Transit Strike Continues: Advantage Bloomberg

By December 22, 2005Labor Unions

OK, let’s review the bidding as Day Three of the New York City transit strike begins:

— People on the street are still very angry at the union. From an AP story on the strike comes two quotes from New Yorkers at Penn Station. Says the first, “They’re too spoiled,” of the transit workers. “They want to retire at age 55. They’re making more money than a cop.” Says the second on having passed a group of pickets during her grueling carpool drive to work, “We were thinking about running them over.” Gotta love New Yorkers. Person-on-the-street interviews are rife with references to the fact that the striking workers earn more than teachers, firefighters and police officers. Without public support, the union is dead in the water, on the tracks, whatever euphemism suits.

— The strike is (still) illegal under the plain and clear provisions of the state’s Taylor Law. Looks like the union’s about to get hauled into court again today — before the same Judge that slapped them with the injunction — to account for themselves, where some of them might face jail time. No doubt the judge will be in a fine mood, facing the folks who have effectively thumbed their collective noses at him. They oughta sell tickets to that one — maybe the union could help pay for the fine that way.

— The union leader now says if the company takes the pension issue off the table the strike can end, or something like that. He’s sinking, and the pension issue is his life raft.

— Much has been said of the MTA’s current budget surplus, but it’s fair to ask: Over the last hundred years, at times when The MTA was awash in red ink, did the union give back wages and benefits or did they continue to get their 3% and 4% and 5% increases along with improvements to the pension? The latter would be a safe guess. So now that the MTA shows a surplus, the union wants a piece of it. In other words, what’s mine is mine, what’s yours is mine. If the union wants to change the compensation scheme, then they can go along for the financial ride with the company — share the spoils when times are fat and take the hit when times are lean. Don’t suppose they want to do that. They want the upside when times are good and , well , they want the upside when times are bad, too. Can’t have it both ways.

— The TWU’s parent union has washed its hands of Local 100 in a pretty extraordinary post on its home page, advising members, “to cease any and all strike or strike-related activities and to report to work at their regularly assigned work hours and work locations.”

Bottom line is that Day Three begins the way Day Two ended: Advantage Bloomberg.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • jhupp says:

    Though by and large, I think the transit workers are wrong, there is more than one problem with your post. Indeed, my biggest problem with the workers is an issue you cite, but it seems disingenous coming from a manufacturers’ group.

    First off, the pension argument isn’t a new one. Yes, they had higher demands originally, but that’s what union negotiations are. Give and take. It has sounded like the pension issue was the big one from the moment the strike began.

    Second, I’m uneasy with the Taylor Law as such. Yes, there need to be restrictions on strikes by public employees, but a flat ban removes whatever negotiating power a union has. There may as well be no union. Now, you may find this preferable, but as long as there is a right to organize, the right to strike should exist in some form or another.

    Third, and most important, the morality issue here is unfair from a free market advocate standpoint. You cannot simultaneously talk about fair market value and then revert to “They’re spoiled,” and, “They make more money than cops and teachers.” $63,000 to drive a subway is an awful lot of money, and I agree that they are too spoiled, but that’s beside the point. The market value for the union members when there is a $1 billion surplus is high. Show me where the NY public schools or NYPD go drastically under budget while still achieving results, and I’d be glad to say the market wants them to be paid more.

    I agree that the police and teachers deserve more than the MTA workers, but “deserved wage” and “market value” are incompatible.

    That said, your argument about returning wages during years that the MTA is in the red has merit, but I think we should attach two conditions to that. First, it is unreasonable to ask them to return the previous year’s earnings; that money has already factored into their lives for that year. The next year’s earnings, perhaps, leading to: second, the MTA should (and I hope does) have the right to renegotiate during years of deficits. I think, if they so chose, you would see some concessions from the TWU. Unions make life difficult, but everyone learned from the steelworkers that it’s a bad idea to transcend “difficult” for “impossible.”

    All that said, the Taylor Law is the law for better or for worse, and this local didn’t have the support of the national TWU. That pair of facts, and that pair alone, is the least and most of why the union never should have gone on strike.