At the stroke of midnight, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) workers shut down the West Coast’s largest urban rail system, crippling essential infrastructure throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. But already, union leaders from SEIU, ATU, and AFSCME are seeking to control the strike’s natural momentum, limit its impact, and dictate its message. We as workers must recognize that our success depends on our willingness to strike out of bounds, in defiance of the arbitrary rules and limitations imposed by labor technocrats; recent experiences here in New York City have shown us as much. Such a strike might include the following elements:
- Fending off any scabbing by management. BART has pledged to provide “skeletal” service during the course of the work stoppage. A picket is the front line of the class war. None shall pass!
- Expanding the strike to all regional and suburban transit systems. Most glaringly, bus drivers at AC Transit, already in the midst of their own labor dispute, must walk off the job in solidarity with BART workers rather than provide alternative cross bay service that mitigates the toll of the BART strike.
- Welcome support from all sectors. SEIU leaders have already renounced support from Occupy, and the strike has little connection to Oakland’s social antagonist scene. As the experience of the 2011-12 longshore strikes demonstrates, community allies are critical to any successful jobs action.
Capital has the ability to accommodate a short-lived strike within acceptable limits, but it cannot tolerate a strike that spirals out of control, infused by energy from the rank-and-file. The specter of such a strike is lurking in the Bay. Now more than ever, No Compromise, No Retreat!
Left to its own devices, a militant strike will escalate, intensify, and grow until it consumes its enemy. Confronted with this possibility, the union tops impose rules on strikers, rendering it palatable to the state. But we reject such directives from above. We know that a disobedient strike begins with an unruly picket line.
Rules for Picketing, a small zine we distributed during the ATU 1181 bus drivers’ strike earlier this year, collects real flyers distributed by various unions to their rank-and-file members dictating long sets of increasingly absurd “rules” to be followed on the picket line.