Friday, December 23, 2005

Fall Out From The Transit Strike

New York Buses, Subways Back in Service After Strike


The union agreed to end the walkout and resume contract talks after two days of meetings between labor representatives and MTA officials with a three-person mediation panel headed by Richard Curreri, director of the state Public Employment Relations Board.

The largest mass transit system in the U.S. came to a standstill Dec. 20 when the union rejected a three-year MTA contract offer that called for new employees to contribute more of their wages to a pension plan and walked off the job.


A state law prohibiting walkouts by public employees penalizes strikers two days' pay for every day of work missed. State Supreme Court Justice Theodore Jones fined the union $1 million for each day of the walkout and threatened to jail labor leaders, and city officials were pressing a separate suit for millions in damages before the agreement was announced.

A court hearing scheduled for yesterday was postponed after the strike was called off until Jan. 20.

During the walkout, Mayor Michael Bloomberg had called strikers ``selfish,'' ``greedy'' and ``thuggish.'' TWU Local 100 President Roger Toussaint said he was defending his workers' rights.

The union and MTA returned to a midtown hotel after midnight yesterday for their first face-to-face meeting since talks broke off earlier in the week, and at 11 a.m., state mediators came to a ballroom where reporters were waiting to announce they had reached an agreement to end the strike.
Bottom line:

The MTA has NOT taken pensions off the table, in violation of the state's Taylor Law (the law referred to four paragraphs up), but is under no sanction for proposing it. They have, however, agreed that they'd consider additional changes in the health insurance components in exchange for dropping that bit of unethical nonsense.

Which, I suspect, is what they were after in the first place.

So who loses?

The TWU, for one. Those million dollar a day fines are not negotiable and unwaivable, altho on appeal, the courts might reduce them significantly.

The riders, for another, even tho the MTA will move heaven and earth to placate us with a few measly scraps from the table.

Other unions, also. Their pensions and health care coverage are in jeopardy now. The TWU was the only union to strike over a contract, yet the police, fire fighters, teachers, and health care workers all have worked significant periods of time without contracts. The Taylor Law HAS to be amended to make it a fairer deal for workers, who de facto lose money each day they work without a raise that at least covers inflation.

Bloomberg loses as well. Calling working people "thugs" is not going to endear you to any future union work disputes.

Pataki probably loses, but only a little. His presidential bid is such a long shot it's not even funny.

The MTA, of course, wins big, since this is all one giant zero sum game. But things have a way of evening themselves out in the end. I pity Peter Kalikow and George Pataki for the karma they've riled up.

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