The Seattle Free Riders Union has been passing out this letter as a leaflet to Seattle bus drivers. We developed the content after talking with friends who are drivers.
Note: the Seattle Free Riders Union is independent of Black Orchid Collective and is a collaboration of folks from different political tendencies… a few members of our collective are invovled in the Free Riders.
Riders who refuse to pay are not against you.
We are against your bosses.
Soon you will find more riders refusing to pay fare. We are angry about the proposed 17% service reduction and cuts to routes, and we refuse to pay more for less service. Your bosses have increased adult fares 165% since 1993, and are raising the the youth fare 50 cents in September. Riders can’t afford it. The economic crisis is making it hard for many of us to get by, just like it’s making it hard for many of you to get by. For all of these reasons, some of us have joined the Free Riders Union, where we pool together funds and pay each others’ tickets if folks get caught dodging fare. For more info, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may hear your bosses or others claim that we are against you. We are not, we stand with you. We are fighting your bosses, not you. They are the ones who are cutting routes we need; they are the ones raising our fare.
Your bosses have no right to force you to force us to pay fare. It is a matter of your working conditions and safety. You are workers, not cops or security guards, and you should not have to put yourselves in stressful or risky situations just to crack down on fellow working people who can’t afford to ride. But even if you call the cops, sheriffs, and security guards to do the enforcement instead of you, it could still put you at risk because other riders might call you a snitch. We can explain to them that you are not the enemy, that you are workers too, but ultimately you can make this most clear to them by taking concrete acts to limit fare enforcement.
Your bosses will claim that if we don’t pay fare it will increase Metro’s already large budget shortfall, leading to more layoffs for you and cuts for riders. But only 20% of the operating costs of Metro currently come from fare anyway. Fares could be lowered and service cuts could be stopped if we force the wealthy to pay for transit. We could put over 20 million toward free transit service if we slash the salaries of your overpaid managers. We could also cut the salaries of the county sheriffs and other transit security officers whose main purpose is to enforce fare, not to protect you or us. Given all the murders and beatings committed by cops in Seattle this year, the last thing we want is more armed cops brutalizing riders.
We are a union of working class and unemployed riders, and we support organizing efforts of drivers around your own labor issues. We oppose the fact that you are being denied breaks and that you are being overworked. We’d support efforts you might make to organize yourselves for better working conditions and wages and for more democratic control over your job and over the transit system. We know that ultimately, your greatest power to fight for your own interests lies in your ability to strike and shut down the transit system, or to refuse to collect fare as an act of resistance. That is how drivers across the world have responded to budget cuts and layoffs, especially in Greece. The best way you an build public support for such actions is to support riders’ struggles against fares and against service cuts.
Working class and unemployed people need to unite or else the wealthy will keep forcing us to pay for the economic crisis they created. So if your bosses try to turn you against us, remember, we have more in common with each other than we do with them. An injury to one is an injury to all.
the Seattle Free Riders Union