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San Francisco | Fault Lines | Health, Housing, and Public Services

The Social Strike Continues
by Tom Wetzel
Friday Oct 7th, 2005 3:03 PM
Several thousand passengers rode the buses for free in San Francisco on Thursday, September 1, the opening day of a fare strike in North America’s most bus-intensive city. In the days leading up to September 1, 20,000 leaflets and 10,000 stickers in English, Chinese, and Spanish were attached to bus shelters and poles throughout the city to promote the strike.
muni.jpgnhyepk.jpg
muni.jpgnhyepk.jpg

Several thousand passengers rode the buses for free in San Francisco on Thursday, September 1, the opening day of a fare strike in North America’s most bus-intensive city. In the days leading up to September 1, 20,000 leaflets and 10,000 stickers in English, Chinese, and Spanish were attached to bus shelters and poles throughout the city to promote the strike.

As well as raising fares to $1.50, MUNI has slashed service on many lines, starting September 24. Layoff notices were issued earlier in the year to 150 drivers. MUNI management is eliminating 83 of these jobs through early retirement and for the rest of the job cuts, they’re firing all of
the part-timers.

The fare strike has three demands: No fare hike, no service cuts, no layoffs.
On the morning of September 1, fare strike groups focused on eight major nodes in the MUNI bus network with banners, strike placards, bullhorns, and leaflets. About half of these nodes were on the Mission-Van Ness corridor. With over 85,000 rides on a typical weekday, Mission-Van Ness is one of the world’s busiest bus operations. In the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District, local day laborers got involved in the fare strike campaign and took over the tabling and leafleting in areas of the city with large numbers of Spanish-speaking immigrants.

Security assistants were specially hired to herd passengers away from the rear doors. This led to an incident at 16th and Mission where a female security assistant illegally grabbed a man by his pants as he was entering through the rear door, resulting in a physical altercation. The passenger was hauled off the bus and taken to jail, charged with assault.

Fare strike advocates distributed leaflets with the demands of the fare strike but in the shape and graphic style of a Muni bus transfer, and reproduced on the same flimsy newsprint. These transfer-shaped leaflets were very popular with riders. They felt more comfortable with something they could flash to the drivers.

Heavy security where fare strike groups were visibly concentrated was intended to intimidate both drivers and riders from participating in the fare strike. Meanwhile, small teams of fare strike activists were surfing the bus lines in various neighborhoods, getting off at busy stops and then bringing on groups of people to ride for free with them. Their hope is that people will get comfortable with the idea and then do it on their own.

Working With the Drivers

The young anarchists who formed MUNI Social Strike wanted to encourage a driver/rider alliance in San Francisco. For several months, the Social Strike group focused its efforts on outreach to the drivers.
Some drivers were playing by the Muni management game plan, refusing to move the bus if people didn’t pay. But this seemed to be a small minority. As some MUNI drivers told us, the union contract only requires the drivers to tell people what the fare is. In one incident, when an activist announced he was on fare strike, the driver said “The fare is $1.50. You know the rules.” She then stared straight ahead, smiling as he moved into the bus without paying. On another occasion, when a group of people got on the bus with money in their hands, ready to pay, the driver told them “Why pay? Today is the fare strike.”

To read a longer version of this account visit the Muni Social Strike website at http://www.socialstrike.net.

More information also available at http://www.munifairstrike.net
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alternativesbfdSunday Oct 9th, 2005 9:17 PM
correctionmuni riderFriday Oct 7th, 2005 11:26 PM
wutwutFriday Oct 7th, 2005 10:56 PM