Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

NYC Subways on Collision Course

Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union represents the men and women who operate New York City's busses and subways. Their current contract expires at 12:01 AM on 16 December 2005, and they have authorized a strike if no new contract is in place by then. This would be in violation of the Article 14 of the New York Civil Service Law, commonly known as the "Taylor Law," which, among other things, prohibits public employees from striking.

Normally, the public sentiment would consider the TWU's demands to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for 8% raises each year for three years to be more than a little bit greedy, but this time the current circumstances are not normal. At the negotiation table the MTA has been doing its usual whining about how it is strapped for cash, which is not in and of itself remarkable.

What IS remarkable this year is that all the while it has been pleading poverty, the MTA has been anguishing over what the beancounters say is a budget surplus. In that regard, my grandparents lived for approximately 30 years in a house a few feet from a very busy street intersection. When they moved to an apartment, they had trouble dealing with the quiet, having gotten so accustomed to the traffic noise. The MTA, so accustomed to budgetary deficits and shortfalls and cash crunches, has trouble dealing with budget surpluses, which are not part of its corporate culture.

So to make their dreaded surplus go away, the MTA has decreed special Holiday Bonus Fares for its ridership during the end of the year 2005. These essentially are half-price fares for the weekends and the last week of the year.

Depending upon one's opinions and world views, the TWU people may be of a somewhat lower socioeconomic class, and they may not all have advanced educations, and they may or may not be obstinate, and they may or may not be greedy. But the one thing they ARE NOT is stupid! They certainly see the MTA's profligate dumping of dollars with the Holiday Bonus Fares, and they rightly consider the MTA's offers to them to be not only stingy, but an insult to their intelligences.

The MTA cannot have it both ways! If they are truly cash-strapped, then they were shmucks to even discuss a Bonus Holiday Fare half-price policy. And if they are not cash-strapped, then they should be able to offer the TWUers more than they are offering (though not necessarily the 8% for 3 years as demanded).
And then, there are some issues that are not really quantifiable in dollars and cents. Matters as basic and simple as going to the latrine to piss! Seems that the MTA has tightened up the work rules to limit the bathroom breaks to six minutes. And there are other work rules that are not much better.

So right now, the TWU and the MTA are on course for a head-on, high speed collision. If a strike comes about, New York City risks significant economic impairment, the TWU leadership risks incarceration, and the TWU rank-and-file membership risks punitive fines, loss of jobs and other administrative sanctions.

What it all boils down to is which side will blink first. And this time around, stacking up each side's plusses and minuses, it would seem that Toussaint and his crew have less to blink about than the MTA.


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