Wednesday, December 14, 2005

NYC Transit Strike 

As you readers not from New York may not know, there is a distinct possibility that the Transit Workers (Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union) will go on strike at 12:01am Friday morning. Needless to say, a transit strike would be a disaster in Chicago, so you can imagine what it would be like in New York. As far as I can tell, the main sticking points are (a) sick days and (b) retirement age/pension contributions. Regular raises are also an issue, but I don't think that's as big an issue as these other two.

The MTA, the state agency which runs the subways (and other stuff) here, is the legal entity which negotiates the TWU's contracts. However, today, I see in the Times that Bloomberg is injecting the city into this process on the side of the MTA. This, frankly, is bullshit. As Steve G. has pointed out repeatedly, the MTA is sitting on a pile of cash and Bloomberg should be leaning on the MTA, not the union. This is a Republican mayor who got elected, after all, by saying he wasn't really a Republican and was pro-union in this oh-so-unionized city (not sure if it's as unionized as Chicago, but it's gotta be close).

The key in any strike like this, which affects so many people in such fundamental and terrible ways, is which side public opinion is on. While Steve G. is certain that it lies with the union, I'm not so sure, at least with respect to the moneyed Midtown and Wall Street professionals who have such undue influence in the city. And, the MTA has been slashing fares this Christmas holiday season in a move that I thought was just good governance but now think was merely a PR stunt to get public opinion on management's side.

In any event, this is all by way of the fact that the city's interest, and therefore Bloomberg's interest, should be in keeping the transit system up and running (meaning the city should act as an honest broker at most), not in trying to force a bad deal down the union's throat.

Btw, all you so-called Democrats who voted for Bloomberg--nice job.

UPDATE: Besides altering the first sentence because it made no sense, I should note, in fairness, that it apparently is illegal for transit workers to go on strike, based on a 1967 law references in that Times article. This doesn't really affect the policy aspects of the debate, but it does explain why Spitzer (at the state level, of course) is seeking an injunction against a strike. That said, if you take away a union's ability to strike on all occasions, it kind of weakens that union to a huge and most likely unfair degree, of course.
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