Molly Crabapple
Wildcat actions like yesterday's could add a new dimension to the May Day protests.
"We've been planning this for months -- Occupy people, other activists, and union members," the source said. "Union members were central to the planning. They told us the best places to go, they talked to their colleagues about what was going to happen, and not to be freaked out when we came in, and they gave the final green-light for the mission in the morning."

Transport Workers Union Local 100 leadership denied knowledge of the action, and the Rank And File Initiative source confirmed that they were not notified. Relations between TWU 100 members and their leadership have long been strained, dating back to 2005 when union members, historically fairly radical, felt their leaders rolled over in a standoff with the MTA.

"There are a lot of angry and afraid union members who wish they could do more, but they're held back by the leadership," the source said. "We listened in on a conference call with [TWU President John] Samuelson and the shop stewards, and they were all telling Samuelson the union needed to be doing more. He got so mad he was muting out whole parts of the conversation, until it was just him talking on the line."

Yesterday's wildcat action -- carried out by union members without the knowledge or coordination of their leadership -- violated both the Taylor Law and the Taft-Hartley Act.
It suggests that TWU 100 leaders may be losing control of their members, and also may lend some credence to claims by Occupy Wall Street organizers that labor's rank and file will take part in the upcoming May 1st "Day Without the 99 Percent" action, despite skeptical statements from some union leaders.

The tactic isn't without precedent. San Francisco saw a fare strike in 2005, and the Spanish Indignados, to whom Occupy Wall Street protesters have often looked for inspiration, have been running their own fare strike, Yo No Pago, since early this year.

The source said his group's inspiration for yesterdays action came on November 17 of last year. During that day of action for Occupy Wall Street, someone -- quite possibly members of Occupy's Direct Action Working Group -- locked open doors at four stations.

"We wanted to do something like that, but scale it up," the source said.

Going forward, the coalition is unlikely to repeat the fare strike tactic, the source said, though it will conduct other sorts of actions. The group also plans to release how-to guides to help anyone else who might want to stage a fair strike in New York subways.

"It's a great tactic, because it aligns the interests of transit workers with the interests of the working classes throughout New York," he said. "That's important, because whenever transit workers get hit, it's bad news for everyone else who rides the subway too . You see fare hikes and service cuts. It makes sense to make common cause."

Here's the full press release concerning the fare strike:

This morning before rush hour, teams of activists, many from Occupy Wall Street, in conjunction with rank and file workers from the Transport Workers Union Local 100 and the Amalgamated Transit Union, opened up more than 20 stations across the city for free entry. As of 10:30 AM, the majority remain open. No property was damaged. Teams have chained open service gates and taped up turnstiles in a coordinated response to escalating service cuts, fare hikes, racist policing, assaults on transit workers' working conditions and livelihoods -- and the profiteering of the super-rich by way of a system they've rigged in their favor.

For the last several years, riders of public transit have been under attack. The cost of our Metrocards has been increasing, while train and bus service has been steadily reduced. Budget cuts have precipitated station closings and staff/safety reductions. Police routinely single out young black and Latino men for searches at the turnstile. Layoffs and attrition means cutting staff levels to the bare minimum, reducing services for seniors and disabled riders. At the same time, MTA workers have been laid off and have had their benefits drastically reduced. Contract negotiations are completely stalled.

Working people of all occupations, colors and backgrounds are expected to sacrifice to cover the budget cut by paying more for less service. But here's the real cause of the problem: the rich are massively profiting from our transit system. Despite the fact that buses and subways are supposed to be a public service, the government and the MTA have turned the system backwards--into a virtual ATM for the super-rich. Instead of using our tax money to properly fund transit, Albany and City Hall have intentionally starved transit of public funds for over twenty years; the MTA must resort to bonds (loans from Wall Street) to pay for projects and costs. The MTA is legally required to funnel tax dollars and fares away from transportation costs and towards interest on these bonds, called "debt service." This means Wall Street bondholders receive a huge share of what we put into the system through the Metrocards we buy and the taxes we pay: more than $2 billion a year goes to debt service, and this number is expected to rise every year. If trends continue, by 2018 more than one out of every five dollars of MTA revenue will head to a banker's pockets.

[npinto@villagevoice.com] [@macfathom]

Go to Runnin' Scared for all our latest news coverage.


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Payton_vege
Payton_vege

Amazing write-up! This could aid plenty of people find out more about this particular issue. Are you keen to integrate video clips coupled with these? It would absolutely help out. Your conclusion was spot on and thanks to you; I probably won’t have to describe everything to my pals. I can simply direct them here!

KZsays
KZsays

The point they're missing is that the interest and principal repayments on bonds, which are wholly different from bank loans, are paid to investors (primarily institutions like your pension and your schools endowment). An investment bank originates the security and takes a fee, but they sure as shit aren't going to hold onto the MTA bonds and collect interest payments. 

Project finance has always relied on debt. This isn't new, in fact its fundamental for any large scale project. 

Nbedell
Nbedell

I need to set the record straight on the "sources" comment about the shop stewards conference call. As TWU local 100 Education Director responsible for training shop stewards I took the role of facilitating the call. All stewards were provided with advance notice of the call - and given the opportunity to text and email questions before and during the call. With a conference call of that size the background noise is very difficult to control and can make the call unmanageable. We decided ahead of the call, with full knowledge of all participants, that only the president and myself would be able to talk.(Perhaps a decision worthy of a second look, if we can figure out how to solve the background noise problem). Prior to the call I gave the President every question submitted and during the call, I took questions via email and text and asked them of John Samuelsen. He answered them all. 

The following representation of the call in the article:"they were all telling Samuelson the union needed to be doing more. He got so mad he was muting out whole parts of the conversation, until it was just him talking on the line." is patently false.

Kevin Schmidt
Kevin Schmidt

The 1% does not provide jobs. Quite the opposite,  they steal the wealth of the working class.

Tyrone R.
Tyrone R.

When a company has no choice but to pay EASILY replaceable employees 3 times what they're worth, they can never stay in business. It's very simple, but you're socialist ideals are more important than common sense. All this 99% garbage, and make no mistake, it IS garbage, exists only to stir up jealousy amongst the classes. You are all being used by a party that knows it can't win a single election based on achievement so they need to change the narrative- 99%, war on women etc... you are all tools. Thank God the 99% is more like 3% and a handful of college kids who thought the 60's were "cool". I keep seeing you pretentious jokes telling people to "read a book" "do some research" and then the usual, "I have zero FACTS (not rabble you read off the Obama website) to debate with so Ill call names.... So Ill end with, how about doing some research and reading a book about the Russians plans on how to infiltrate and destroy the US from the inside, or about what Castro tried to do with Cuban in the early 60's- he tried to do what you lib's want now and (spoiler alert) IT DIDN'T WORK CAUSE ALL THOSE PROGRAMS NEED TO BE FUNDED SOMEHOW AND BUSINESSES CANT PAY EMPLOYEES MORE THAN THEYRE WORTH JUST TO BE NICE GUYS!!!! You ALL can't be this naive. 

Christopher Neal
Christopher Neal

Tyrone, I hear ya, but the fools on this comment board would rather blame others and have everyone else pay their own way, it requires much less effort on their part. Entitlement.

Karen
Karen

Transit should be expropriated for popular use and control. But until that time, the filthy bosses and capitalists should pay for it with their taxes, since we wouldn't even be commuting if they didn't force us to work for them and their profits!

Alan8
Alan8

"... and the profiteering of the super-rich by way of a system they've rigged in their favor."

This could describe any number of systems in America; not just the transit system.  Kudos to the transit workers for standing up to a corrupt, rigged system!

We need more actions against systems rigged in favor of the rich nationwide and worldwide!

Namaimo
Namaimo

I say well done! to Occupy Wall Street .

Altoemichael
Altoemichael

 Transit should be rider funded--via fares. If you make the decision to take on debt to fund operations rather than raise fares and cut costs...well, that is your fault. A fare strike is no more than doublespeak...Distorts the true meaning of what it means to STRIKE.

DemForever
DemForever

The people who did this are trying to expose the fact that the system is rigged to put unearned money into bankster's pockets. Paying banksters' tribute does nothing to improve transit systems or any other systems for that matter. Time for that to end. Maybe you can think of a better way to highlight the fact that this failed system of finance is only working for the 1% at the expense of the 99%, but I admire what these people did for all of us.

Christopher Neal
Christopher Neal

Or maybe these zealot protestors should walk their damn walk and quit using cell phones made by those evil multi-million dollar corporations to organize their lame protests.

Odette22
Odette22

Great job Rank and File Initiative! I hope to see more actions in the future!

guest
guest

"by 2018 more than one out of every five dollars of MTArevenue will head to a banker's pockets."  

Yes, because you BORROWED the money and now it needs to bepaid back.  What is so difficult about this concept?

Bobthebuilder
Bobthebuilder

I guess your comprehensive understanding of debt must have caused you to miss this part "Albany's chronic underfunding of public transit... "But who am I kidding - propaganda spewing anti-occupy ditto-heads have no interest in looking at the big picture or actually understanding anything. Keep on drinking that 1% koolaid! 

guest
guest

The big picture is this: Public transportation systems have uneven capital needs due to varied timing of capital intensive infrastructure projects.  As such, they have to rely on the capital markets to fund those projects - ie bond markets.  This is called borrowing.  Borrowed money must be paid back.  

If borrowed money is not paid back then the MTA will have no means of financing its next infrastructure project as the markets will view them as a bad credit.  That will lead to an older and less efficient mass transportation system.  A system, needless to say, that the bulk of the 99% use on a daily basis.  

Albany does not have the kind of ready funds that are required for capital intensive infrastructure projects.  You can generalize this and say that governments across the western world do not have the ability to finance infrastructure projects out of the general budget and this is indeed the case.  As such, all projects are funded via the capital markets.  This means borrowing that is paid back via the revenues that those projects generate over their operating life. 

You can whine and complain all you would like, but the fact is that you have a fast and safe subway system to ride every single day and that it is brought to you by Wall Street.  Rather than protesting, you should be saying thank you.

What happened this morning is that malcontents stole tens of thousands of dollars (lost fare revenue) from a public agency that is in desperate need of funds.  They should be found and prosecuted.  

Pghorey
Pghorey

You've never had a job in your life , bet you're on the dole

wiseold snail
wiseold snail

thanks for saying all the things i would be saying here.  i'm so tired of people like christoper neal operating in voluntary ignorance mode 24/7.  it's been really exhausting for forty years.  glad there are more and more of us stepping up to explain to people who seem unwilling to open eyes and see truth.

Kray
Kray

Where is the personal responsibility for the banks? When they make bad decisions it is our responsibility to bail them out?  There is a different set of rules for the rich and powerful then for working folks.

Christopher Neal
Christopher Neal

Making everyone else pay your own way is propaganda? Where is personal responsibility?

Robert Winkelmann
Robert Winkelmann

How stupid are you. Every single person alive who buy ANYTHING pays taxes. To say that only 48% of people pay taxes is an OUTRIGHT LIE unless the other 52% of us aren't getting charged sales and excise taxes.

What a dolt.

Tim Brown
Tim Brown

Fast? Have you ever rode the subway outside Manhattan? I used to commute an hour and a half from Brooklyn to my job at Union Square, not to mention the Coney Islands bound lines are out literally every other weekend. Pretty much a giant fuck you to anyone who works in the city on the weekend "sorry poors, Manhattan is a theme park for the rich now, take you 4 bus transfers in and be happy you're only paying $1080 a year of your $17000 on metrocards."

Let's be real about part of this mess, back in the 2000's revenues soared as the financial sector, based in NYC, came to make up 40% of GDP. At this point the choice was made, not to tap this huge revenue source, but actually to cut rates and finance the MTA on bonds. I seem to remember something about "the free market funds better because it demands accountability."What this has really amounted to is paying interest to Wall St. for projects that should have been funded on revenue and unfairly shifting the cost of the transit system, which benefits the entire city and all employers, to the poor and middle class who can least afford to pay. 

93% of all gains in wealth in our first full year of recovery went to the 1%, they can bear a bit more of the rate hikes. 

Kevin Schmidt
Kevin Schmidt

Actually, it was closer to $30 trillion of public money that was used to bail out the Wall Street Fascists, while Main Street slipped into bankruptcy and foreclosure.

Why is there always plenty of money for the upper 1/10%, but never enough money, even for basic needs, for the rest of us???

Kray
Kray

I'm saying that the 1% have used their money to undermine our democracy. They have used their influence to change laws in order to benefit themselves at the expense of everyone else.

I'm saying it is the big banks who are the socialists. Their profits are private but their costs and risks are socialized.

Kray
Kray

The reason you have a "wall street" is because they were bailed out with $7.7trillion dollars of public money. It's not public funds that rely on Wall street. It's wall street that relies on public funds. Why does capitalism only apply to us working folks? What we saw with the bank bailout was the most powerful people in the country, in the world, openly declaring that the basic laws of capitalism no longer apply to them. The delicatessen on the corner goes out of business that's on them, one of these giant bank/investment firms goes under and they get bailed out??? AND THESE ARE BANKERS! The high priests of capitalism! Socialism for the banks. Capitalism is for us working schlubs.

Do you really think that the reason the 1% has seen their share of the national wealth increase so dramatically while wages for everyone else have stagnated is because the richest people in the country, in the world, suddenly got smarter? Started working harder? Started providing a better service to society? Just got better at Life? Or is it possible that these super wealthy people have used their money to buy politicians influence elections lobby constantly, etc, to change laws, subsidize their industries, lower their own tax burden, to use government as a tool to befit themselves at the expense of everyone else?

Instead of saying "thank you", you should be protesting.

Christopher Neal
Christopher Neal

So you are saying these 1% have violated federal tax law and should be arrested?

I'll say it again, socialism is wonderful until you run out of other people's money.

guest
guest

The only people who get the carried interest tax  treatment are partners in investment firms.  All told that is probably less than 2,000 people in all of NY State.  The rest of us poor shlubs have to pay normal income tax which works out to just about 50%.  

Now if the 48% of people who pay no income tax would like to step forward and begin to pay for some of the services that they consume, then we will have a broader tax base and could use those funds to update our crumbling infrastructure.  

Liveanoblelife
Liveanoblelife

It would have been smarter and less expensive to TAX instead of borrow the funding for this project. If only the 1% would pay their fair share we would have revenue for capital projects like the second ave subway.

Let me guess...your tax rate is 15% too.

Christopher Neal
Christopher Neal

Sounds like some workers need to be fired for biting the hand that feeds them.

guest
guest

 More like biting the hand that picks their pocket

Kray
Kray

sounds like power needs to be careful about stepping on the hands that run their machine.

Christopher Neal
Christopher Neal

Kray, you act like there is no choice in employment as if you are a slave. You can always walk away if you no likey your boss or employment situation. 

Kray
Kray

Or you can organize yourself and others workers into a union, which is only way for labor to fairly negotiate with capital for the true value of their work. One worker is but a cog but collectively they are a valuable engine which makes profits for the ownership class. You could quit your job, and not have one anymore (not much of an option for most, sure. Or you can protest or strike. That's how we have "the weekend", overtime, sick days, and pension funds in the first place.

Sean Monagle521
Sean Monagle521

Are you one of the 1%?  Or just a supporter of the 1%?

Kray
Kray

He's just a regular guy who relates to the rich & powerful. Billionaires don't comment on internet message boards. They also don't ride the subway. This guy here thinks that this is some left/right argument. It's not. It's about the undermining of our democratic system by private money. It's also about unequal application of law. Not just the laws that apply to us as citizens but the basic laws of capitalism. It's socialism for the big banks & big corporations, capitalism for the rest of us. This guy may think he believes in the "free market" but I say....maybe....maybe a free market would work. I don't know. We've never had one. So it's just as hypothetical as anything else. There's nothing "free market" about bank bailouts. It's also not partisan. Wall street gives heavily to BOTH parties. They "hedge" their bets. Both Obama & Romney are having 35,000 dollar a plate dinners, vying for the same handful of wealthy donors. That's just how the game is currently played. But it doesn't HAVE to be that way. WE CAN CHANGE THIS SYSTEM - IF WE KEEP AT IT. And everyone, no matter where they think they fall on the economic or political spectrum, should join in. Because it's to none of our benefits to have Goldman Sachs writing our economic policy, or EXXOn Mobil writing our energy policy etc. The way we are going to find solutions to our common problems is through fair & democratic decision making.

Christopher Neal
Christopher Neal

I am a person who understands that the one percent-ers provide jobs. Overtax them and jobs go overseas. I also believe in personal responsibility and that if someone works their ass off, they are entitled to be wealthy. I have nothing against wealthy people and disagree with socialist agendas. Personally, I have worked hard and am fairly well off.

guest
guest

 So in other words, a shill.

Lechatnoir1905
Lechatnoir1905

If hard work resulted in wealth, every agricultual worker in this country would be rich. And we would not have to watch reality tv shows of spoiled rich childern running through their parents money at obscene clip.

Capitalism rewards capitalists, not hard work. While some capitalits do work hard, many leave that to others. Indeed, the super wealthy cannot become so with out the collective labor of those producing what ever commodity it is they are selling.

steve jobs and phil knight and other "job creators" all made their wealth on the backs of hyper exploited labor in china. Do you think they "worked harder" then some one on one of their factory floors?

This is the great lie, the one that turns the world upside down. That workers are lazy and the rich industrious. That has never been the case and nevver will.

Its a cover story for theft and murder.

Robert Winkelmann
Robert Winkelmann

If this was true how did we have any jobs when the tax rate was nearly 75% up until Reagan in the 80's. If I remember correctly wasn't that America's heyday?

Christopher Neal
Christopher Neal

Name calling? Shows your lack of maturity. 

You act like people are slaves and have no choice involving employment.

Cheer up.

pissedoff
pissedoff

working hard is irrelevant to the issue of the 99% and 1% -- the act of bringing it up is evidence that you have no class consciousness, and suffer from political and historical amnesia. You support no job control, no job security, non-living wages, and 50+ hour weeks because you think people earned the right to do that? You're Ducking ignorant. READ A DUCKING BOOK YOU DUCKING MORON!

DemForever
DemForever

 On the other hand, maybe some workers need to give control of our transit systems back to the people and help stop the practice of using public services to subsidize billionaires.

Christopher Neal
Christopher Neal

Socialism works wonderfully until you run out of other people's money.

Christopher Neal
Christopher Neal

Ummm.. Kevin, I think you misunderstand fascism. 

And if someone is truly "stealing" your money, I suggest you report this theft to the San Francisco Police Department. 

Kevin Schmidt
Kevin Schmidt

On the other hand, fascism always works wonderfully for the upper 1/10%, because they always steal the people's money, until the people strike back.

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