#37: CapMetro

So our friendly local Capital Metro drivers are going on strike Wednesday over ‘oppressively’ low wages. Fine. I’m a liberal, pro-union man. I believe in solidarity with the working classes; to this end, in fact, I will be biking to my bourgeois internship for the duration of the  strike (Also, I just fixed my bike).

But Capital Metro’s idea of a strike isn’t ‘complete shutdown,’ but rather ‘gradual scaling back of service.’  They’ll still run from 6 am to 7:30 PM, with somewhat reduced service.

Now, I understand. CapMetro drivers understand that many people rely on the bus, and they don’t want to hurt innocents who have nothing to do with their pay dispute with StarTran. That said, all I have to say is:

Seriously, CapMetro, grow a pair.

I mean, come on. When our great-grandparents were striking for the 8 hour workday, the five day work week, and the right to not get beaten at their sewing machines, they didn’t say, ‘Oh, Mr. Coercive Industrialist, we’ll still come in four hours a day. Just, you know, so as not to inconvenience anyone who needs to buy clothes/cars/lead-based Chinese toys.’

No. They walked out, and they picketed, and they brawled with the scabs brought in to do their jobs for cheaper. People were beaten up. Cars were overturned. Woody Guthrie songs were sung.

Or more recently, the writer’s strike. The writers didn’t agree to put out a few episodes and a pilot. They didn’t say, ‘Okay, we’ll write your jokes/sappy love scenes/monologues, but just make ’em real crappy.’ No. They said, we have a legitimate grief, and if innocent people suffer from the giant howling wasteland that is cable TV, that’s life.

So CapMetro, in case you’ve somehow missed the point, let me clarify:

Strikes are inconvenient. They make people unhappy. That’s the point.

You have the most power of any organized group in the city. At a stroke, you can shut this place down, and put enormous public pressure on your bosses to raise your wages. Yes, people will suffer. But if you give TranStar a way to put you off, because the city’s still functioning and the public outcry is reduced to grumbles, you’re just going to make everyone a little less unhappy, but for a lot longer.

For a better model to follow, my striking comrades, I would like to refer you to the words of the great, somehow-still-alive Pete Seeger, in his 1949 “Talking Union Blues.

Suppose they’re working you so hard it’s just outrageous,
They’re paying you all starvation wages;
You go to the boss, and the boss would yell,
“Before I’d raise your pay I’d see you all in Hell.”
Well, he’s puffing a big see-gar and feeling mighty slick,
He thinks he’s got your union licked.
He looks out the window, and what does he see
But a thousand pickets, and they all agree
He’s a bastard.

That’s a strike. This, this is not. Seriously, CapMetro, go big or go home.


1 Response to “#37: CapMetro”

  1. 1 Jane Kim November 6, 2008 at 8:56 am

    I agree. I mean, I know there are people who desperately need the buses because they have no other way to get to their jobs. And I guess there is the probability that they might lose support for their cause when they anger the citizens. But ultimately, if they are at the point where they have to take this radical measure to get what they need, then they should go all the way and be stronger, or else there’s not much point in putting out a half-assed message.

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