Wednesday, December 21, 2005

NYC Transit Strike- Profiles in Conflict

Conflict #2 by the amusing David Lester.

Well, now the shinola's going airborne.

Madison and Fifth Avenues, closed to traffic yesterday, have been reopened to vehicles save for one lane as an emergency reserve. The train stations running non-MTA services like the LIRR and PATH are more prepared for the crushing increase of humanity streaming in. The Salvation Army and Red Cross are dispensing coffee and cocoa at the ends of the bridges to frosted, wind-blown stragglers. Many people who went through the fun of yesterday, have opted out of the party today. However, 61% of kids showed up to school yesterday, 71% today, but classes are still starting 2 hours late every morning.

Some smaller employers who can't make any money due to the strike are reportedly docking employees who come in late or skip work. Even if there were tourists or day-trippers as customers, many stores haven't been able to open without staff. Restaurants say they're off by more than 40% on diners while the hospitals are fully, even extra-fully staffed due to their employees' dedication to being present to serve their patients.

Toussaint says that trying to make revisions to the pension provisions in this contract cycle is illegal, and that the governor and mayor are sworn to uphold that law. He says if this provision comes off the table, the TWU might return to work. Of course, I believe he could've just opted not to sign until those provisions were removed without striking, itself clearly illegal under the Taylor law.

Neither the firemen, police, or teachers walked out on their contract negotiations, but their leaders today said publicly they supported Toussaint's strike. Fire fighters reportedly bring TWU picketers chicken while all police vacations are cancelled and coverage is stretched thin, costing an extra $10 million a day per Ray Kelly. Perhaps these unioneers believe the TWU's fate is just like their own. I don't think it is. Nor do I put every category of union employee, like police sniper or special ed teacher, in the same category as a token taker. That's what we mean by merit.

Meanwhile, a local judge says the union leaders could be jailed for criminal contempt, and the union lawyers weep how that would impede the process of negotiation that isn't happening. The judge also says that individual employees of the union could be held criminally liable to the tune of $25,000 each day they strike. Toussaint attacks Bloomberg for calling calling the TWU bullying, thuggish, and selfish and implies Bloomie's court challenges are heavy-handed Giuliani era tactics. So what kind of tactic is shutting down the city?

The edges of people's humor are fraying, and the NYC tourism board head announces the union still has time to turn from Scrooge to Santa. We'll see.

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