Wednesday, December 21, 2005

More Updates on the NYC Transit Strike

[Blawgers: Curious what you think about the end... (everyone else, too)]

An interesting development in the NYC transit strike, which was more fully discussed earlier...
A judge Wednesday ordered leaders of New York's striking transit union brought before him and threatened to jail them for criminal contempt as millions of commuters trudged through Day 2 of the bus and subway walkout.


State Justice Theodore Jones directed attorneys from the TWU to bring union local president Roger Toussaint and other top officials before the court on Thursday. He said there was a "distinct possibility" he would send them to jail for refusing to end the strike against the nation's largest transit system.
It would be interesting to see the reactions to this: I wonder if they will be more inclined to strike a deal when they're threatened with jail time. I'm already disappointed with the MTA, which gave in on a couple of major issues.
In its last offer before negotiations broke down, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had proposed maintaining a retirement age of 55 but increasing what new hires contribute to the pension plan. It would require new employees to pay 6 percent of their wages for their first 10 years, rather than the current 2 percent. Union officials said that such a change was unacceptable.
I think the retirement age of 55 is absolutely ridiculous, but there's little to do about it now. What is even more interesting is the latest possibility the city raised:
Turning up the pressure even further on the union, the city asked the judge to issue a back-to-work order. If the judge issues the order and the workers ignore it, the city could ask for fines against rank-and-file members — a punishment that goes beyond the two days' pay they are losing for every day on strike under the no-walkout law.

The fines would be at the discretion of the judge, and most likely would range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars.
I am still, and possibly even more strongly, of the opinion that the city should go after the union for everything they've got, which they seem to be well on the way to doing:
On Tuesday, the judge imposed a huge fine against the TWU — $1 million for each day of the strike. The union's lawyer said the fine could deplete the union's treasury in the matter of days, and the union vowed to appeal.
Good. Now, I'd be even more interested in reading whether businesses can sue the union for lost revenue. Think about it this way: This strike is illegal, beyond any doubt. Businesses are losing gobs of money - $400 million a day by most estimates. Assuming a business can prove the strike affected them, would that be enough to collect from the unions?

And wouldn't that be really interesting to see?

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  1. Personally, I think sending the leaders to jail would do it... If I were the judge, I would freeze the union accounts altogether for the time being.

    I also agree with your point on going after them for everything they got... but from what I understood from your debate in DovBear's blog, I don't think private lawsuits are possible yet. Which is a shame! I wouldn't compromise with them on any point. I think that's what Giuliani would have done as well, but I doubt anyone else is capable of doing the same right now... *Sigh*

  2. Wow, first time I was ever called a blawger. Well I hope you were referring to me.

    Apparently there has been some talk about submitting the pension issue to binding arbitration. Interestingly, if the TWU is correct, the MTA, in mandating the pension recommendation (I believe only Albany has the right ot change the pension, the union and the MTA give "recommendations" or some weird system like that) is breaking the law too.

    Fines are quickly going to become problematic. The TWU has approximately $3.6m in assets. If they are forced to pay the fines, those assets will be wiped out by the end of the week. After that, who cares how much they're fined?

    Likewise fining employees. A week's pay is painful, but if the strike continued for 2-3 weeks, does anyone expect the workers to forfeit a month's pay? How will they pay rent or buy food? Employee fines also lose their impact as time goes on.

    The officers of the union have more money, and fines will have meaningful imnpact for a longer period of time.

    Jail would also impact them. Hurts their ego, etc. But its hard to negotiate from behind iron bars.

  3. Irina - Why aren't lawsuits possible? I missed that part, I think...

    I'm not sure what freezing their assets would do. Plus, the picketers are already freezing their own assets. :)

    Romach - You're definitely part of the group I was looking for. :)

    What's wrong with fining them for more than they have? They'll pay it off over time: And workers will realize that their union is not really concerned about them.

    I sincerely hope that the fines are not waived as part of a deal - that would make the whole threat worthless.

    Fining employees is smart: It shows them just how much they're losing by trying to be greedy. Perhaps the lesson will hit home this way.

    But I'm really curious what you think about suing the union if you're a business that lost money the last couple days. Think it has a shot?

  4. Don't get me wrong, I think private lawsuits are a great idea. But I'm not sure how many of them would actually be allowed to proceed, given the magnitude of the situations. Fines alone would (and should!)bankrupt of the union. I just don't see what damages the business would get out of a union with no money.