T Nation

Transit Strike


#1

As of this morning (Tuesday, the 20th), the MTA has staged an ilegal strike, shutting down all buses and trains in the Metropolitan New York area, virtually paralyzing the biggest city in the country, and costing New York an estimated $400 million dollars a day.

Just wondering what everyone thought about this.

Now, my political affiliations are probably known to everyone who posts here, but with each second the city remains moribound, my union sympathies waver more and more. Another couple of days of this bullshit, and I might be in favor of a Reagan-style mass firing.

Besides the fact that it's Christmas, besides the fact that by Friday over $1.2 BILLION expected to be deposited into the coffers of stores, restaurants, and businesses ill disappear forever, AND besides the fact that it's really freaking cold outside to be waiting in line or walking...the MTA, for all its talk about trying to help the working class members of its union, are truly hurting the working class. The people who are most affected by this strike make up the working class of NY: hotel workers, waiters, teachers (who worked without a contract for almost two years WITHOUT going on strike.)

So, again: what does everyone think?


#2

I am, and will continue to be in favor of unions, but the union here is asking, no -- demanding an awful lot. Eight percent annual pay increase? That's pretty lofty.

And the whole pension age? I'm sorry, but 62 seems very reasonable.

The MTA claims to have made its best offer to the union. I would have liked to see what it was. Because, from what I see, it doesn't seem like they are being unfair.

Oh, and why not add an additional six months to the next agreement, so the next time negotiations roll around, it won't be near Christmas?

Happy I'm not there,
Toddy


#3

I bet those cabbies are jacking up the prices - bastards!

Seriously though , by doing this in the winter they are making old people walk around in the cold its disgraceful. Everything i have read about it makes it look like a smart play from the transit worker but nothing to make it reasonable- they are doing this in winter when demand will be higher, they are doing this at a time when the transit authority has a huge amount over-funded.

If anybody has anything from the transit worker's perspective go for it say something.


#4

Let me preface my statement by saying it took me 2 hours to get from Forest Hills (Queens) to Midtown this morning. Usually takes 30 minutes by subway. So, I'm a bit pissed. Prepare yourself for my tirade.

I don't support the union. I think their demands are unreasonable. They are fairly compensated given their
job responsibilities. Starting salaries (for a booth clerk) are around 47k. That's a fair amount of money for a job which requires few skills. Additionally, they get excellent health benefits and guaranteed pensions.
Most private sector jobs no longer offer these benefits because prices are skyrocketing and companies know they cannot sustain these costs over the long haul. NYC cops starting salary was just decreased to <30k How the hell can an MTA booth clerk get paid more?!
I honestly think an average 9th or 10th grader could do that job. Supply + Demand should dictate salaries. This isn't 18th century London with children working in factories. Many unions have transformed into that which they initially were fighting against.

I also oppose this "well there's a $1 billion surplus so we should get some more" logic. If McDonald's suddenly
became the most profitable company in the world should the fry cook make 100k per year?! Of course not. If the MTA suddenly runs a massive deficit would the union agree to a pay cut!? No way. They want the benefit of the upside without any of the potential downside.
On the same point: private sector jobs get paid more but face greater risk. I work in banking. I do much better than MTA employees and if my company does real well so do I. But, if the company goes under I get fired. If they have a bad quarter I can get laid off. Risk-Reward trade off.

Finally, I don't believe the executive commitee fairly represents the beliefs of the 30000+ union members. I've spoken to a few MTA employees (albeit not a valid statistical sample) and none of them wants to go on strike.
We seem to be a few steps away from the mafia-run strongarm tactics of the past. The other unions are afraid if
the TWU gives in then a precedent will be set and they'll be next. This type of colaboration is illegal and
all involved should be penalized.

I could go on but have to get back to work. I'm not unionized so I have to actually work (whoa! a bit below the belt)


#5

I am absolutely anti-union. They have not really had a purpose for existing since the 40's other than legalized extortion.

I hope the MTA stands firm and refuses to give in to what amounts to holding an entire city hostage.

I can;t believe I am writing this - but I agree with harry. Mass firings are indeed in order. Hell - I'd sit in a damn booth and collect subway tokens for 40K/year. I am sure there are others that would do it for way less than that.


#6

I used to be on the fence when it came to unions. However, the AMFA mechanics at Northwest Airlines went on strike earlier this year.

Their demands are ridiculous.

NWA has permanently hired replacement mechanics, yet these AMFA idiots still strike. Here's a thought: you're strike failed. Go find a job.

Definitely not in favor of the NY transit strike.


#7

I concur. A ridiculous wage for an unskilled worker. Have some gratitude.


#8

It's hurting the city and it's residents a great deal. Especially at this time of year.

It's also an illegal strike. The judge ruled today to fine the workers two days pay for each day they strike. That's going to hurt them quickly and make this strike economically foolish. Should the union continue to violate the injunction you may see the union leaders in jail for contempt.

Public Service workers cannot strike in NY. Time to enforce it.

Just a thought maybe they could spend the extra billion dollars and cut the fares or buy some newer equipment that has better A/C and heat.


#9

They should all be fired, immediately. Those who return to work today or tomorrow should be given their jobs back.

This fight is about the union demanding fixed-benefit pensions for its members beginning at age 55. That will bankrupt the city in the same manner that the airlines and GM are facing bankruptcy - it's a demographic time bomb. Fixed-benefit pensions are a dinosaur anyway, having been all but eliminated in the private sector because of the expense associated with them.

With lifespans extending the way they are, the union is essentially asking the city to pay its members (I think it's half pay but I could be wrong) to sit around for 25-30 years.


#10

40K a year for collecting subway tokens? Shit, teachers get paid, what, 30 grand?


#11

Ehh....Man I hate to go against unions, mostly in any way. But these guys got it good, alot better than some other local unions, and alot better than many working men I know who are not union.

To do this around Christmas time...it just isn't right. They're hurting the working class far more by doing this than by by not doing it.

Plus, there are so many who are anti-union nowadays, that the Unions should be trying to garner respect and help the others. Not ask for a pay raise when they're already making $50,000 a year for doing nothing. Its not making anyone think that they are a serious and respectful organization.


#12

Hey, maybe I can slip in the middle here and stir things up?

First, why can't the workers demand whatever the hell they want? It's not like anyone is forced to give it to them. Do we all have the "right" not to be inconvenienced while contract negotiations are taking place? Do we all have the "right" to public transportation?

Second, these workers are taking a risk. They might be fired. They might be replaced -- similar to being fired depending on if they can return. The public may end up hating them and backing the city when it denies them anything for decades to come.

Third, is it the workers fault if they are able to ass-rape the city and get unreasonable wage or pension benefits? I mean, who is going to turn down getting plenty of wages and pension benefits? You'd have to be crazy not to ask for that, wouldn't you?

Haven't we heard people arguing that anything legal, within the law, is a perfectly valid activity until and unless there is PROOF of wrongdoing? How come it is different in this case because a union is involved instead of some politician?

Isn't your hatred of unions forcing you to be hypocritical in this respect?

Finally, yes, I understand that unwise capitulations on behalf of company management can lead to failure of the entire company in the years down the road, or bankrupt the city. Why is the fault of the union if the city or company is stupid enough to go for that, or unable to convince people of the reality of the situation?

So, I'm just stirring the pot, don't be trying to assume I'm particularly pro-union. I just see people arguing against what their normal stance is because unions are involved here.

I mean, it's a tough world right? If somebody comes along and takes advantage of your poor management skills, that's just th way it works right?


#13

I'm going to have to say that with teacher and NYPD starting pay far below that of a token collector these people should be given 24 hours to return to work or be fired.


#14

Good point. I would expect everyone cheering on gas companies for gouging the hell out of prices to be for union workers getting paid more. Why the love of money only for the already rich?


#15

The tranist workers have a right to demand all they want. They don;t have the right to walk off the job and hold the city hostage because they are told no.

We absolutely have the right to public transportation if it is a function of our municipalities, which is indeed the case here. City tax dollars are used to subsidize the public transit system, so in effect the citizens own the transit system.

In the mean time transportation in NYC is ground to a hault costing businesses billions of dollars in lost revenue. Who reallystands to lose more? A token collector, or a department store that employs 100's of tax paying citizens? Or a little mom and pop business that is dependent on commuters to make a living?

There is a difference between asking for a raise, and holding a city hostage until your demands are met. I don;t blame anyone for taking what is offered to them. Do you not see the difference in taking what is offered and going on strike until you get what you demand?

I don't really think this strike IS legal. They went on strike. They are in violation of the law. I think the proof is obvious to even the most casual observer. And to try to tie this to political witch hunts is really quite stretch.

I don't see the hypocrisy. Hating apples does not make me a hypocrite if I am spotted eating an orange.

I don't know how you can say that you see people arguing against their normal satnce - especially those on the right that are always pro union. Unions do not care about a free market. Unions do not give a shit about supply and demand. I have been anti-union since before you were out of kindergarten. I hardly see the hypocrisy.

Being held hostage by a bunch of token collectors making demands that will break the city has very little to do with management skills. Had there been poor management skills - there would not be a strike, and the token collectors would have gotten what they wanted.


#16

Think you're both way off. You're comparing private companies with a public (quasi-governmental) agency.
The MTA has complete control over the subway lines. There are no competitors. Remember several years ago when phone and utility companies were federally regulated? What if
they had done the same thing. We want more money or we're shutting down all services.

Would you say they have the right to do so? Hmmm...how much do soldiers make? Maybe they should form a union and strike also. I mean, we don't have to say 'yes' but they should all have the option, right?

If I think Exxon is gouging customers then I'll go to Shell or Mobil or BP. Notice that there are competitors in that industry. Also, if a gas company needs to raise money they don't issue
try to pass a referendum in a local election and then issue muni bonds.

If the subway lines were rented out to various companies then I would be perfectly fine with one of those companies striking. I would go to a competitor. Unfortunately this is not an option. That's why (what they're doing) is illegal.


#17

I can not agree more.

MTA union employees need to get a grip.

Pensions are going bankrupt and so will their pension. They need to bite the bullet like the rest of our country.


#18

Not as good a point as you want it to be. Were you begging oil companies to raise gas prices when they were losing their ass a few years ago? Did you ever beg the attendant at the Stop-n-Go to take an extra 50 cents a gallon for the gas you just purchased? Somehow I doubt it.

The token collectors have zero risk, and if left to market forces would be making minimum wage.


#19

Under NY law, actually 'we' do - the union workers cannot walk off the job for precisely the reasons that we are talking about - snarling up public transportation as a bargaining tool. So yes, the union workers do not have a plenary and unbounded right to do whatever they want.

Yes.

Of course you can ask - I don't think anyone is suggesting that the union can't ask, they are criticizinf what the union is asking for.

Well, the first problem is that walking off is not a valid legal option. But beyond that, I think most critics are not discussing the validity of asking for more and more - in other words, the criticism is not what the union can, it is what the union should do. Big difference.

I am not seeing it.

I think you are right - if the city is complicit in digging this hole, we can't blame the union for getting all they can. But now that the city has wised up, it is in the lap of the union - and no one is buying that their demands are some kind of entitlement.

I understand you stirring the pot, but I don't see where people are arguing against their normal stance.

I agree - and now that the advantagee is tired of being taken advantage of, they are standing firm.


#20

Why would I? You are acting as if I am for gas prices doubling. I'm not. I think they were taking advantage of the situation. These union workers are taking advantage of the situation. I understand that many are saying it is illegal for them to do so. Why aren't they being arrested for it? How "illegal" is something that no legal ramifications are brought forward if the act is committed?

Clearly this is technical jargon when the only real difference between this act and Gas companies causing people to pay twice the price is what? It isn't like Shell had huge prices and everyone else was staying the same. They all increased prices. So, tell me, what was the choice involved? Any gas station I went to was charging an increase.

I thought the risk was being fired?