Saturday, July 17, 2004

Bus Riders Meeting

I went to my second monthly meeting of the LA Bus Riders Union today, and because it was my second I actually got to sit in the main meeting rather than the orientation session they have for first-timers.

The big news in terms of their "Billions For Buses" campaign was that the Metro Transit Authority was ordered by a judge to purchase several hundred buses in late June (I'm simplifying the legal technicalities because I don't entirely remember them). They will be able to decide at their board meeting next Thursday whether to appeal the order, though the word at the BRU meeting was that the MTA Board will not appeal. However, even though this major purchase of buses to replace existing buses and expand the fleet is a victory for the BRU, there is a downside because the MTA has said they will pay for these buses by raiding a fund that was to be used to buy replacement buses between 2007 and 2014. BRU members will be objecting to this at the next MTA board meeting, as well as continuing to struggle against service cuts.

I may or may not go to the board meeting. I chickened out of going last time, just because it is a hassle to lug a baby all the way downtown, and I would feel a little uncomfortable having said baby in a formal meeting situation like that. However, I feel more inclined to go this time, if only to check it out.

Next Saturday the BRU is having an on-bus organizing day, and I am also considering going to that. I have always liked flyering and that kind of on-the-street outreach (strange for someone who considers himself a bit of a repressed introvert, but nonetheless true). However, I am hesitating because I am not sure it is the best role for me in this organization -- it is an anti-racist organization, led by and primarily focused on organizing in working-class communities of colour. When you are organizing people, a shared pool of experience can be your best tool, and identity shapes how people respond. So I'm not sure that, as a middle-class white Canadian, on-bus organizing is the most useful thing for me to be doing. So I will reflect on that.

There was also an open-mike session on the presidential election, which was interesting. Remember, most of the 30 or 40 people in the room directly feel the impacts of the anti-poor, anti-union, anti-immigrant, anti-people of colour political realities in this country, so it is not privileged leftists or union bureaucrats spouting off. And with the exception of one spirited endorsement of Ralph Nader from an older Latino man, almost everyone who spoke expressed a desire for a strategic, nose-holding vote for Kerry accompanied by movement building to hold whoever wins accountable.

I think my position has shifted a little since I wrote my election manifesto in June -- not the substance of my comments, but how they would relate to the U.S. presidential election, were I actually able to vote. In a state where the election is pretty much already decided, like California, I would still probably vote for a third party, but I would be more likely to fall into pragmatism and vote for Kerry in a swing state, now. See this blog entry by Paul Street for an artciulation of this position from "a political indepenent with a left Marxist background and related fellow-traveler anarchist sympathies."

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