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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Greedy Union? 

It's day 2 of the Transit Strike. I don't see this coming to an end until the end of the week at the earliest.

Lots of people here are mad at the union, but look what just came out today:
On the final day of intense negotiations, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, it turns out, greatly altered what it had called its final offer, to address many of the objections of the transit workers' union. The authority improved its earlier wage proposals, dropped its demand for concessions on health benefits and stopped calling for an increase in the retirement age, to 62 from 55.

But then, just hours before the strike deadline, the authority's chairman, Peter S. Kalikow, put forward a surprise demand that stunned the union. Seeking to rein in the authority's soaring pension costs, he asked that all new transit workers contribute 6 percent of their wages toward their pensions, up from the 2 percent that current workers pay. The union balked, then shut down the nation's largest transit system for the first time in a quarter-century.

Yet for all the rage and bluster that followed, this war was declared over a pension proposal that would have saved the transit authority less than $20 million over the next three years.

It seemed a small figure, considering that the city says that every day of the strike will cost its businesses $440 million to $660 million in lost revenues. But the authority contends that it must act now to prevent a "tidal wave" of pension outlays if costs are not brought under control.

Roger Toussaint, the president of the union, Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union, said the pension proposal, made Monday night just before the 12:01 a.m. strike deadline, would effectively cut the wages of new workers by 4 percent.

"What they'd be saving on pensions is a pittance," Mr. Toussaint said.

Indeed, not just Mr. Toussaint but some other New Yorkers are questioning whether it was worth it for the authority to go to war over the issue when the authority's pension demands would apparently save less over the next three years than what the New York City Police Department will spend on extra overtime during the first two days of the strike.

Robert Linn, a former New York City Labor Commissioner, questioned the transportation authority's decision - with the backing of the mayor and governor - to go to the mat over pensions with a union that can exact huge pain on the city in a year when the authority had a $1 billion surplus.
So, we have the MTA forcing a strike over something that, in terms of state and city costs, is absolutely nothing, but in terms of union members, is a substantial pay cut. Do you still want to tell me this is not about the city and state trying to break one of the most historically powerful unions in New York?

Sisyphus Shrugged read that and says this:
The irony of Mr. Bloomberg talking about thuggery after he paid a sizeable bribe out of his own pocket to bring the Republican convention to a city that overwhelmingly didn't want it and then carried out mass arrest sweeps which caught up people who weren't breaking any laws and put them in mass holding cells without medical care or access to their lawyers is probably too obvious to comment on, but I did anyway.

Parenthetically, despite Mr. Bloomberg excusing the utter inappropriateness of the Convention being held here by saying it would help the economy, the city lost a lot of money that week, since the delegates (who appeared, from on the ground, to be deathly afraid of catching New Yorker cooties) never left the endless round of catered events that supplicants to the party in power paid for over the course of the week.

You'd also want to keep in mind that Mr. Bloomberg was very active in tossing out a bid for the MTA-owned land he (and no-one else) wanted used for his pet stadium that would have paid the "cash-strapped" MTA five hundred million dollars more than the bid which "won" when Mayor Bloomberg's and Governor Pataki's appointees voted for it.

Of course, you'd want to keep in mind that Republicans, while disastrous for New York, are really very useful for Mike Bloomberg, multi-billionaire owner of a media company. Useful enough that it was worth close to a hundred million dollars out of his pocket to keep himself in City Hall doing them favors.

I say that for the rest of you, because it's hard for us New Yorkers to forget it.
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