After historic strike, let's maintain momentum!

Posted in Tubeworker's blog on Tue, 10/01/2017 - 13:40,

Yesterday's strike of station and revenue staff was historic. We showed that we have immense power when we stand together. Our strike shut down central London, putting immense pressure on the employer and exposing the depths of their staffing crisis.

Lively pickets were mounted at stations across London, with TSSA reps and activists joining their RMT colleagues (despite TSSA's last-minute wobble!). With unity in the dispute maintained, the logic points towards one industrial union for all Tube workers.

Fantastic solidarity was shown by other grades, with many drivers refusing to cross picket lines and many more rightly refusing to drive their trains through unstaffed, or unsafely staffed, stations.

Support from the public on picket lines was high. With leaflets, social media, and interviews we got our message out: LU must reverse jobs cuts and properly staff stations, not with cut-price CSA2s, but with CSA1s and above, and put in place a plan for consolidating the two CSA grades upwards. If LU claim there's no money available, Mayor Khan must stop his disgraceful union bashing and join our fight to demand increased funding from central government.

The employer is on the ropes. We have to maintain our momentum. Tubeworker would like to see further action called as soon as possible, escalating the strike beyond 24 hours and experimenting with rolling and selective strikes of different shifts to maximise impact. There is a mandate for this from previous reps' meetings, and while further meetings to plan and strategise are necessary, there is already a clear consensus for further action.

Yesterday's strike was replete with lessons. On the job (and within RMT, as the only all-grades union on LU), today's strike should decisively kill off the idea, expressed by some in moments of despair and pessimism, that station grades have no power and must be reliant on the leverage of drivers or engineers to win concessions. We should always aspire to all-grades unity, but yesterday we proved that we can strike as station staff and shut the job down. This should embolden and empower us going forward.

Our strike is also a little window into where power lies, and how we can change society. It's easy to feel small, to feel like a cog in a machine, when you're going through the daily grind of shifts and you're at the whim of the employer. But a day like yesterday reminds us that it doesn't have to be like that. We move London, not our bosses. The power is in our hands. As the old slogan from revolutionary France in 1968 puts it: Le patron a besoin de toi, mais tu n'as pas besoin de lui. To paraphrase the translation: our bosses need us, but we don't need them.

There's also a lesson for other workers in our action. Although public support has been high, we'll all have experienced (whether on picket lines, on social media, at work in the run up to the strike, or down the pub) some version of the following arguments: our strikes are "selfish"; we're "holding London to ransom"; or, "I have worse job than you and you don't see me going on strike."

These arguments, which manifest as hostile abuse, are actually expressions of resentment borne of a feeling of powerlessness. In an economy where labour is massively on the defensive against capital, where the labour movement is weak and in retreat, hostility to our strikes from other working-class people expresses resentment that they don't have the same organisation and power at work as we do.

But they could! Of course, not every job or industry is as integral to the day-to-day functioning of London as public transport, but the key difference between us and other groups of workers is that we have a high level of union membership and that we are prepared to use our unions as tools via which to take action. We should encourage fellow members of our class to see our level of organisation, and our action, not as something to resent but as something to aspire to.

Every striker should be congratulated for the resolve they showed yesterday. Let's push on and win our dispute!

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