Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Light at the End of the Tunnel?

EDIT: There are links at the bottom to other J-bloggers on the strike. They're great, check them out.

Living in New York City is normally bad enough. When 33,000 MTA workers decide to strike, it gets a lot worse. A friend of mine took a car to the LIRR yesterday, but the lines were hundreds, if not thousands, of people long. Luckily, one smart man looked at the lines and quickly asked if anyone wanted to fill his car to the required four per car so he could drive into the city, and my friend jumped at the opportunity.

Very quickly, here are the primary issues: The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) has about $1 billion dollars in excess. The contract they had with the union expired at 12:01 AM Friday morning. They are demanding a new contract, which would include: Annual raises for 3 years of 8%; the retirement age remaining at 55 years old; and full health and pension benefits. Their current salaries range from $47,000-$55,000 a year.

Each day of a strike costs the city an estimated $400 million. It is completely illegal for the workers to strike by New York law. The Transport Union Workers are being fined to the tune of $1 million a day for their strike, and its workers are losing pay at double their daily rate. There are approximately 4.5 million subway riders and 2.4 million bus riders every day.

The latest MTA offer has pay raises of 3%, 4%, and 3.5% the next 3 years and still demands that the pension age eligibility of new workers from now on be 62 and not 55. The union refuses to accept this.

Thankfully, just about every single person in New York realizes that the union is out of its freaking mind. 8% pay raises?! Are you kidding me?! Where, in any business, does a person get guaranteed 8% pay raises every year? It is not as if these are particularly high-skill positions that require graduate-level study - we are talking about bus drivers, conductors, and subway cleaners. These are all very important jobs, but they should not be jumping from $50,000 to almost $65,000 a year in just 3 years, in addition to the great benefits they receive. There is also no reason that they should be able to retire with full pensions at 55 when most Americans have to work until 65 for far lower benefits. I think 62 is generous enough.

Thankfully, most New Yorkers aren't falling for this garbage:

Commuter frustration was evident both before the strike and after it was called.

"The rest of us are having to pay our health insurance and our pensions are going away, too, so I think we've all got to be in this together. No, I don't have any sympathy," one woman walking over the Brooklyn Bridge told FOX News.

Darryl Padilla, a 20-year-old club promoter, was trying to get on the train at Penn Station when he found out the strike had begun. He didn't have enough cash to take a cab to his home on the northern tip of Manhattan.

"I didn't think they were going to shut down. I can't take a cab," he said.

"I think they all should get fired," said Eddie Goncalves, a doorman trying to get home after his overnight shift. He said he expected to spend an extra $30 per day in cab and train fares.

"Enough is enough," said Craig DeRosa, who relies on the subway to get to work. "Their benefits are as rich as you see anywhere in this country and they are still complaining. I don't get it."

In Queens, Brunilda Ayala said she had no sympathy for the union after the bus strike began in her neighborhood.

"How can you give a raise to a bus driver who would make three old ladies walk home in the cold?" asked Ayala, 57.

I do think they should get fired - I would love to see most of them realize their mistake, quit the union, and then come back and work for the MTA. If the MTA is really nice, they can give them almost as much as they were getting before.

You want to know what the MTA can do with their $1 billion surplus?! How about lower bus and subway costs. Or maybe lower the tolls on the bridges. Right now, the MTA plans on raising prices yet again - from $2 to $2.50 a ride. That's a 25% increase!! Outrageous! There are about 2.14 billion riders a year, which comes out to about $4 billion of revenue a year [taking into account discounts]. How about lowering prices by 25 cents a ride?! The MTA would still have $500 million in surplus, and commuters would be a lot happier. It would also boost the economy of NYC in general, much as it does when they lower it to $1/ride for weekends now so people shop more.
Huge lines formed at ticket booths for the commuter railroads that stayed in operation, and Manhattan-bound traffic backed up at many bridges and tunnels as police turned away cars with fewer than four people. Meanwhile, transit workers took to the picket lines with signs that read "We Move NY. Respect Us!"
It's kind of hard to respect people that just screwed 7 million people for their own selfish and unfair demands. If they wanted respect, they'd have accepted a deal long ago and asked that the MTA take its surplus and give it back to the commuters. Seeing as they didn't, all I can say is...

What a bunch of selfish jerks.

EDIT: Also blogging on the strike: Orthomom, CWY - twice, Kesher Talk, Sushi Kiddush (pictures!), YUtopia, My Urban Kvetch, JBlogMeister. EDIT II: And LabRab. EDIT III: Forgot Cross-Currents. EDIT IV: Irina at IgNoble Experiment - I especially liked this line:
Would you believe it, NYC survived 9/11, picked herself up and moved on, only to be brought down by its own citizens???
EDIT V: DovBear.

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