Transit Slaves

Billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg is orchestrating a campaign here in New York to demonize the transit union for striking, but it doesn’t pass the smell test. The union and the MTA were very close to a deal when at the last minute the MTA pulled a really steaming turd of a proposal out of their ass and dropped it on the table. They proposed a two-tier contract in which current workers would get an acceptable package, but future hires would get a worse deal. This is a very common and disgusting tactic in contract negotiations. Financially it was trivial: about $20 million over the three years of the contract, less than the city is losing every hour the strike continues, less than half of what the MTA gave away this year by cutting the fare in half on holiday weekends. (I think that saved me a total of $4. I certainly would be willing to give that $4 back if it meant the trains would be running now.)

Of course the MTA’s proposal wasn’t about the money. It’s a common and disgusting tactic to weaken worker solidarity over the long term by pitting the current workers who get to vote on a proposal against the future ones who don’t. I know if I joined a union where people who joined before me got a better deal than I did, I’d be very angry at the union and unlikely to support them. The NYPD now has such a contract. Fortunately the transit workers have more moral fiber than the PBA, and refused this offer. That was the proximate cause of the walkout.

The mayor is accusing the transit workers of being thugs. Nothing could be further from the truth. These are hard-working people with not particularly great jobs who deserve a fair shake from the city. Bloomberg seems particularly incensed that the union is violating New York’s Taylor Law. This is a typical example of government inteference in the free market. It requires people to work without a contract, and is vastly one-sided in favor of management. Now a judge is threatening to jail the union’s leaders and fine individual workers if they refuse to return to work without a contract. This borders on forced labor.

Another example: the stop-loss orders by Bush prohibiting soldiers from leaving the Army after they’ve served their contracted terms. Not only must they continue to work without a contract. They aren’t even allowed to quit. Of course, the government could simply agree to pay soldiers/transit workers/teachers/etc. a high enough wage to make the job attractive in a free marketplace, but why bother when you can just pass a law forcing people to work instead? It’s interesting how Republicans claim to be in favor of the free market until the workers start demanding a fair shake. Then they tumble all over themselves passing laws prohibiting people from exercising their rights to negotiate as a free actors in a free marketplace. What right-wingers really favor is socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor. No, that’s too generous. What’s really being pushed here is fascism, not even capitalism. When I advocate capitalism for everyone, I get accused of being some left-wing pinko commie faggot. (Just watch the comments.)

What the mayor should be doing is organizing alternate means of transportation to get people around during the strike. Instead he’s holding press conferences blaming the union for wanting a fair deal, and refusing to work without a contract. Of course, the mayor really has nothing to do with the negotiations. The way New York is organized that’s the responsibility of Governor George Pataki, and he’s nowhere to be seen. He’s a lame duck who’s hoping to run for president in 2008. He probably can’t win the Republican nomination, but he certainly can’t win another term here in New York, especially after his see-nothing/hear-nothing/do-nothing approach to the strike.

One Response to “Transit Slaves”

  1. John Cowan Says:

    Well, the Taylor Law isn’t *quite* forced labor: it doesn’t prevent workers from quitting. 1/2 :-)

    As for Pataki, he used to be just a sock puppet for D’Amato. Now that Senator Pothole is discredited, that leaves our governor as an empty sock.

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