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December 22, 2005

The New York Transit Strike

-- by Dave Johnson

Atrios writes about those who complain that the strikers already make "too much."

Since a lot of white collar workers actually don't get paid very well, they resent the hell out of the fact that some uneducated lout gets to buy a nicer house than they do. And, thus, we get the out of touch media coverage of the NYC transit strike.
I have a shorter answer for people who resent that people in unions are better paid and get benefits. JOIN A UNION! DUH! Don't complain that they make good money, DO WHAT THEY DID!

If that hasn't dawned on you yet then maybe you aren't smart enough to make a better living.

Meanwhile David Sirota looks at the strike through the eyes of right-wing economic theory and notices the theories don't seem to apply to working people: Sirotablog: New Yorkers learn a lesson about supply & demand,

You can't simultaneously argue that the workers are absolutely essential to the city's way of life, while also arguing that they should accept pension/benefit cuts. Because if something is that "essential" and valuable to you, then you should expect to pay a premium for it.

Let's put it all in basic supply and demand economics - because that's what it really is. When a commodity is at a premium or "essential" to the market, the market pays a premium for it. That's the ethos almost universally venerated by every pundit and mainstream media operation in America - it's called free market fundamentalism. It's why oil companies make record profits when oil supplies dwindle, or Apple can charge more for Ipods when there is huge demand for them. When that happens, everyone says hey, that's just the "invisible hand" of the market. That's good old American capitalism at work!

But when that "invisible hand" suddenly applies to workers, well, that's portrayed as treasonous.


JOIN A UNION AND DEMAND BETTER WAGES AND BENEFITS! DUH!

Posted by Dave Johnson at December 22, 2005 9:18 AM

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Comments

I am very proud to have those workers representing my interests. It has always been people like that who secured our rights.

Posted by: grannyinsanity at December 22, 2005 11:55 AM

This is a very interesting strike, well worth studying in detail as a serious and important exercise in labor relations in these times. Not that I'm going to go into much detail in a comment.

The transit workers union represents a much broader span of different types of workers than most other unions, not just conductors and bus drivers, but ranging from well-paid engineers who design and run the system and hopefully well paid mechanics who keep everything running through the entire range of workers down to cleaning staff, so saying that the "average salary is $50,000" is meaningless. The police union, the firemen's union, represent police and firemen, so their average salary and benefits mean something. What this means in relation to the comment above, that "some uneducated lout gets to buy a house," is nonsense in relation to the members of the transit union. Probably the engineers and other educated and well trained staff can, but there's a very wide range of skills and salaries involved. That's the trouble with the way we discuss things in this country now. We don't even bother to consider what the facts might really be.

As for the strike itself, I think the timing of it will turn out to have been a mistake. the MTA, which, by the way, is a government agency not really accountable to anyone, has been out of control for many years, famous for its corruption and for keeping a double set of books. This year it announced, just before negotiations began, that it had a billion dollar surplus, gave the public discounts on holiday fares, giving the union the impression that, as one worker put it, this was a great big candy store. Then, during the negotiations, it called a board meeting and proceeded to spend the entire frigging billion dollars, thus telling the union there ain't no candy for you. This, of course, was intended to goad them into striking so they can crush the uniion. Unfortunately, the union fell right into the trap.

Having called the strike, they've shot their wad. Their only weapon is the threat to strike. Calling a strike during the week before Christmas, during unusually cold weather, they've lost much of the good will the public had for them. Once forced to call off the strike before they have a contract, which is what's happening now, they're forced to go back to the bargaining table in a much weaker position. We'll see how this works out.

One last sour note. The governor and mayor, the forces manipulating all this, take it for granted that New Yorkers are willing to put up with absolutely anything. They both kept talking about how we'll suck it up, keep on trudging, get ourselves to work regardless. Which we did. In other words, we were as manipulated as the transit union, reacted like a bunch of sheep, and it's time to give these bastards some harsh lessons about what we'll put up with, too.

Posted by: MJ at December 22, 2005 12:40 PM

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