I would not normally post on this topic but since I have a family member directly affected by this action as well as friends and family who are being inconvenienced by it, I want to point out why I support this action as I supported the striking workers last year.
The very first thing that bothers me about the City's position is the mere existence of the Taylor law. I do not understand how this law can even exist constitutionally. where does the state get special power to dictate to it's workers (who's taxes also support said state) how they may organize and act? How does the state abridge the rights of these private citizens merely because the state is a public institution? The stated rationale behind the Taylor law is that a striking public worker puts the work of the state at risk. If FireFighters and Police were to go on strike then there are risks of fires and crime. That is understandable, however, besides economic loss, there is no similar situation with the Transit. There is indeed great inconvenience to the ridership, but there is no safety problem at all. The empty streets of mid-town shown on TV this morning simply proved that.
This morning the news outlets also showed the last MTA proposal:
3%,3.5% and 3% raises over the next 3 years. This is similar to that which was proposed last time. What happened between then and now? a $1 billion surplus and many reports of bad book keeping by the MTA.
The next thing was the retirement age. I have heard it stated that the average life expectancy of a TA worker is less than 60 years due to the harsh environments that they work. If that is indeed the case then it would seem outrageous to make the retirement age older than the average life expectancy of the worker. That's just my take.
The last thing, which is a problem to me as well is that the TA want's the new members to contribute 6% of their income (gross) to their benefits package (Health I believe). I believe that this is the sticking point. Ultimately, to me, the TA is asking for pay cuts starting with the next generation of workers. Follow my thinking here:
3% raise (which I assume also goes to new employees as an increase in base starting pay).
6% contribution to benefits.
=3% income reduction for new employees.
In year two you see a 3.5% increase, while maintaining a 6% contribution. in that case you've now only recovered the loss from the previous year and only added .5% income increase while inflation has eaten into your purchasing power.
In year 3 there is another 3% increase which means that over three years the worker has only increased his or her gross income by 3.5% at which time the contract has expired and the whole party happens all over again, though this time the changes and increases will hit the entire rank and file.
If I'm right, then I think this is what Toussaint and the Executive board of the TU sees and they are in a long term fight and I agree with them on it. No way a union should actually agree to a package that decreases the income of it's members, current or future.
I also want to state that I think the position of the Parent body of local 100 (TU) was out of line to tell the local not to strike. Exactly what is the purpose of the international body, if not to support it's members? Why is the international body taking sides with management? But let me say this; It appears that Unions in America are dead or dying.
If a group of workers in Cuba, N. Korea, Iran, Syria or other "Axis of Evil" type places were to strike, there would be newscasts and print ups about "Democracy in action" and "Facing down tyranical regimes." Yet in America, if public employees attempt to do the same thing, they are called "illegal strikers" and are to be "severely punished" with double wage garnishment. I find this highly, highly ironic.
Speaking of punishment, realize that all the time that the workers are not at work they are not being paid. They are losing income that they will never make up. They have bills that won't be paid. They have holiday gifts that won't be bought (If they do that kind of thing). They have bank accounts that are going to be drained. Is the Mayor of NYC going to miss a paycheck? Is he not going to get his Hannuka gifts? Is governor Pataki going to lose any income? Does he risk eviction and bankruptcy? Absolutely not. But these crackers want to stand up and make threatening talk about $25,000 fines on individual workers and million dollar fines on the unions.
It is also a shame that the TWU is being forced to go it alone. If other workers had any sense at all they would have shut down all mass transit until the TWU was done. But this is modern America, where the average person is so shook at the prospect of losing their job that the state can make Taylor laws and expect it to be followed. The American worker is so shook that they would blame the union rather than the management with messy record keeping and 1 billion surplus and think that a Mayor who walks across a bridge is really "feeling their pain."
So this goes out to my 65 Year Old uncle, who gets up 5 days a week and heads out to work at 6:30 AM and works to make sure the citizens get to work on time in weather that most people, and definitely not Bloomberg or Pataki, wouldn't even want to be in for 1 hour. Thank you for your service. I'm behind all of you who do your honest work. And I say that because I know there are people in the TWU who are not pulling their weight and use the Union to defend them. I'm not for them.
Edit 3:49PM: Correction. The 6% is funds put towards pensions. I'm not entirely clear as to how their pension system works so I can't comment on it too much. I will say that I'm all for aggressive saving and investing and if that 6% is going towards something that will return dividends to the employee I think it is a good idea. However, if this is something along the lines of GM then it is a very very bad proposition and ought to be rejected by the Union and it's members.
Additional comments: I have been reading about comments by various commuters. One was a cab driver saying it was wrong because of the affect it has on the "old" and "sick."
First off the vast majority of the elderly are not taking public transportation, especially if they have conditions that prevent long term standing or walking. The City has what is called "Access-A-Ride" which is a private program which I believe (but have not confirmed) is not a part of this action. Secondly, those who are sick are not (and should not) be going to work anyway. If there is a need for medical attention it appears from all reports that there is now less traffic in Manhattan than at the same time last year. So this FUD created by mis-information agents should be discredited at all points.
The second comment was by a non-union worker who says he can't sympathize with striking workers. I hope his job isn't relocated to Mexico, India or China. If it is relocated I hope he remembers that her felt no sympathy for people fighting for what they considered their just due.
Others are talking about being cold: The Union members are currently outside on picket lines in the same cold as everyone else. They are, mostly, not at home chillin' and gigglin' over the frustrated commuters. Many I'm sure are looking at their budgets and trying to figure out how they are going to stay afloat with mortgages, school tuition, etc.
Edit 12-21-2005: I am particularly offended by the language that Mayor Bloomberg has used to describe the Union and the striking workers. He has repeatedly called the strikers "Thugs" and I don't think it's an accident at all. It is a known fact that much of the rank and file TWU workers are black and /or of Hispanic origins. These are groups that are typically portrayed in the media as thugs and criminals. It is also obvious that the mouthpiece of the union, Roger Toussaint is black with a distinct Caribbean accent. Furthermore; the idea of "caving in" to lawbreakers as has been the repeated refrain of the Governor and the Mayor is reminiscient of Bull Conner and days past when civil disobedience was deemed to be 'criminal" regardless of it's purpose. In a sense I think this is good payback for all the blacks and hispanics that voted for Michael Bloomberg. Having helped to hand the Mayor the largest margin of victory in city history, he now turns and spits in the face of thousands of NY citizens and the (currently) 50% of the NY population that supports them.