Contact Me By Email

Contact Me By Email

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

An Unnecessary Transit Strike - New York Times

An Unnecessary Transit Strike - New York TimesDecember 21, 2005
An Unnecessary Transit Strike

The bar for job actions by New York City transit workers is set, legally, out of reach for good reason. A strike that halts buses and subways that daily carry seven million riders can devastate New York's economy and countless lives. The New Yorkers who took to the streets yesterday, some walking miles to work or other appointments, deserved better than the explanation they got from leaders of Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union - who said they had no choice but to tell their 33,000 members to begin an illegal walkout. That's ridiculous.

Negotiations did not have to end when they did. There was no impasse. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the state entity that runs the system, had compromised on several major points at the negotiating table. When Roger Toussaint, the union chief, walked away, his members were being offered a chance to continue to retire with full pensions at age 55. New hires would have to pay into that pension, but workers would continue to pay nothing toward their health benefits. That's a deal that many riders, including those who struggle to pay the $2 fare, would gladly take.

The authority also made other concessions, including a better wage offer, that could be seen as generous, considering that its finances will be awash in red ink for foreseeable years and it cannot just let fares skyrocket to pay for any deal it cuts for its workers.

Many other issues remain to be hammered out, but none justify a strike, especially in the frigid days before the holidays. While New Yorkers fought the freezing cold, the transit union leaders seemed to be steamed about the enormous number of disciplinary actions against their members. The issue deserves study, but even the transit workers' parent union did not see it as sufficient reason to strike.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's strike contingency plan appeared to help move people who car-pooled. Beyond that, he can offer only a bully pulpit and the kind of moral support he displayed when he took a page from Ed Koch and walked - hatless - across the windswept Brooklyn Bridge with others who hoofed it to their jobs yesterday. Clearly angry, the mayor demanded an end to the strike before talks resume, but that is not his call, and the sequence is less important than ending the strike fast.

Mr. Toussaint should not have the ability to hold the city hostage. That he can do so says little about the leadership on the other side of the table. The executives of the M.T.A. answer to Gov. George Pataki. We understand that Mr. Pataki has higher aspirations, but it was a bad call to visit New Hampshire as the first strike deadline approached and the city was increasingly anxious. The governor is in a position to impose some reason. If Mr. Pataki wants any chance to fulfill his ambitions, he should do all he can to help get a settlement, and quickly.

No comments:

Post a Comment