Monday, December 19, 2005

Steeeeeeeeeeeeeerike TWO!

TWU stands strong on strike deadline


December 19, 2005, 1:25 PM EST

Thousands of Queens commuters began the Monday morning rush hour with no bus service after workers for two private bus lines went on strike, offering a preview of what could become a citywide shutdown if transit negotiators fail to reach an agreement before the end of the day.

"We believe there is time to resolve this contract before a complete shutdown across the city. But it is our position that unless there is substantial movement by the authority, trains and buses will come to a halt as of midnight tonight," Roger Toussaint said at a news conference Monday morning.

After making little progress over the weekend, negotiators for the Transport Workers Union and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority planned to return to the bargaining table Monday -- but the head of the union warned that plans were firm for a large-scale strike beginning at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

Toussaint said that the MTA's plan to raise the age at which new employees become eligible for a full pension from 55 to 62 presents a major sticking point.
We should also point out that the MTA has asked that the union remove its representation from the pension plan board in exchange for funding the pension liability of $450 million that they've been "borrowing" to fund perks.

But we know this "major sticking point" cited is a sham, since:
The main obstacle to a settlement appears to be the MTA's demand that new employees not qualify for full pensions until age 62, compared with age 55 for most current workers. A union lawyer said yesterday that the Taylor Law prohibits either side from insisting on pension changes in its final contract offer.

"A change in pensions requires an act of the state legislature," he said. "Therefore, it is outside the realm of what you can require somebody to bargain with you about."
The same Taylor Law that prohibits civil service and other municipal and government unions from striking.

Or, to put it another way:
They fear any concessions by Transport Workers Union Local 100 will be forced on municipal workers in coming years - slashing benefits for hundreds of thousands of middle-income New Yorkers, labor leaders and experts say.

"Any effort to change this [the benefits] is going to face fierce opposition from the other municipal unions," said Daniel Walkowitz, a labor historian at New York University. "This will become the new model, and it will be very hard to reverse it."

That's one reason the New York City Central Labor Council, which represents 375 local unions, is organizing a rally outside Gov. Pataki's midtown office today - and is urging every unionized worker in the city to contribute a dollar to a $1.5 million strike fund for the TWU. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority's contract proposal "is a precedent that could be devastating to the other unions," said Doug Muzzio, a political science professor at Baruch College. "They're worried. They're frightened."

Methinks this is the chip that Toussaint is going to drop in court when the state sues him after they strike tonight.

Much walking for me tomorrow, I suspect.