Have you ever seen someone jumping a turnstile or quickly stepping through an open emergency door to evade the subway fare?
Congrats, you’re a New Yorker. And as a New Yorker, you most likely don’t run to the station clerk or a cop to point out the farebeater. However, MTA officials and now unions are working together to throw fare evaders under the bus to distract from their own roles in an MTA financial pinch.
Earlier last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he planned to send 500 extra uniformed officers to combat crimes, like farebeating. NYC Transit chief Andy Byford contributed to the farebeating crackdown by calling for more enforcement since last year. Before the Cuomo-Byford crackdown, Transit Workers Union president Tony Utano in May called on Transit officials to “collect the damn fare,” blaming a lack of cops for fare evasion.
Before pointing the finger at farebeaters, Utano, to his credit, called out costly MTA consulting gigs — reportedly more than $2 billion over the last five years — as a key driver of financial mismanagement and potential corruption at the agency. Good.
But why did Utano then look to scapegoat farebeaters? According to an online report, union and agency officials have been going to war over alleged abuses in overtime, which contribute to budget woes. A public spotlight on farebeaters, as opposed to dues-paying MTA workers, would seem to satisfy both Utano and MTA officials. After Cuomo’s additional-500-cop plan was unveiled, Utano called the move a “big victory” for the union.
Farebeating is a crime of poverty and a social justice issue that cannot be solved by more enforcement. If it could, perhaps decades of policing and millions of summonses and arrests already could have stopped it. In fact, an MTA board member has suggested a cruel and thoughtless new policy: shame farebeaters by publicly posting their images.
Poverty is affecting countless New Yorkers. Real solutions are needed. You know what’s not needed? Unions (which many, including myself, are usually supportive of) pitting worker’s interests against poor people and MTA officials pointing fingers everywhere but themselves.
Josmar Trujillo is a trainer, writer and activist.