OWS & Transit Union "Hack" Subway System, Launch Fare Strike
Occupy Wall Street participants and anonymous members of the New York City Transit Workers Union Local 100 opened over 20 subways stations for free entry on Wednesday, March 28th in a theatric act of direct action targeting Wall Street bondholders who profit from the debt of the public system.
Before rush hour, teams spread out across the city, chaining open service gates, taping up turnstiles, and hanging posters designed to match MTA official alerts. The posters read, in part; "Free Entry, No Fares Collected, System Wide. Please Enter Through The Service Gate."
Smaller text on the posters hinted that the they were part of a brillitant subversive action; "The MTA strives to make the highest profit off your commute. We apologize for the recent service cuts and fare hikes but they were necessary to pay our friends on Wall Street."
The use of well-designed posters and some well-played social engineering allowed for a successful hit against the transit elite. It also shows how the "real world" can be hacked by accessing and imitating the theatrics of the powers that guide daily life in the city. By simply matching fonts, folks were able to legitimize and make-safe their action.
A press release put out by "Rank and File Initiative", the group behind the New York action explains the situation further. It cites racial profiling of transit ridesr by the NYPD, fare increases, MTA layoffs, and the reduction of bus and train service as its motivations, as well as the shady economics behind the MTA's operations.
"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.. 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 release reads. "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," it continues, "by 2018 more than one out of every five dollars of MTA revenue will head to a banker's pockets."
Though TWU Local 100 denies any official knowledge of members' involvement, it seems clear that at least some workers participated in the action. A stunt of this size would be hard to pull off otherwise.
Regardless, the union is a major supporter of OWS and has fought numerous battles in the last decade against management. Claiming over 38,000 members, they voted in September to openly support Occupy Wall Street, becoming one of the first to do so. "Working Americans have sacrificed too much already. Transit riders have paid with record fare increases and service cuts," reads their statement of support. "How dare they demand that we coddle the rich while poor people are losing their benefits and millions are becoming poor?”
In October the union sued the City of New York over the forcing of bus drivers to transport arrested protesters for the NYPD. Though they were denied the injunction they sought, the move showed a strong and militant solidarity with those camped out in Zuccotti Park. "We maintain the demonstrators were using 1st Amendment freedom of assembly & speech, and that our drivers' 4th Amendment rights were violated," they said in a statement after the hearing.
Following Wednesdays action, transit workers are being harassed by both management and federal law enforcement officials, and the FBI has been taking workers into custody for questioning, in some cases up to 2 hours, according to the report from The Gothamist.