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.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Where's the Leadership?



During the past 48 hours, Governor George Pataki has been appealing to the Transport Workers Union to come back to the bargaining table and end the illegal strike. Until now, Pataki's involvement in this labor dispute has been appeals to morality and common decency.

But in 1996, when, during prolonged contract negotiations with the United University Professions, the union representing faculty at the State University of New York schools, he unilaterally stopped making payments to the UUP's Benefit Trust Fund. The New York Public Employment Relations Board ruled that the funding cut-off was illegal, but Pataki still refused to resume contributions. For approximately 2 years, the UUP members had to shell out for their own medical and dental and optical care until funding was resumed and reimbursements were finally tendered.

Now, Pataki is singing the song about how the TWU's strike is illegal. Pataki lost the moral high ground in 1996, and thus is in no position to invoke the values of morality and decency upon which he now bases his appeal to the TWU.

Pataki's style (or lack thereof) stands in stark contrast to that his fellow Governor, Edward Rendell of Pennsylvania. Rendell, you will recall, just a few months ago stepped into the labor dispute, and brokered a resolution that kept the busses and subways running in Philadelphia. And in 1974, one of Rendell's predecessors in office, the late Milton J. Shapp, took the initiative to end the nationwide strike of independent truckers. Governor Shapp, himself a former trucking contractor, informed the truckers, in no uncertain terms, that (1) if they blockade Pennsylvania's highways, then their rigs would be confiscated; and (2) he would (and in fact did) lead a delegation to Washington to resolve the issues of fuel costs and other matters. And so, a Democratic governor successfully convinced a Republican administration to address the truckers' problems.

Thus far, Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg have taken the position that settling the labor dispute is not part of their respective jobs. And, if one is to go strictly by the book, they are absolutely correct. But then again, there is this thing called "leadership." Leadership, as those who have been to Officers Candidate School know, means taking charge of a situation when a control vacuum exists. Rendell and Shapp, the guys from Harrisburg, understood the concept and were willing to think outside of the box to offer creative leadership solutions.

If Pataki wishes to end this strike, he essentially has two choices. He can follow the book and impose fines and imprisonment upon the TWU and its leadership. This he has the legal right to do, but it would be a very costly proposition, and few if any believe he is willing to pay the price to achieve it.

Pataki's other option would be to reclaim the moral high ground he lost in 1996. Even at this late hour, he still can do it by clearing off his calendar and personally appearing at the bargaining table to broker a settlement. Given Pataki's lackluster leadership skills thus demonstrated (including his allowing Rudy Giuliani to take the initiative with the press briefings in the days following the Muslim terrorist attack of September 11th 2001), I wouldn't get too excited over such a possibility.

The TWU strike is illegal and should be halted immediately! But as long as TWU Local 100 President Roger Toussaint is the only player in the game who engages in sound and intelligent leadership practices, you can expect the strike to continue until Pataki and Bloomberg give away the entire store!

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