Strike 3 (Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $62,000)
Why is a Bill Murray vibe coming over me? I'm getting an irresistible urge to hear Sonny and Cher and do the Pennsylvania Polka.
Anyway, it's day 3 of the illegal New York transit strike and we've got some exciting events lined up. At 11am, Judge Theodore Jones will hold a hearing to determine if local TWU chief Roger Toussaint and his thug myrmidons will (finally) be sent to jail (what the judge yesterday called a "distinct possibility"). No word on whether they will be forced to walk there...
So far Jones has issued fines of $1 million per day for the TWU, $125,000 per day for the Amalgamated Transit Union, and 2 days worth of salary for every striking employee (which can be raised to $25,000 per employee and can be set to double daily).
According to reports, both sides have been meeting with mediators from the Public Employment Relations Board and have now returned to negotiations for the first time since the strike began.
Toussaint claims that the sole remaining sticking point is the MTA's desire to overhaul the employee pension system. Under the old contract, employees with 20 years of service were eligible for full pensions at age 55. When the two sides first sat down, the MTA wanted this raised to 62, while the TWU was pushing for it to be lowered to 50 (!).
The MTA has since reverted to the status quo on the age threshold but has asked that all future employees be required to contribute 6% of their earnings to their pensions. Currently, they contribute a paltry 2%.
This is the sole remaining conflict.
Bear in mind no existing MTA employee will be affected by this either way. Toussaint is crippling New York City (not to mention draining the coffers of his own union and subjecting his members to hefty fines) and risking going to jail to secure unreasonable benefits for non-existent TWU members. This smacks of pride and perverse obstinance. Today, the Post has labeled Toussaint a "thug - and an extortionist."
Let's let these thugs cool their heels in the hoosegow for a while and see if we can't put an end to their dangerous and illegal campaign. It's of mild consolation that even a few days worth of fines should be sufficient to financially ruin the TWU, but the impact being borne by New York City is incomparably larger.
Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg have held a fairly firm line in their statements on this issue, but both have fallen short in important ways. Bloomberg has stated he doesn't want Toussaint and his band of maurauders to be sent to jail. Pataki, for his part (particularly given his Presidential aspirations) blew a chance at a real Reagan moment here. On Tuesday morning, he could've fired all 30,000+ employees, announced they were all welcome back on terms amenable to the MTA (terms certain to be attractive enough to replace any non-picket-line-crossing malcontents with new personnel in a heartbeat; average train drivers currently haul in better than $62,000 a year), then begun an effort to (at least partially) privatize the city's public transit system.
Many other cities with similar - even larger - subway systems are at least partially privatized. Even the ones that aren't profitable are able to recognize the pronounced benefits of private sector operation by competitively bidding for the lowest feasible subsidies from local government.
Instant hero status would have been justifiably heaped on the Governor for saving New York hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars. Anyway, what's done is done. But Pataki and Bloomberg both still have plenty of opportunity to guide the outcome of this unfortunate situation. There's plenty of variability as to how this progresses from here in terms of the amount of pressure put on the TWU (most immediately whether to lock up TWU leadership). And nothing short of the financial and physical security of New York hangs in the balance.
Transit Strike Update
TWU Walks Out On New york
New Yorkers Behaving Like New Yorkers
T-Minus 1 Hour: Transit Union Walks Out
No Progress on Transit Negotiations
Bracing for Bedlam
Bloomberg Steps Up
New York's Looming Illegal Transit Strike
Handcrafted by Flip on December 22, 2005 |
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» Get back on the bus, Gus from The NJ Blog
Looks like both sides are talking and the New York City transit workers will be heading back to their buses, subways and token booths (even though there are no more tokens). Strike soon to be over! Updates here. They better not back down on the fine... [Read More]
Tracked on Dec 22, 2005 11:52:22 AM