Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Three Reasons I Think There Will Be A Transit Strike

1) Transport Workers Union President Roger Toussaint tore up what he said was the lawstui filed by the Corporation Counsel (and Eliot Sptizer, as state Attorney General) under the state's "Taylor Law", which specifically forbids strikes by municipal and state employees.

This law has never been tested seriously before. In fact, back in 2003 when the contract was last negotiated, the Corporation Counsel won an injuction from a judge imposing a million dollar fine for the first day of the strike, two million for the second, three for the third and so on, plus a $25,000 for each striking member. The contract was quickly settled.

I think this time we're about to see just how constitutional this law is, which gives the city and state a very heavy advantage in any labor negotiation.

2) From the New York Times: "Ms. Weingarten stepped up her call for Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein not to keep the schools open in the event of a transit shutdown.

"Since transit negotiations generally go down to the wire, most students, parents and educators would not know if there is a strike until they wake up Friday morning," she wrote to Mr. Klein. "To say there will be chaos on the first day of a transit strike is an understatement."

The chancellors' office said it still planned to keep schools open, with the starting hour delayed two hours, should there be a strike."

Randy Weingarten was at the rally held outside of the Hyatt Regency last night in support of the TWU (and Roger Toussaint). While she cannot overtly call her members out on strike (and thus invoke Taylor Law sanctions on her union), a sick-out seems to be the message here.

3) From the Taxi & Limousine Commission:"All For-Hire Vehicles and Commuter Vans licensed by the TLC will be authorized, for the duration of the emergency, to pick up passengers without pre-arrangement for the purpose of providing Group Ride service. This shall include the pick-up of passengers by street hail at any location within the City of New York."

OK, sounds reasonable, except you need cab drivers to enforce this. Trouble is, some of the larger cab driver associations (they can't call them unions, since driver's are contractors) have said they will sit out any strike. Why?

What the TLC proposes is basically zone pricing. If I pick you up in Zone A, and stop for a few other passengers, and you're going to Zone B, and them to Zone C and D, I've lost money on my fares, not to mention that with gasoline so expensive, I've now got a lower profit (you'd think a group would be a better profit, but not in this case), plus the added traffic to deal with.

Not a happy circumstance, by any means. Add to this that most cabs operate in Manhattan south of 96th Street, which will have mandatory car-pooling (four passengers or more per vehicle), and you can start to see that cab drivers are going to get a bit shafted where in a true capitalist society, they should be making a windfall profit.

So the combination of the apparent defiance of Toussaint, and the support of at least two key groups, leads me to suspect I'll be hoofing it a lot this next week or so.

tags technorati :