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(en) US, Chicago, Midwest Unrest* is pleased to declare a partial victory

From Midwest Unrest <midwest_unrest@riseup.net>
Date Mon, 20 Dec 2004 09:20:04 +0100 (CET)

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CHICAGO TRANSIT FARE STRIKE: So far So Good - just one day after our call for
a fare strike had begun. The CTA had been threatening the implementation of
their "Doomsday" (aka "Gridlock") budget, beginning January 2nd 2005. It would
have included a 20% cut to services and them termination of 1250 jobs. After
repeated delays, a final decision to pass the budget was to be made at their
monthly board meeting on December 16th 2004. Earlier this fall, the CTA passed
a proposal to double paratransit fares for the disabled.
The CTA has continually blamed their budget crisis on a lack of funding
from the state. Midwest Unrest, among other groups in town, have instead
been holding the CTA responsible. The CTA's priorities are those of
business and of the Chicago political machine, not of the working class
people who ride it every day. It continues to spend millions from its
"capital funds" on things like a new office building, and the new "Circle
Line". This at the same time that it is proposing massive service cuts and
layoffs because of a lack of "operational funds". When the Regional
Transportation Authority suggested that he should use capital funds to
cover the deficit in the operational budget, CTA President Frank Kruesi
replied "You cannot count on transferring capital money to operating
accounts when the state is not taking action to assure the capital money
will be there". This does not mean that he cannot relocate capital funds
to maintain the current level of service; it means that he is making a
clear choice to prioritize capital projects over regular, much-needed,

After months of organizing with CTA workers and riders all over the
Chicagoland area, December 15th kicked off our campaign of organized fare
evasion. The idea was to not pay and not collect fares, in order to put
economic pressure on the CTA. Thousands of people rode the bus and "L" for
free on just the first day, demanding that the CTA scrap all service cuts,
job terminations and fare hikes.

Then at Thursday's board meeting, one day after the fare strike began, the
CTA delayed the service cuts and job terminations for another 6 months,
when they will be reviewed again. This was at the request of state
legislators who have suggested that money will now be made available
during the spring session. Furthermore, the decision to double paratransit
fares in January, which had already been passed and had been part of both
the "Gridlock" and "Regional Mobility" budgets, was reversed.

While the battle is not over, we are very encouraged by these decisions.
We have won an extra six months of employment, the current transit service
and the current paratransit fares. This is also another six months to
organize. In this effort we will not forget how the lobbying campaign,
backed by the CTA's front group Keep Chicagoland Moving, received no
response from state legislators. We will remember that it was only once
the many groups and individuals in town who held the CTA responsible,
organized together, uniting workers and riders, and committed to hitting
the CTA where it hurts, that mayor Daley suddenly struck some sort of deal
with legislators in Springfield. Our efforts over the next six months will
continue along these lines.

***This is not just an issue for Chicago residents. Public transit is
being slashed and restructured in many cities in the US and around the
world. The strategies of the transit bureaucrats mirror each other:
playing transit riders and workers off against each other, redirecting
questions about transit funding away from the transit agencies themselves
and onto the state level, diverting the anger against the service cuts and
job losses into lobbying and election campaigns. Just as their strategies
are replicated in different cities across the globe, we hope that ours can
be too. We would like to exchange ideas and experiences with people who
have done or are interested in doing similar direct action campaigns
around public transit. We also would love to hear from people who live in
Chicago and want to get involved.

* Midwest Unrest is a class struggle anarchist group based in Chicago.

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