The right to unionize and to strike has been fundamental in improving the lives of all of us. It is the only counterbalancing weapon that low-level workers have against the power of their bosses. But the downside to strikes, apart from the fact that workers suffer loss in wages during it, is that the general public also suffers. So when for example, teachers go on strike, students and their parents are inconvenienced and teachers need their support and understanding to prevail. The situation becomes harder for nurses where striking means leaving patients without adequate care.
In the case of public transportation workers, going of strike can cause massive disruptions in the commutes of workers. The bigger the disruption, the more likely that the employers will be forced to negotiate and settle. But in the case of some bus drivers in Japan, they found a way to hurt the bosses without inconveniencing the public. What they did was drive their buses as usual but refuse to collect any fares from passengers, in effect providing free public transit.
In cases such as this, management may use the labor stoppage against the drivers, appealing to the public that they are putting their own needs before the community’s. So to show that isn’t the case, Ryobi drivers are continuing to clock in, but without performing the part of their job that requires them to accept payment during certain times. In other words, free bus rides for all!
This isn’t the first time such a strike has occurred in Japan or around the world. Both Brisbane and Sydney held fare-free days as part of labor disputes last year. The earliest documented case of a “fare strike” goes back a protest by Cleveland streetcar workers in 1944, and similar cases involving other services have happened in Europe and Latin America prior to that.
I hadn’t realized that my adopted hometown of Cleveland had pioneered this idea in the US. Yay for us!