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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Transit Strike

With all this talk about a potential strike on Friday, a friend of mine raised a good point. Why should city and state employees be allowed to unionize? The point of a union is gain leverage against the employer, to ensure equitable distributions of profits and to protect the employees.

But public employees don't have that - cities and states don't run "profits", every dollar they earn comes from you, me, and every other taxpayer.

There's a reason why the Taylor Law was passed. When a private company's employees strike, the only ones harmed are the company and its shareholders. If K-Mart workers strike, you can go shop somewhere else.

But when public employees strike, everyone is harmed- There are no other real options to take when the buses and subways stop running .

If there is a strike, I hope that the fines are enforced, the leaders thrown in jail, and the transit union is crippled.


You're correct with respect to profits, but there is an additional issue, that of work conditions. A unionized work force, whether public or private, has the ability to make sure work conditions remain high and safe. Yes, we have laws that do this, but union negotiations accomplish the same too.

Additionally, the fines won't be enforced. One of the conditions to the resolution of any strike is sure to be dismissing the fines.

Think about it, every guy who hasn't shown up to work is fined hundreds of dollars, or the union is. Suddenly "our workers aren't making enough, etc"

I have no problem with public workers unionizing, though your last argument (harm) is one reason it should be illegal for them to strike (so then why unionize? It's a paradox either way). My issue lies with the anti trust exemptions that unions have. If there was competition amongst the unions things would be much better.
Excellent post, but sadly it won't happen that way. Romach is right - it will be a prerequisite of any deal they strike.

I'm surprised you haven't mentioned their demands, which are mind-bogglingly insane. The % raises, especially...
From today's NYTimes article:
1) Pensions: Union wants to change the retirement age to 50 after 20 years of service. MTA wants it to be 62 after 30 years of service. The pension is equal to half of the retirees pay, which averages $55,000.

2) 8% raise
The whole point of strking is that it harms someone--otherwise it wouldn't be effective. I have done exactly no research on the strike and all I know is that it is going to hurt people if it happens, my commuting father included.

But if their conditions are truly unfair, then don't they deserve a crack at making them better?
The union wants an 8% raise each year for 3 years.

Most New Yorkers will kill for the salary and benifits that TWU members have.

And like I said earlier- there is a difference when private employees strike and when public employees strike. Public employees have monopoly power, and thus have unlimited leverage, because they can make life miserable for an entire city.
It's not even an issue of making people's life difficult. It's simply dangerous: traffic makes it difficult for emergency vehicles to get to their destinations, people in need of medical care can't get to the hospital (i.e. dialysis patients can't meet their appointments), traffic conditions make accidents more likely, etc.

It's almost like the police striking. When the police have demands they institute a slowdown, which affects people but is not as hazardous. If the transit workers want to get their point across, that would be a safer way of going about it.

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