A letter sent by the Pittsburgh CMPL to the members of ATU Local 85. Also available as a PDF leaflet. Please distribute far and wide!
Brothers and Sisters,
Your union, ATU Local 85, is under attack. The March 27th transit cuts left 180 ATU members unemployed, tens of thousands of people across the county are without transit service, and the future of Local 85 and public transit in Allegheny County in doubt. Incredibly, Politicians from both major parties, as well as voices on talk radio and in newspaper opinion pages all point the finger squarely at you – the people who get up at 3 AM to make our city run – for the budget crisis that caused the cuts. They say your ‘legacy costs’ are too high, healthcare for you and your family is too expensive, your wages are unjustifiable, and that you don’t deserve a decent pension. “It’s the union’s fault,” they say.
Those of us in The Campaign for a Mass Party of Labor (CMPL) understand that it was not the hard working members of Local 85 who caused the transit crisis. In fact, the union has bent over backwards to accommodate the demands of the Port Authority and the political ‘leadership’ of Allegheny County. Your past several contracts have been characterized by huge givebacks, which saved the Port Authority huge sums of money. In the face of the March cuts, Local 85 acted in good faith by sitting down with Onorato and Steve Bland to try to reach a settlement that would preserve our transit system. In return, Onorato demanded the absurd figure of $60 million a year in concessions from your union, twice as much as was necessary to balance the Port Authority’s budget at the time. The truth is that Onorato didn’t care about saving public transit - his aim from the beginning was to bust Local 85 and destroy each and every member’s standard of living.
The real blame for the crisis lays firmly on the shoulders of both Democrats and Republicans for ignoring transit for decades. This city, state, and country are awash with wealth, but all levels of government are leaving enormous sums of money either untouched or grossly misappropriated. Neither party dares upset their wealthy backers and the armies of corporate lobbyists by proposing to modestly raise corporate taxes or even simply close absurd tax loopholes. Instead, they come to us, the workers, with the bill. Democrats and Republicans attack our unions, Democrats and Republicans demand service cuts and fare hikes, but neither Democrats nor Republicans will make the rich, the corporations, and the bosses who caused the economic and budget crises pay for them.
Despite this reality, nearly every union in the country supports candidates and parties that are already firmly in the pocket of the rich. Every election cycle, the unions give tens of millions of dollars, mobilize hundreds of thousands of volunteers, and dedicate thousands of paid staff to get bosses’ candidates elected. In 2008 alone, the unions spent more than $68 million to elect Obama and the Democrats in the hope of reversing the horrible conditions that prevailed under Bush and the GOP. After their sweeping victories in 2008, the Democrats returned the favor by ignoring organized labor’s legislative priorities (card check legislation and single-payer universal healthcare), extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich, starting a new war in Libya, and imposing huge budget cuts. In many places (Allegheny County included), Democratic politicians have played a central role in efforts to bust public-sector unions.
Think about that: our unions are backing parties and candidates that are busting unions! What’s more sickening is that your union, the ATU, gave money to Dan Onorato, the man who hired Steve Bland and is trying to bust Local 85, during each of his races for County Executive as well as his 2010 race for Governor. This is a shameful state of affairs!
The rank-and-file union members who make this country run deserve better. Our unions have the resources, experience, and clout to win elections, but as long as we continue to support the candidates and parties of the rich and the bosses, we’re fighting with one hand tied behind our backs. Working people and union members need to launch a mass party of labor to fight for our interests, a party funded and controlled exclusively by workers and their organizations and one free from corporate influence and corruption. On August 6th, the Pittsburgh Chapter of the CMPL is holding its third meeting on the topic How Can We Start a Labor Party? The meeting will be at the Order of the Owls Club at 108 W 8th Ave in Homestead, and begins at 6:30 PM. All are welcome, and we hope you’ll join us.