The NYC Transit Strike: Dumb on So Many Levels

By December 21, 2005Labor Unions

Every now and then, some group makes a move in public that is so fantastically idiotic that it shocks the conscience. That group this week is Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union of the esteemed and shrinking AFL-CIO, and their boneheaded strike against New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA).

Hard to know where to start on this one, but here goes:

— First, the strike is illegal under New Yorks’ Taylor Law. For that, (for violating a judge’s injunction) the union is being fined $1 million a day, a staggering sum even for a group inside the AFL-CIO, which is used to lighting a match to this kind of money for losing and unpopular political causes;

— Second, the strike is timed for the Christmas season, for maximum leverage against the MTA. However, it also exerts maximum leverage against the small shops who do far more than 1/52 of their business this week and who count on transit to stay in business. Since public sympathy is the biggest weapon that any union has, they just squandered it. Overall, it’s estimated that the city is losing over $400 million a day.

— Third, they took on a newly- (and overwhelmingly-) elected Mayor.

— Fourth, their demands read more like a letter to Santa. They now contribute not a cent to their health care (know anybody with this perk?) and are rejecting the MTA’s “outrageous request that they contribute a whopping 1% (Yes, you read that right: one percent) to their health care. They want the retirement age lowered to 50. (You’d have to say that’s moving in the opposite direction from the rest of the civilized world, no?) and they want to put a cap on how much discipline the MTA can mete out to its members. Right. Can’t imagine anybody would mind the MTA looking the other way for the last half year — after hitting their TWU quota — for train operators driving too fast, or under the influence of alcohol, whatever. What the heck, they can always get ’em early next year, before the quota is hit, right? They also asked for hefty salary increases when the average train driver’s pay alone is $63,000, as compared to the average salary for the average joe in New York at $45,000.

Hard to know where all of this is headed. At this writing, word is that the International Union, in a show of good sense, is about to put the local in some sort of protective custody and take over the negotiations. Let’s hope so — maybe they can knock some sense into Local 100, a group that clearly had a little too much egg nog at negotiation time.

Join the discussion 15 Comments

  • jim says:

    I’am a a train operator for 5 years and i work 6 hours of ot a week and i don’t make 60,000 a year we inhale steel dust,rat poison and whatever else is in the 100 year old system for 8 hours or more a day.the average life span for transit workers after retirement is 5 years.I blow my nose after work and it comes out black.Still want the job.

  • Joseph says:

    Actually, I believe the base pay for a New York transit worker is something like 47,000 a year. I know that this sounds like quite a bit of money to some but, consider that these people live in New York where the cost of living far exceeds that of other states in the US. In fact it’s double that of most states:
    http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0883960.html
    Consider also that many of these people have families to support. Union bashing has done nothing but help to destroy the labor force in this country.

  • Bruce says:

    Unions had a useful and noble purpose years ago, but their time has come to fade away as they have been doing for quite awhile. I have been a Union member several times UAW, Retail Clerks, Chemical workers, and not once have the Unions served any purpose other than to perpetuate the Union leaderships jobs. Screw the rank and file. The comments about the workers sleeping or other non-productive activities while on the clock are so common in a Union setting. I have seen it first hand far too many times to mention and it happens because discipline in next to impossible in a Union setting. And then the Union says their membership is not being treated fairly because they are of color? What a load of O.J. baloney.

  • Erin says:

    I hope they all get the maximum fines for what they’ve done to all of us!!! It’s not enough that the guy who sits in the booth gets paid to talk down to you or be so utterly put out if a paying customer has a question. How about the guy who SLEEPS in his booth and gets PAID!!! They mess with our service so that they can “work” on the lines. (More like sit around drinking coffee, ever notice they always appear to be on break!!!) They should be happy with what they have or go work for McDonalds.

  • Smartee Artee says:

    To Capitalist Academician

    A 4% raise a year isn’t anything to call home about.
    4% on 63K (overtime included) is approximately $2500 yearly. Spread over 52 weeks it quickly becomes peanuts. While I too would love an 8% yearly raise, just because I’m not getting it at my job doesn’t mean the next guy shouldn’t at his. Also Transit workers are paying for health care. Most people think they aren’t because they have the option (like other companies) to not pay for the base health care plan, which isn’t really much of a plan at all. If you agree that $63K isn’t that much for NYC standards why are you still comparing it to other pay in other US cities? Comp is not out of balance. $63K isn’t anywhere near unreasonable (have you checked out real estate prices in NYC recently???) and they should get more if possible. Transit workers drive vehicles and are responsible for peoples lives. C’mon!!! What then do you think is a fair salary??? I hear you on paying dues but the 20K you were getting in the past doesn’t equate to what 20K is now. Remember, 63K is the average, not starting salary. The MTA hasn’t been negotiating in good faith. Negotiations started in October and MTA officials came to the table the Thursday Night before a planned strike on Friday was to be executed. In my opinion firing the current workers won’t help in the long term, things will just come back full circle if the MTA doesn’t come up with a decent plan.

  • from nyc but waiting it out in FL says:

    after reading most of the posts for my own entertainment, I must point out that as a witness of the calamities of 9-11… I was impressed that the mta stayed on line and brought people home, albeit only from mid town and above. I felt that the peoples who ran the public transportation deserved a thank you. My thank you is supporting the strike and insisting that these workers are accomodated, hell, I think they deserve mta stock.

  • NYC resident says:

    I have walked several miles to work and back each day, and while it wasn’t fun, it is not as difficult as the conditions that many transit workers face everyday.

    Many of these workers work every day amidst rats, high degree of rat poison, animal and human waste and other cancer causing agents. This is before you factor in a difficult public and more difficult administration.

    The 60k salary being quoted includes an awful lot of overtime in most cases, and if you think that many of these employers can really be expected to do their jobs into their 60s, you have no understanding of their work conditions. Even with an overtime boosted salary, where do you expect these workers to live in the city of New York? How much do you expect that they are able to contribute financially to their children’s education?

    On top of all this, since 2001 these transit workers have been told they’re the first line in the fight against terrorism! They’ve requested training but haven’t received it. After London, how would you feel about this situation?

    I hope that the transit workers get paid.

    They deserve more than they get now and certainly don’t deserve the scorn from Bloomberg, Pataki and Fox News.

  • Jim says:

    To all parties,

    Whether you are an official from MTA, TWU, or a member of Transit Workers.

    The strike shouldn’t be but when it come to honest hard work. The srikers should be treated with dignity just like all other city workers.

    Srikers should be allowed to retired after 20-years of service no more, no less, unless you become disable from the job.

    As far as, the “Taylor Law” goes it should only apply to the Trainsit Police Officers since they are the (gate keepers) making them a part of management if there is unrest or a wildcat srike.

    According to the National Railroad Act NRA and the National Labor Union NLU of US of America, which is the ground and basis for the rules of “Civil Service” and there are no other rules to go by except these. However, the Mayor and Government should reread history and
    political history at best.

    Lastly, I do agree that a srike is unfair, but sometime it take that to balance the budget if the players can’t agree and do the job right for the sole purpose of fairness to all the workers.

    Respectfull,

  • Capitalist Academician says:

    To Smartee — let’s have a review of the facts:
    City offers pay increase 9%-12% over three years
    Wants 1% contribution to health care
    Wants 6% contribution to pension

    Union demands:
    No changes to health care or pension
    24% pay increase over three years

    There obviously is more, but these are the main points. You’re right that $63G isn’t NYC-wealthy, but c’mon! You’re still talking about nearly twice the US median household pay. Those are darn good jobs that pay well.

    The City’s offer is fair — gee, I’d love to have an 8% raise, but the going rate of inflation doesn’t justify it. I’m a manager in a Fortune 100 company with global responsibilities, graduated from college and toiled for $20G a year to pay my dues, and I hit $63G after 10 years of work. Comp is out of balance – Bloomberg should fire them if they won’t go back to work and comply with the law. The City is bargaining in good faith while the union promised not to strike and submit to binding arbitration, then reneged and walked out. Fire ’em.

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  • Smartee Artee says:

    Transit workers are doing the right thing. They deserve raises and benefits ESPECIALLY if the MTA’s got a surplus. Think about since a surplus exists the transit workers must be doing something right. I’ve read somewhere that according to Taylor’s law its illegal for the transit workers to strike. Now I’m not even going to pretend I’m a lawyer but how or why can the law apply when public funding of transit system does not exist? Maybe I’m missing something. Some people are complaining that the average MTA train operator makes around $63K. Quit complaining. This may be a lot of money in other cities but this is NYC we are talking about here. Cost of living in New York City with $63K isn’t exactly a party. Plus can you imagine sitting in a bus/train 8 hrs a day doing the same routine over and over? It isn’t the same as an office job where (for most of us) there are computers for us to use if we aren’t working on anything urgent or where one can just pop over by a co-workers office to chew the fat for a minute. These people do real work too and should be paid accordingly. I was watching the news and some distraught lady who was having trouble getting home from work was complaining saying, “If the police & teachers didn’t strike when they didn’t get their way, why should transit workers?” While I agree that police and teachers should definitely get more in terms of compensation, lets not fault the transit workers because their union is trying to get results. I’m sure there are teachers and police officers who would stand with their union if it decided to strike. Its a shame that it takes a strike for New Yorkers to realize the value of transit workers because they have to walk. Relax guys its not the end of the world. And no I’m not a MTA employee, I’m just telling it like I see it.

  • Adam says:

    Everyone hates the stinking union right now because we all feel like we have pneumonia by the time we get to work (if we get to work), but the MTA is dumb enough to have me feel the slightest bit of sympathy for the TWU knowing that they willingly agree to throw $50million down the drain (holiday fares have been approved for next year as well). Where is that lame-duck Pataki when you actually want him to step in and do something that makes sense? Oh yea he never does anything but dodge decision-making. He was in New Hampshire last Friday for the first strike deadline, he might not even know about it. The MTA didn?t even know about their $1billion surplus, how would they have ever made any concessions to the union without this money that they didn?t even think existed? And why do they think that stumbling upon money gives them to right to flush it down the toilet? Even if the union is being greedy, the MTA is full of morons from the top-down, but they think that giving me four lousy extra days on my monthly metrocard is going to appease me and everyone else, despite the fact that they are raising fares in 2007 and 2009? It seems like the TWU has a pretty good deal, but I’ve been pissed about this “holiday discounts for tourists and fare hikes for commuters” thing that I don’t blame the union for striking against such crass and thoughtless leadership. What good is a holiday discount if the MTA can’t get their employees to let us use their transit system? I hope someone files a class action lawsuit, but not against the union; against Pataki, Kalikow, and the rest of the MTA, so I can get my $76 back and they can do a better job of keeping employees and commuters happy. New Yorkers are always pissed at something, and I think that $50 million waste is the biggest outrage regarding this matter. Why the TWU hasn’t exploited that more to their advantage is beyond me.

  • Well you get a gold star for effort, but an F for content. Come on, true the demands are bit much, but they have every right in the world to strike. The talyors law will not, under any circemstance, hold up in the supprume court. The 2days pay for everyone lost is also a belly flop. And to be perfectlly honest, none of them are offically employees.

    And to other comments. Jennifer, you are a g* d* idot. Fire them all… Jee, what in gods name would that slove.

    And to Robert, come on.. All caps and no meat.

  • ROBERT says:

    IT IS SO TRUE FOR IF WE EVER GOT A HONEST DAY WORK OUT OF ANYONE FROM LOCAL 100 THAT WOULD BE AMAZING. JUST THINK THE TOKEN BOOTH CLERK SITS IN AN AIR CONDITION BOOTH IN THE SUMMER AND HEATED BOOTH IN THE WINTER FOR LET SAY 8 HOUR. JUST WHAT ARE THEY DOING IN THERE FOR EIGHT HOURS BUT GETTING A NICE CHECK FOR DOING WHAT. I WILL TELL YOU NOT A GOD DAM THING. THAT IS RIGHT NOT A GOD DAM THING. THEY DO NOT GIVE OUT TOKENS THAT IS FOR SURE. IF YOU ASK FOR HELP THEY SEND YOU TO THE VENDING MACHINE NOW WHAT THE HECK IS THAT ALL ABOUT. THEY DO NOT WANT TO WORK THEY RATHER YOU GO TO THE MACHINE TO PURCHASE A METRO CARD INSTEAD OF DEALING WITH THEM WHILE THEY ARE SITTING IN THE BOOTH DOING NOTHING AND GETTING PAID FOR IT! SOMEONE SHOULD LOOK INTO THAT TOO.
    THEN THESE BUS DRIVES WHO SAY 6 MINUTES IS NOT ENOUGH TIME TO DO THERE BUSINESS. HELLO YOU?RE ON THE JOB. YOU SHOULD GO BEFORE YOU START YOUR SHIFT. ONE BAD APPLE SPOIL IT FOR ALL SO THEY SHOULD POLICE THEMSELVES WHY SHOULD OTHER HAVE TO KEEP AN EYE ON THEM TO MAKE SURE THEY DO THERE JOB. HECK THEY HAVE IT MADE THEY HAVE THE WHOLE PIE IN THERE CONTRACT AND NOW THEY WANT MORE WHO DO THEY REALLY THINK THEY ARE FOOLING.

    SINCERELY,

    ONE TRANSIT CUSTOMER WHO HAS SEEN IT ALL

  • Jennifer says:

    Apparently these guys in NYC forgot the lesson of the ATC (air traffic controllers) which was also an illegal strike!! As I recall, they all lost their jobs.

    My daughter was going scheduled to go to NYC with her aunt TODAY and see the Rockettes tomorrow… now the trip has been canceled, and we will have to wait until next year.

    So, on top of the tickets, and the meals, and the momentos that might have been purchased, good money spent in NYC… her aunt is abandoning the city to come to the city of brotherly love instead. It’s a shame that a small, selfish group of people is ruining the holiday season for so many.

    I think the rogue union folks need to put the crack pipe down. Anyone willing to accept a pay cut in exchange for less discipline you have to wonder about!

    If I were Bloomberg, I’d have them all fired.