This history of New York transit workers from the Great Depression to the monumental 1966 transit strike shows how, through collective action, the men and women who operated the world's largest transit system brought about a virtual revolution in their daily lives. Joshua Freeman's detailed descriptions of both transit work and transit workers, and his full account of the formation and development of the Transport Workers Union provide new insight into the nature of modern industrial unionism. Freeman pays particular attention to the role of Communists and veterans of the Irish Republican Army—including TWU president Michael J. Quill—in organizing and leading the union, as well as to the Catholic labor activists who were the principal union dissidents. Freeman also explores the intense political struggles over the New York transit system. He links the TWU's pioneering role in public sector unionism to worker militancy and the union's deep involvement in New York politics. His portrait of Fiorello La Guardia's determined opposition to the TWU belies La Guardia's pro-labor reputation. By combining social and political history with the study of collective bargaining, In Transit makes a major contribution to the history of American labor, radicalism, and urban politics. Now with a new epilogue that frames the history of the union in the context of labor’s revival and recent changes in TWU’s leadership, In Transit is an intimate portrait of the politics of mass transit and public sector unionism, and one of the most detailed reconstructions to date of the social processes of industrial unionism. This book will appeal to anyone interested in New York City's subways, politics, history, and labor.
New York City may seem to be a place where everyone is a stranger, yet transit workers provide a human presence on a late-night bus or an empty subway platform. Few of us give any thought to these invisible workers-until something goes wrong. Transit Talk takes readers into the world of MTA New York City transit employees, as they describe their lives and work, from the most visible subway conductor to the seemingly invisible mechanic.
There are nearly 44,000 transit workers like those you will meet in Transit Talk , and every day they help five million of us travel to work, to school, to weddings, to funerals, to hospitals, to vacations. These workers labor daily on subway tracks inches from high-voltage powerlines, risking their lives for passengers they'U never know. The city can feel large and fragmented, but the transportation system and its workers create common threads in the lives of all New Yorkers, threads we take for granted.
Together, their stories create a human tableau of life and labor in the city within a city that is the MTA New York City Transit. Transit workers find satisfaction in fixing a damaged subway car, gain wisdom from mastering a dangerous workplace, nurse emotional wounds from tending to someone injured in an accident, battle frustration from difficulties with management, and express satisfaction when reflecting on a productive career. They tell of how years spent in the same shop create bonds between workers. They talk of the burden of laboring in a twenty-four-hour system with night shifts and weekend workdays that take them away from families. You'U hear painful tales of informing next-of-kin of a death on the tracks as well as joyous anecdotes of workers delivering a baby in a subway car.