The Militant(logo) 
    Vol.61/No.33           September 28, 1997 
Celebrate BART Victory  
Celebrate and give a standing ovation to the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) workers in San Francisco, who went on strike and defeated the bosses' attempts to maintain and deepen a two-tier wage structure that the employer had forced on them three years ago. They also won an improvement in dental care for the first time in 24 years. Their victory shows what's possible when working people decide to stand up to the employers' demands for concessions.

The wealthy class orchestrated a malicious campaign through their media to try to demoralize the strikers and push back any support for their struggle. Calling the strike "hard to justify," the San Francisco Chronicle predicted that the workers "will not get much public sympathy" trying to win equal pay rates for those doing the same work. "Most people can understand - and accept - the concept that newcomers should initially receive less than veterans. It is a common practice in most of the world," the bourgeois paper opined.

Over the last 15 years multi-tier wage structures have indeed become common, along with the use of part-time and "temporary" jobs as an excuse to lower pay - as the working class took blows and the bosses drove against workers' wages and working conditions. These set-ups sow divisions within the workforce, which the bosses count on to weaken solidarity.

But the problem for the capitalist rulers is that a growing number of workers no longer accept this as the way it has to be. BART has hired 500 new employees over the last two years, many of them young. They are not beaten down by the setbacks and defeats of the last period. They reject the injustice of doing the same job for less pay than their fellow workers beside them. Like the UPS workers who fought for more full-time jobs, they figure it's worth it to stand up and fight.

Setbacks and standoffs from past battles and rationalizations for givebacks don't loom very large for young workers when they decide to say no to the employers' takeback demands. This willingness to fight among young workers has an impact on those with more experience -in both the BART and UPS strikes workers of all generations united across the divisions the bosses had tried to foster. This is what the wealthy class is afraid of.

The employing class consciously sought to whip up the venom of the petty bourgeoisie against the BART strikers with their high-pitched and well-orchestrated campaign in the media. Nearly every article, editorial and cartoon on the strike portrayed the workers as greedy, despite the fact that real wages have declined over the past decade.

The workers involved got a taste of class politics. What would have helped counter the rulers' antiunion campaign is broader mobilization by the labor movement in solidarity. The battle at UPS, the series of strikes that have taken place at General Motors plants across the country, the stepped-up organizing drives among farm workers, and others are all signs of workers' resistance along with the BART strike that workers everywhere should celebrate and build on.  
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