Just after this article was filed, the heartbreaking news broke that on January 28, a young mother carrying a baby stroller fell down the stairs in the New York subway. While her infant daughter survived, Malaysia Goodson died in the fall. The station, at 53rd Street and 7th Avenue, is one of the approximately 350 subway stations (out of 472) that lack elevators. Workers World extends our deepest condolences to the family and reaffirms the call for system wide accessibility.
The heads of New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority have backed off voting for another fare hike for now, but they only put it off until February. According to the corporate-owned press, this is a calamity because the MTA is short a billion dollars.
Wall Street is the home of the banks to which the MTA owes $40 billion. New York City is also the center of world capitalism. The idea that there’s not enough money in the city for public transportation or any other necessity is far-fetched, to say the least. A billion dollars is a lot for the average person, but for the rich gamblers on Wall Street that amount is all in a day’s trading.
New York City is also where the firms are located that got bailed out in the 2008 “Great Recession.” The total for that massive corporate welfare program ended up being in the trillions.
Insurance giant AIG alone got $182 billion. What did AIG or Goldman Sachs or the others bailed out do to get so much money? They don’t make anything people need — like clothes or food or telephones. They don’t provide health care or serve as teachers.
No, those firms exist solely to make rich people richer. But the Bush and Obama administrations argued that Wall Street had to be bailed out because the companies were “too big to fail.”
The argument was that keeping the businesses from failing was for the benefit of society as a whole. If pressed, sometimes there were admissions that company executives were crooks who caused the mess in the first place. But defenders of the system still swore that if the companies were allowed to fail, the system would collapse.
In other words, the bailout was for “the benefit of society as a whole.”
It’s obvious that this was a lie: The bailout was only to protect the rich and their exploitative system of capitalism.
Wouldn’t it have been “for the benefit of society” to have bailed out the people who lost their homes, jobs and pensions?
Wouldn’t it be “for the benefit of society” if housing, heat in the winter, health care, education and child care were all rights to be supported at all costs?
And wouldn’t it be “for the benefit of society” if public transportation was free and every station was accessible with elevators that worked and didn’t break down?
Fighting the MTA for the benefit of society
To accept the claim that the MTA is starved of funds now is to accept the premise of capitalism that there is not enough money to meet people’s needs.
But capitalist government and business can use the riches it has access to at any time, for any reason. They just don’t choose to consider spending on people’s needs to be “to the benefit of capitalist society.”
That doesn’t mean we have to wait until society is socialist to win rights like accessible transportation.
In 2008, the bosses at Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago announced the company would be closing in days. Workers would not receive unused vacation time nor the 60 days’ pay they were entitled to under the 1989 federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the plant’s chief creditor, Bank of America, was cutting off its line of credit.
The workers occupied their plant with picket lines in front and solidarity demonstrations across the country. A week later, when thousands demonstrated in Chicago in front of BOA headquarters, the workers received a $1.75 million settlement from the company. They won eight weeks’ pay, two months of continued health coverage and pay for any outstanding vacation time.
JPMorgan Chase paid $400,000 of the total amount, with BOA covering the rest.
The overall atmosphere of anger at the Wall Street bailout helped the Republic Windows and Doors workers.
In 2019, there is mass anger in New York City about the $3 billion to be handed to the planet’s richest person, Jeff Bezos, to locate his new Amazon headquarters in Long Island City along the MTA’s 7 train line, which will be overwhelmed by tens of thousands of additional riders.
Mass resentment about the tax subsidies and other benefits Bezos will get may be a factor in the MTA’s decision to postpone the fare hike vote — along with mass anger about the recent MTA mismanagement of L train plans.
As riders continue the fight to stop the fare hike, they can keep the lesson of the Republic Windows and Doors in mind: After worker action and mass support, the banks behind the company came forward and coughed up the money the bosses said they didn’t have.