Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Pox On Both Their Houses

The Transit Workers Union Local 100 in NYC has gone on strike, putting more than six million commuters who rely on the system daily in the middle of a nasty contract dispute.

The TWU does not have my sympathies whatsoever. Their actions throughout this mess reminds me of a petulant child who holds their breath when they don't get their way.

That's not to say that the MTA has my sympathies either. They don't. They've screwed over New Yorkers on a regular basis with shifty and questionable accounting, which doesn't exactly engender confidence in any of the numbers or reports they put out on the fiscal stability or health of the MTA finances. And whatever agreement that is reached will mean higher fares, because the costs have to be passed on to someone.

Now, while my own commute was roughly the same, Mrs. Lawhawk's commute was affected by the increased traffic into Manhattan that was turned away due to HOV-4 restrictions at all crossings into Manhattan below 96th Street. That, and she's got a long walk ahead of her.

And for that reason, I declare a pox on both their houses.

The Gothamist is on top of the strike bloggings. Roundup of local reporting (and the way that the papers deal with it).

I'm not quite sure why people think that Toussaint is a master tactician or even a good negotiator. The point of good negotiating is making all sides think that they've gotten a good deal. Toussaint hasn't gotten a damn thing except 6 million people grumbling about the TWU calling a strike. The longer this strike runs, the more people are going to be pissed at his tactics.

And it has to be repeated that none of the other unions that had contract negotiations - the police, fire, or teachers, struck despite the fact that they went without contracts for significant periods. In fact, the firefighters were without contracts for more than a year.

Another interesting bit of information. While the firefighters agreed to a contract that upped benefits for current firefighters (raises), they actually lowered the starting salaries for new firefighters by a significant margin. The TWU is taking the opposite tact - essentially throwing all their efforts into protecting future generations of transit workers at the expense of current employees. Current employees are striking illegally, should incur Taylor Law penalties up to $25,000 for the first day, and doubling after that. The strike has the potential to not only wipe out whatever is gained at the bargaining table, but that doesn't seem to stop the hardliners at the TWU.

Also, there's no regard by the TWU to notice that the strike will adversely affect the MTA's bottom line as well. The strike means reductions in tax revenues for as long as the strike runs, not to mention the costs of preparing for the strike. Those costs will be borne by taxpayers as well. And since taxpayers underwrite a portion of the MTA budget, that means that there will be less money for the MTA to dole out to those same TWU workers.

GOP and the City has no sympathy for the TWU either... Evan Coyne Maloney and Alarming News are also blogging the strike.

Suitably Flip is also blogging the strike.

Watch the fireworks at the TWU Blog's Comments. It's not for the faint of heart, and the language is strong.

Fixed a typo in Roger Toussaint's name.

Mark Tapscott has some advice for Mayor Bloomberg, via Ronald Reagan. I think that might need to be directed towards Gov. Pataki, not Mayor Bloomberg, but the idea of firing all the strikers is a difficult one. I hope it doesn't come to that.

Environmental Republican got noticed for their strike blogging. The Wisdom of Change also noticed the TWU Blog comments section. And I'd say that about 80% of the comments are anti-Union. That's not to say they're pro-MTA, but animus will only grow as this strike lingers. The union seriously misjudged the public's attitude towards their striking on behalf of workers, let alone future MTA workers. It's a nonstarter when the perception is that many transit workers are surly, disrespectful of commuters, and customer service is an inconvenience - for the customer. It's accepted that the MTA screws over the customer and the workers, but if there's anyone who can make people feel sympathy for the MTA, it's Roger Toussaint and the TWU Local 100 bosses, who apparently don't have the blessings of the national and international union.

Michelle Malkin (who else) has a big roundup.

The TWU blog has finally killed off the comments [now shows an error]. Not a moment too soon, might I add. The union was getting creamed in the comments, and Toussaint was taking it on the chin for taking the union for a ride on the strike side. Only in America can a lowly custodian rise up through the ranks to become the most powerful person in New York City, even if it's only for a day - by shutting down the subways, Toussaint has shown he's got power, but he's used it... poorly.

The union was hit with a $1 million per day fine for their actions. That isn't nearly enough to get them to come to the table and settle. $10 million would see the union jump through hoops to get back to the table, get the trains running, and avoid paying any more fines. The $1 million sounds like a lot, but it's a slap on the wrist. Also consider the costs to the City, $400 million in lost business/productivity, and that's just for one day.

Well, that was exciting. The Mrs. and I both got home okay, although PATH Christopher Street had a line wrapping around the block to just get down to the platform [and I'm going to have a separate blogging about that]. That wasn't the worst commute, as those taking the LIRR had to deal with closures at Penn Station. Lovely. Frickin' lovely.

Joe's Dartblog has a cache of the TWU Blog comments that got disabled earlier today after someone realized that more than 800 comments full of vitriol against the union wasn't such a good idea.

Others blogging the strike: Discarded Lies, To Life - L'Chaim (who has a passionate response in the comments), Red Guy in a Blue State (fire 'em), Uncle Sam's Cabin, DonkeyStomp, Lifelike Pundits sums this up for all of us - it sucks! Also, Beeblebabe notes some positives (free lunch from the boss for those who showed up). GOP and College thinks that the union should sit down and shut up. Mary Katherine Ham guest blogs on Hugh Hewitt's blog and notes that the union is attempting to sell the city's future down the river with unsustainable pension demands. Blogmeister is on the case. Workplace Prof blog hopes the union has a deep strike fund, because this is going to get painful real quick. Crosscurrents says fire 'em all.

[updated as necessary]

And there's this - consider what the penalties imposed on the union workers will mean: Someone making $35,000 annually will take a hit of about $280 per day in gross salary ($35k divided by 50 weeks, divided by 5 to get daily gross salary - and doubled for the penalty).

Someone making $50,000 annually will take a hit of $400 for each day the worker strikes. And someone making $65,000 annually will take a hit of $520 for each day of the strike. None of this is chump change, especially for those at the bottom end of the scale. The union has to know. The workers know. The MTA knows this. And now you know*...

I just wonder what that $280 per day would do for one of those workers' holiday shopping plans.

*If someone has a more accurate methodology (total number of days, daily wages) by all means leave them in the comments and I'll correct as necessary.

Is there a schism developing at the TWU between Toussaint and the local bosses and the national and international union bosses?
Sources within other large public employee unions tell CBS2 reporter Marcia Kramer that the TWU's international leadership is considering taking over the local and seeking a settlement with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Those sources say the upper level of the TWU thinks the MTA's latest offer is fair and worthy of further consideration and negotiation. They stand against a militant faction within Local 100 that pressed hard for a strike.
The sooner cooler heads at the TWU can wrest control of the local from Toussaint and the crazed nutbars who think they can hold the city hostage for ludricous demands, the better for all involved - especially the rank and file, who might be able to escape the harsh penalties if Toussaint and his cronies are tossed.

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