Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Transit Workers Strike

As a person with socialist leanings I absolutely respect the right of workers to strike. It's really the only hardball tactic available in a situation where the odds are greatly stacked against them. I also appreciate the larger importance of fighting for viable pension plans and lower retirement age when national trends are rapidly stripping these benefits away. Won't it be great when our generation works until age 70 without being guaranteed benefits and pensions comparable to what our parents will receive?

That being said, I'm a wage slave myself, and don't look forward to the prospect of missing a day's pay tomorrow or being reprimanded for not coming in. But I'm sure finding a cab at 8AM will be a nightmare and I'm sure as hell not walking across the Manhattan Bridge in 13 degree weather. I don't own a bicycle.

I like the idea of simply staying home, both for convenience and in some form of lily-livered solidarity. I'm unsure of the repercussions of this, as my company has been maddeningly mute on any contingency plans it may have up it's sleeve. It's been memo after memo stating nothing other than "look out for more memos."

I am not too familiar with the nuts and bolts of the negotiations, or what the transit workers are demanding, other than an 8% raise. Is it 8% each year for three years, or just 8% over three years? I hear their average salary (including overtime) is $55,000. Now that seems like a lot to me, but I imagine it's not much for, say, rasing a family in New York. And a retirement age of 60 after 30 years of service seems like a lot, especially considering that's 30 years spent largely underground. Not to mention the photos of the toilets at the MTA locker rooms. Plus, the MTA is the most repugnant city organization around.

I'm also dismayed by the apparent low-level hatred of workers shared by a large segment of the population. This extends beyond New York. I think it's a nation-wide affliction. We are the "I want it served to me and I want it now" culture, expecting all of our services delivered to us promptly without deigning to consider the human beings whose occupation it is to deliver them.

I'm sort of rambling here. I'd love to here everyone else's thoughts...


Andreas said...

they ask for 8% annual raise.
and I think it's wrong because there are many people looking for work and basically every strike is group-egoism disguised as solidarity. But then I live across the street from work and don't really need the MTA...

Brendan said...

well 8% annual is exorbitant.
i don't deny the group-egoism element here. but as far as bargaining goes, the strike remains the only big gun available to a union, aside from like sabotage or something(!) the management has every other option.

and yes, lots of people need work but there's a continuing effort to chip away at the meager benefits and assurances afforded workers in American-style capitalism.

RosemaryRuth said...

I am in support of these union workers because I hate the MTA as of late. I think they are lying, money-grubbing bastards. I think we have the dirtiest and least cost-efficient mass transit in the world. I have no facts to back up these blasphemous claims.

I have to say, though, that the profit sharing is ridiculous. No government agency should ever ever in their right mind share excess government revenue with their workers. I think that is deeply corrupt.

Brendan said...

I didn't even know about the profit sharing. That is absurd.

I guess I have to say that I support the strike on principle, if not perhaps the specific demands of the strikers - some of them maybe, but not all.