Friday, December 16, 2005

To strike or not to strike?

It's about 1:15am. By the time anyone reads this, the circumstances will likely have changed.

Midnight passed and no deal was reached. But neither was a strike called. I thought it was a deadline? So, wait, what happens now? Is there a strike or not?

Something about this is very postmodern.


At 7:53 AM, Blogger KPd. said...

Yeah, I stayed up to see!
If there is a strike, I have proposed a "things we can do within walking distance" party at Buttermilk tonight.
There might as well be one because I am scared to go to NJ this afternoon and get stuck.
Fuck you Toussaint! They should fine the union today as if they did strike because his whole press conference this morning was about how "other MTA properties" will be shut down at some mysterious future time. What are the riders supposed to do if we don't even know if we'll be able to return from wherever we went? I might have a shred of sympathy for the transit employees if they had a shred of sympathy for me.
...But probably I'd still call them spoiled jerks.

At 11:33 AM, Blogger Agent Orange said...

I guess I don't quite understand what you mean by spoiled? Spoiled because they, unlike too many others, can make a decent living (although it's still not far above average, especially for NYC) because they have a strong union? Also, how is the MTA not being greedy by refusing to disburse the $1 billion surplus, refusing to better train transit employees to deal with terrorism, and insisting that they work longer in order to receive their full pension? I have a good idea how to end the strike: the MTA can agree to TWU's demands. Why are we giving the MTA the benefit of our doubt and demonizing the union for not accomodating the MTA's terms? Transit workers around the world are relatively well paid because their unions are among the strongest. Of course, they have enormous leverage precisely because they have the potential to be such a pain in the ass. The inconvenience of transit strikes comes and gos, but the benefits to their standard of living as well as to the labor movement as a whole are long-term.

At 12:31 PM, Blogger KPd. said...

The surplus is interesting right now, but from what I understand, the costs of pensions are going to more than wipe that out in a few years' time no matter what the MTA does with the surplus right now. As it stands, the MTA gave out discounted subway tickets for the holiday season, which is nice, but undercuts their position.
The demands of the transit union are absurd. Let's just say that the MTA *does* cave and says that employees can retire at 50 with a full pension. That would be cool if that would affect the labor movement as a whole. But in the end, only the transit union can shut down the city, so only the transit union is going to ever get such a sweet deal. If the transit union were to threaten to strike in support of OTHER unions, that would be cool, and I would deal with being trapped within a walking distance radius of my apartment during sub-freezing temperatures with more grace, but striking is only ever going to help them and hurt millions upon millions of other, less powerful, NYC workers, most of whom make far less money and would love to be insulted by ANY health insurance plan, let alone the SWEET health insurance plan being offered to transit employees.
Current transit employees can retire at 55 with a sweet pension. That is not going to change. The MTA wants *future* employees to retire later, at 62, STILL EARLIER THAN MOST AMERICAN WORKERS, in order to grapple with rising pension costs. That the union has the opposite position, that they should retire at 50, shows how insane these negotiations are. They have decided that their incredible benefits are not incredible enough and are willing to threaten other people's livlihoods and safety to get what they want. They would essentially place everyone in NYC without a car under house arrest. I don't respond well to being threatened.
Summary: When the transit union uses their power for something other than themselves, it'll help labor as a whole. Right now, it's just obnoxious.

At 1:09 PM, Blogger Beth said...

jeez, i hadn't thought you were serious about all of this. have you been eaten by the new york post?!?!?

At 2:02 PM, Blogger KPd. said...

It's the holiday retail season. This time of year, retail workers get more hours due to more shopping happening. Retail workers get paid low, hourly wages. A transit strike will not make their wages higher, but during a strike, B and N has put together an emergency "within walking distance" workforce because employees who live beyond walking distance will not be able to get to their shifts. They will not get that money back. They can not work from home. This is not a mere "inconvenience". For some families, some of whom I work with, every shift they can pick up is a crucial tool in an ongoing battle against heating bills.
All I'm saying is take a look at exactly what will happen to NY during a strike. Whether or not the transit workers get to retire early will not change the wage/benefit situation for less powerful workers.
On a purely selfish level, during a strike, I would not be able to leave or return to my neighborhood because I, like most NYers, do not own a car. It is the holiday season, and I have friends and family in NJ that I would like to see. Unlike other unions, a TWU strike impacts not only their employer but everyone in the city. People are going to lose money who can not afford to lose money.
I think it's important to look at exactly what the MTA has offered and how far it has moved from its original offer, then look at what the TWU is still asking for, before one decides that this is a case of labor being oppressed. I don't think it's unreasonable to genuinely ask why I and millions of others should lose our mobility before we blindly support a strike. The TWU is acting in their interest by striking. My interest is that a strike NOT happen.
I also don't think it's New York Post-like to ask what will happen to other NY workers instead of assuming that some larger "labor movement" will benefit. In a perfect world, maybe, but this seems like the trickle-down theory of labor gains to me.

At 4:01 PM, Blogger ertzeid said...

This whole strike thing feels kind of like a snow day. But, a snowday lasting potentially for days and days. I'd personally be inconvenienced, but can work from home, get a ride into the city from Tara, and afford a taxi on Wednesday when I need to get from the office to Penn Station to get home (or I could walk... here's to there not also being a ton of snow next week).

But, like KPd says, this could really fuck over a lot of people who have a much shittier deal than the transit workers. I'm all for labor rights, but is it really good for labor in general when the non-upper-class groups start doing things to hurt each other? There needs to be a way for the TWU to put pressure on the MTA without putting much more tangible pressure on people who need every cent of the $6/hour they earn at their job in Mahnattan so that they can afford their Bed Stuy rent.

It kind of reminds me of how poor white people and black people have historically been pitted against each other by the rich white people aiming to secure their position at the top of the food chain. Yes, the union is important, and striking is the most powerful tool they have, but this seems kind of like trying to find Osama by bombing Afghanistan.

At 6:16 PM, Blogger densamma said...

so why blame fellow non-upperclass people because the TWU is trying to force them to give up (for future workers) some of the strides they've made? i just don't understand why you're not blaming TWU or Barnes & Noble. why should the concessions come from the workers?

At 7:24 PM, Blogger KPd. said...

Because the MTA isn't asking for unreasonable concessions.
Because the MTA isn't the group threatening to shut the city down.
Because a train conductor already makes 63,000 a year.
Because contributing 1% towards your health benefits is not so huge a burden that you need to take a city hostage.
Because changing the retirement age to 62 does not knock transit workers out of the middle class where they currently comfortably reside.
Because B and N employees do not have the leverage of the TWU, so they will simply get squashed in the middle of an argument between the MTA and a work force that is already well-off.
Because the gains made by the TWU will not help anyone not a member of the TWU.


Post a Comment

<< Home