33,000 NYC Transit Workers Stage Strike

33,000 New York City transit workers have gone on strike shutting down the country’s largest public transportation system. The strike was announced around 3 this morning by Transport Workers Union President Roger Toussaint.

Roger Toussaint: "New Yorkers, this is a fight over whether hard work will be rewarded with a decent retirement. This is a fight over the erosion or the eventual elimination of health benefit coverage for the working people of New York. This is a fight over dignity and respect on the job, a concept that is very alien to the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority)."

The city says the strike is illegal and is turning to the courts to order workers back to their jobs. Democracy Now co-host Juan Gonzalez has been covering the story through the night:

  • Juan Gonzalez: This morning around 3 a.m. the union’s executive board finally decided to move forward with the strike. It was after several hours of discussion among the union leaders because they had rejected the last offer of the MTA which would still have required new members of the union to pay into a pension plan, an inferior pension plan. One with a higher retirement age. And despite a slight increase in the contract offer for wages, that issue of creating a 2 tier pension system was the key one that, where the union felt it had to go on strike. However, at the last moment the international parent union of the TWU, Michael O’Brien, the president there, refused to authorize the strike. And that was part of what the delay was. As the parent union, at the final moment, told Roger Tousant and local 100 that they could not endorse or authorize a strike. They would not actively oppose but that they would let the court know that they were not authorizing the strike. It was a difficult situation for Toussaint and the union leadership. Because on the one hand, they were battling the MTA. And on the other hand, their own parent union turned on them at the last moment. Nonetheless, the executive board voted 25 to 10 with 5 abstentions to move forward and organize the first strike in a quarter century here of the transit system. And it is now a battle that the whole organized labor movement will be tested, because Roger Toussant and the union insist that they are fighting not only to defend the pensions of their own members but of thousands and thousands of other public employees who could face similar two tier pension systems in the future.

FBI Spied on Greenpeace, PETA, Catholic Worker

In Washington, newly released documents show counterterrorism agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been monitoring domestic activist groups including Greenpeace, Catholic Worker, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and PETA, the People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The documents indicate the F.B.I. monitored protests organized by the groups and used confidential informants inside the organizations to gain intelligence. In one case, government records show the FBI launched a terrorism investigation of PETA in Norfolk, Virginia.

Documents Show FBI Agents Tracked PETA For Years

According to the Washington Post, the documents offer no proof of PETA’s involvement in illegal activity. But more than 100 pages of heavily censored FBI files show the agency used secret informants and tracked the group’s events for years. The FBI also monitored political activities on college campuses. One FBI file included a contact list for students and peace activists who attended a 2002 conference at Stanford University aimed at ending sanctions then in place in Iraq.

Reports Expose Growing Domestic Surveillance

This is the third major recent revelation about domestic spying. Last week NBC News revealed the Pentagon has been monitoring peaceful anti-war protesters and the New York Times exposed how President Bush ordered the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans without court-approved warrants. Ann Beeson, of the American Civil Liberties Union said "It’s clear that this administration has engaged every possible agency, from the Pentagon to N.S.A. to the F.B.I., to engage in spying on Americans."

Bush Defends NSA Domestic Spying

On Monday President Bush held a news conference and defended the National Security Agency spying program but criticized sources inside the government for speaking with the press.

President Bush: "There’s a process that goes on inside the Justice Department about leaks and I presume that process is moving forward. My personal opinion is it was a shameful act, for someone to disclose this very important program in time of war. The fact that we’re discussing this program is helping the enemy."

On Dec. 6 Bush Asked New York Times to Not Run Story

President Bush went to great lengths to block the publication of the story. The New York Times had uncovered the secret program a year ago but withheld publication at the request of the White House. Newsweek is now reporting Bush then personally summoned the paper’s publisher Arthur Sulzberger and executive editor Bill Keller to the Oval Office two weeks ago in an attempt to talk them out of running the story.

AG Alberto Gonzalez: Congress Implicitly Authorized Wiretaps

The Bush administration has repeatedly defended the secret program. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez said Congress implicitly authorized the program when it voted to allow President Bush to use force following the Sept. 11 attacks. But legal experts say Bush broke the law by ordering the spying operation without a court-approved warrant.

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