The Greater Toronto Workers' Assembly (GTWA) is a promising new initiative aiming to build a united, non-sectarian, and militant anti-capitalist movement in the city among a diversity of rank-and-file labour unionists, grassroots community organizers, and youth alike. Since the GTWA's inception in early 2010, mass public transit has emerged as one of the organization's key political battlegrounds. In this in-depth roundtable discussion, members of the GTWA's transit committee Jordy Cummings, Lisa Leinveer, Leo Panitch, Kamilla Pietrzyk, and Herman Rosenfeld explore both the opportunities and obstacles facing the campaign Towards a Free and Accessible TTC.
Towards a Free and Accessible TTC became the first major campaign adopted by the GTWA. Why is mass public transit a key priority to the work and overall vision of the GTWA?
Herman Rosenfeld: Actually, it took about two assemblies before we endorsed this campaign. We took some time to evaluate different possible campaigns and, after that, we decided to choose transit as a priority. All working people – all people, really – should have the right to mobility and shouldn’t have to pay for it like any commodity. It should also be accessible to all people and not doled out according to how much money you have, which part of the city you happen to live in, or whether or not you are living with a disability. If we want to politicize people by putting forward a vision of a different kind of society, free and accessible transit has to be a part of that strategy.
The campaign also poses a vision of public transit that is 'non-commodified' – that is, not something that is bought or sold in the marketplace but exists as a service and public good that is not owned or managed by private business interests seeking to make a profit. A similar vision motivated people to create public Medicare in Canada. In mobilizing people and doing education around the ne