Volume 18 • Issue 32 | December 23 - 30, 2005


Derailing the people of New York City

We share in the joy of millions of New Yorkers to hear the rumble of subway trains once again running now that the illegal bus and subway strike is over. Roger Toussaint, leader of the Transport Workers Union was wrong to go out on strike and we are delighted he in effect admitted his mistake and is now willing to negotiate without hurting the people of New York City.

Even T.W.U. International, Toussaintís parent union, opposed the strike and the Daily News reported that about 1,000 transit workers reported for work the first day of the strike, so Toussaint may not have had much time to continue the strike.

The transit union has every right to distrust any financial claim made by the M.T.A. -- a non-responsive state authority that has an outrageously confusing budgetary process, and which deceived the public to get a fare hike a few years ago. But an overly generous contract will create pressures to raise fares, cut service, delay capital improvements and put-off implementing necessary security measures.

These pressures threaten working class riders the most.

Transit workers receive and deserve a middle class salary with benefits that are the envy of most private sector workers. The strike subjected them to fines of two days pay for each day they were out on strike. The strike was to defend the principle that future workers with a higher life expectancy should be able to spend nearly half their lives in retirement ñ while the cityís working and middle class riders suffered. Most workers contribute to their pensions (if they even have one!) so the M.T.A. offer that would have new workers contribute six percent to their pension funds was not an unreasonable demand.

The city-saving mediators were able to get the trains running after the union signaled it would offer health care givebacks in exchange for the M.T.A. indicating it would drop its demand for pension givebacks from future workers. Both health and pension costs are soaring and if the two sides prefer to bargain over health rather than pensions we wonít argue with that. It does beg the question of why didnít the union make this counter-offer instead of calling the strike

We know the cityís people and businesses suffered during the strike. Every part of the city was hit badly and the pain to small businesses Downtown may have been even more. We encourage Downtowners to visit favorite or new restaurants in Chinatown, Tribeca, the Seaport, the Financial District and Battery Park City in the days and weeks to come. These eateries could use a little splurging for those who can afford it. Downtownís shops and stores will also be happy to help you with your last-minute holiday shopping needs now that you can take a Downtown express or local to get there.


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