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Re: <nettime> NYC Transit Strike Article in Telepolis
Sascha D. Freudenheim on Thu, 22 Dec 2005 04:28:52 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> NYC Transit Strike Article in Telepolis


As a New Yorker, let me be the first to acknowledge that the 
Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) made mistakes here: in decisions 
about what to do with its surplus; in the decision to offer riders 
discounts during the holidays instead of making other investments; and 
in the run-up to negotiations as a strike loomed.

But as a New Yorker, and someone who generally supports labor activism, 
let me also say that: this strike is a mistake, and extremely misguided. 
  The union's demands are unrealistic, particularly in an economic 
environment in which both pension and health care costs have been 
increasing dramatically, as is the case in the U.S. generally, and in 
New York in particular.

Yes, the idea that there might be a two-tiered system is correct, were 
the union to agree to changes in benefits.  Yet this is no different 
from any other situation in which a firm hires one employee under 
somewhat different terms than another.  The firm that I work for once 
offered life insurance, but does no longer; but I don't resent my 
colleagues who joined at an earlier moment, which that benefit was still 
available.  Situations change.

The situation reminds me, in some ways, of the unrealistic attitude many 
Germans have -- that after 50 years of relatively cushy, post-War 
benefits, the system that allows early retirements and lush benefits is 
somehow immutable.  Nonsense; why should it be that benefits cannot 
change when the economic and demographic circumstances that underpin 
those benefits also change?  If nothing else, the increase in human life 
expectancy necessitates changes to a system that once offered 20 years 
of comfortable retirement and now must provide for closer to 30 or 40 
years of retirement.  Nor is it so absurd to ask that workers, if they 
wish to sustain this early retirement age, make an increased 
contribution towards their retirement funds.

Moreover, as a taxpayer in this already-expensive city, the demands of 
the workers materially affect me.  If costs go up, my ridership likely 
goes down, which will surely be the case across the city.  The people 
who are hurt by these fare increases (as, indeed, they already are by 
the strike) are those who rely on public transit.  Anyone who has 
visited NYC knows that the ridership on the system is diverse, but let's 
not kid ourselves that the restaurant workers and retail clerks have the 
same financial resources to take taxis to work that the stock brokers 
and lawyers might.

The international union under which NYC's Local 100 Transit Workers 
Union sits specifically recommended against a strike -- because, towards 
the end of negotiations, the MTA returned to the table with a modified 
offer that conceded to much of what the union requested.  Ongoing 
discussions should have been possible.  That the union decided to go on 
strike anyway is a decision for which no one should be pleased or 
supportive.

As a New Yorker, better support for the workers would mean more 
encouragement to return to negotiations, and to find a compromise both 
sides can live with.


Sascha D. Freudenheim
Doubt is humanity's best friend.
For five years and counting: http://www.thetruthasiseeit.com/


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