Silence On Privatiztion Is Complicity

by the Atlanta Public Sector Alliance

In metro Atlanta, North America's second largest concentration of African descendants, local elites including black Democrats, are aggressively consolidating the privatization of public education and public transit.  If they can do it here, with the active help or complicit silence of the black political class.....

On Transit Privatization, Silence IS Complicity

by the Atlanta Public Sector Alliance

Previously published at

The silence is deafening. While the state is quickly moving toward mandating MARTA to privatize its operations, there has been no word of opposition from the elected officials of Fulton and DeKalb counties and the city of Atlanta. This legislation also includes the racist reorganization of the MARTA board in favor of a mostly white led North Fulton county; revising the procedure for collective bargaining, allowing the governor to appoint an arbitrator or retired superior court judge; lifting of the 50/50 (capital/operations) split, but none of the money freed up can be used to increase employee wages or benefits; and suspension of the defined benefit pension plan for future MARTA employees. HB 264 passed the house on February 21st and has now moved to the Senate.

MARTA is the largest transit system in the country to receive no operating help from the state but this same state now wants to increase its paternalistic control over the affairs of the Authority. Where are the voices of outrage from our elected county and city representatives? How can they sit by quietly while the theft of an essential public asset takes place? Their job is to protect the forty year investment made by taxpayers from the avarice of profiteers. The MARTA board itself - which is made up largely of appointees of these same county and city leaders - is particularly negligent as they act in collusion with the forces who aim to turn MARTA over to the private sector.

We are again are witnessing “The Atlanta Way” in action, where white corporate interests ally with black political elites to pursue an agenda that is against the best interests of the public good. These same forces conspired successfully to privatize Grady Hospital in 2008 and now have moved on to begin the takeover of the $6.4 billion asset that MARTA represents.

Advocates of privatization will argue that they do not seek to privatize MARTA entirely. Yet, there is no reason to believe that they will stop with small portions of the system once they have started down this road. Billions of dollars, power, and control are at stake, and it’s unlikely that privatizers can be satisfied with piece-meal grabs.

In essential ways, the South has not changed. Corporate powers with their white and black allies at the Capitol continue to dictate the affairs of the state, and MARTA is a good example of this domination. The intersection of wealth and white supremacy is the root cause for the historic refusal to provide operating assistance to MARTA, the 50/50 restriction which exists nowhere else in the U.S., the forming of MARTOC which is the only such oversight committee of a non-state agency in the Georgia legislature, the subsidizing of rail to the north by taxpayers in South DeKalb who have yet to receive rail service, the allocating of $8 million dollars to GRTA but not to MARTA, and the skewing of the balance of power toward North Fulton county on the MARTA board. All these point to a problem of structural racism which is a violation of both Civil and Human Rights.

The Atlanta Public Sector Alliance believes that the alternative to “The Atlanta Way” cannot just be the traditional tactics of lobbying, rallies, and voter registration. Mobilizing of riders, workers, and taxpayers is necessary at this time, but we also must organize at a deeper, more transformative level. We who will be the most affected by these dramatic, proposed changes – transit dependent riders and transit workers – must participate in a process that builds relationships, raises consciousness, develops leaders, and confronts power through direct action. We need to be able to mobilize our constituencies while we simultaneously build lasting alliances and organizations, ultimately building the social movement we must have to defend and protect the public sector as a whole.

Privatization at MARTA has been tried before and it has failed. Dave Transportation was such a disaster that MARTA had to reclaim its authority from the privatizer. We should not make the same mistake twice. Under privatization, safety, service, and workers’ rights will be sacrificed. Most importantly, the loss of accountability means that there will be less public input into the affairs of a system that would be dedicated to profit not to service. We refuse to give up our rights and hand over MARTA to the state of Georgia. We will hold our leadership accountable for their actions. As Dr. King said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Contact the Atlanta Public Sector Alliance here.