Friday, December 16, 2005

New York City Transit Dispute

The contract between the Transport Workers Union and the Metropolitan Transit Authority of New York expierd at midnight last night. Contract negotiations reached an impasse last week.

In general, the workers want a 24% wage increase over the next three years. Given what the neo-cons are doing to the American economy, it is unlikely that a 24% pay increse will be sufficient. The Authority has offered 7% over the same period, an amount that would guarantee their workers' inability to support their families.

The Authority also wants the workers to pay premiums for their health care. The workers are wise to reject this. I know from personal experience. Once workers agree to pay a small amount of the premium, the employer increases that amount at each opportunity and also reduces the benefit at the same rate. This is happening to me right now, so I know it is true! I work for an incredibly successful and profitable company and each year my health care benefits are grossly reduced and my premiums and liabity increase. In fact, for example, a medical treatment that costs me seventy dollars a month in December 2005 will cost me $370 in January 2006. If the Transport Workers Union agrees to begin paying part of their health care premiums, this will happen to them too.

Currently, a transit worker may retire at age fifty-five after twenty years of service. This is a good law and works for everyone: the Authority, the commuters and the workers. Subway and bus drivers and their compatriots who maintain the system are public safety workers. They are expected to keep millions of citizens safe all day every day, more than any other public employee including cops and firefighters. When we board a bus or train to get to work we assume a certain level of safety. The transit workers provide that safety. The Authority does not provide that safety; in fact, all their decision in the past 20 years have undermined public safety by reducing the number of employees present in the system, closing token booths, and reducing cleaning schedules of rolling stock and subway stations. If a worker starts driving at 25 years old and continues working for thirty years, they have provided sufficient service, are probably burned-out, and deserve to be rewarded for their hard work. The Authority wants to increase the retirement age until 62. I'm not sure anyone should drive a bus for forty years. It's a bad plan.

New York State Law includes the immoral Taylor Act, which makes it illegal for public workers to strike. So, in reality, the workers risk much by striking the Authority.

I watched the progress of last night's eleventh-hour negotiations on NY1, an all-news station just for NYC owned by Time-Warner. It's a truly second-rate operation, but it is really quaint and I prefer it to the local network affiliates. NY1 has great anchors. I really like them. Their reporters in the field? Not so much. The reporters tend to be very biased in their reporting, and as you may guess, not to the same side of bias I would lean. The reporter working the negotiations last night constantly denegrated the workers by referring to the union statements as 'rhetoric' and their plans and actions as 'tactics.' Those words were never used to describe the Authority, even though more rhetoric and tactics are being employed by management than by the workers.

At 12:01 AM, no strike or agreement had been announced. This was good news for those of us who take public transportation to work.

This morning, I learned that the workers will not strike the Authority, but are striking to the two privately-owned bus lines that provide express bus service. This is brilliant! Workers and sensible citizens know that privatization is a bad idea, and here the Authority learns that the privatized companies are not protected by the immoral Taylor Act, so the workers can take action in this area.

I support the workers and their job actions. As a taxpayer I am sick of my taxes being used to subsidize the nine-figure salaries of corporate farmers, pharmaceutical companies, and military contractors while we nickle & dime the men and women who actually keep us safe each day.

Good luck to the Union and shame on the Authority!

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that Arch-Neo-Conservative Hillary Clinton stuck her nose int he fray last night and offered this helpfulness: SHE WILL NOT TAKE SIDES! Hillary and tits on a bull are equally helpful. It's nice to know that she is not pro-worker!

See a news article here.

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