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An Insanely Stupid Move

This is strange. My father (and a few of my uncles) drove a bus for the city–it was sort of assumed I’d end up driving one, too–so my gut reaction is to back the drivers. Hell, I got the Castleton Depot (whose address Wikipedia has exactly wrong: it’s Castleton/Jewett, you dolts) sitting right down the block from me; I can see it’s roof from where I’m sitting writing this. I know a bunch of drivers, and almost none of them are assholes.

However, calling this strike will probably doom the TWU in the eyes of the public. The union’s leader, Roger Toussaint, is operating under the delusion that he’s operating in the same environment that existed in days gone by, when NYC was a hard core union town and the Average Joe instinctively backed these kind of actions out of solidarity with fellow union brethren.

He’s dead wrong… no, change that; he’s out of his fucking mind.

First off, the last time, in 1980, the strike occurred in the Spring, so all those people humping over the Brooklyn Bridge, or walking from South Ferry to their midtown offices, weren’t freezing their asses off like they are this morning. Right there, TWU loses a percentage of sympathy from those forced into the winter weather because Toussaint decided to call this strike.

Next, he’s going to lose the battle for framing the argument between his side and the MTA because of the Taylor Law. It’s illegal for any city worker to go on strike, period. Walking away from the negotiation and holding the city hostage is not a tactic that is gonna fly with the general public as they freeze their asses off trying to figure out how to get where they gotta go. Imagine the chaos if the Finest or Bravest pulled this kinda shit. Additionally, the Taylor Law provisions for docking any striking worker two days pay for every day they stay out, combined with the city’s intention to sue the union and its membership for millions of dollars to recoup the costs of dealing with this strike will financially cripple the TWU, possibly fatally.

The Daily News, no perceived conservative crew like it’s competitor NY Post, bluntly smacked Toussaint in the face with today’s lead editorial (emphasis mine): Stop the strike dead in its tracks

The state Taylor Law bars strikes by public employees, so walking out would be unacceptable under any circumstance. Here, though, it is particularly outrageous because the MTA offered 3% wages hikes in each of three years, plus the opportunity to achieve larger increases through productivity savings.

Since 1999, transit worker salaries have more than kept pace with inflation, rising to an average of $63,000 for train operators and $54,000 for conductors. The MTA proposal would have boosted those numbers to $68,000 and $59,000 while opening the door to substantially more. Toussaint responded by demanding raises totaling more than 25% and refusing what he called givebacks.

And that’s where the MTA gets the club to beat Toussaint like a baby seal: the money. For all his blustering about the strike being about “dignity and respect,” and ensuring a decent retirement package for future TWU members, Toussaint’s payroll increase demand is outrageous, and his refusal to address the MTA’s massive problems dealing with pensions and health care costs are obnoxious.

Under the old contract, workers paid two percent of salary toward their pensions, which kicked in after twenty five years or at age 55, and nothing for their health benefits. The MTA backed off its proposal that new workers retirement age be raised to 62–Toussaint wanted the age lowered to 50!–but they insist that the union’s new members (those currently covered cannot be touched) have to kick in more money–Toussaint’s “givebacks”–toward funding the pensions and health bennies, proposing it be raised to six percent. Toussaint balked; he wants it all to fall on the MTA, the city or the state–anywhere except the union’s future membership–which means it falls on the shoulders of commuters and taxpayers the moment a contract gets signed.

It’s too sweet a deal to sell to people trying to figure out how to ensure their own health care and retirement needs can be met. In years gone by the TWU may have been able to sell that to the public, but not anymore.

UPDATE: Transit Union Split Over Strike

The international arm of the Transport Workers Union is stunned and angry that its Local 100, representing New York subway and bus workers, turned down a contract offer from management and ordered its members to walk off their jobs, CBS2 News has learned.

Sources within other large public employee unions tell CBS2 reporter Marcia Kramer that the TWU’s international leadership is considering taking over the local and seeking a settlement with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Those sources say the upper level of the TWU thinks the MTA’s latest offer is fair and worthy of further consideration and negotiation. They stand against a militant faction within Local 100 that pressed hard for a strike.

Toussaint and his cronies are dreaming they are the modern-day offspring of Mickey Quill; they don’t realize that time is long, long gone. The parent union realizes this is a fight they cannot win, and could financially destroy the union and it’s membership when all those penalties and fines start ringing up.

And believe you me: Pataki and Bloomie are going to chase down every last nickel of that dough.

UPDATE: The Puppy Blender Instalanched a TWU Local 100 blog, highlighting some of the comments readers posted…before they shut down posting or displaying comments, that is. But this is the Intarweb, so those comments didn’t, as the blog planned, go “poof” into the ether: they’re right here.

(side note: what borough isn’t listed among the union’s strike locations?)

UPDATE: Union Fined A Million Bucks Per Day

“This is a very, very sad day in the history of labor relations for New York City,” the judge said in imposing the fine.

“Sad” my ass; Local 100’s leadership brought it on themselves.

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