Sunday, December 25, 2005

Professor Justice: Fire & Hire

[Previously on NYC Transit Strike: Intro, Economics, Sue Them, Selfish, Pensions, Lawsuit.]

Previously by Prof. Justice: Holiday Correctness, Terminate Tookie.

Fire & Hire

Hi all, Professor Justice here. Thanks to Ezzie and the rest of you, the TWU strike and accompanying debate appears to have been exhausted. There is, however, a rather dreary remnant which will linger for quite some time that I wish to share with you. First and foremost, who and what is Roger Toussaint? He is an uneducated thug who was expelled from school in his native Trinidad for writing slogans on the walls. Then, after being hired by the MTA, who apparently enjoy paying uneducated thugs well, he was fired in 1998 for doing union business on MTA time. His claim to fame was that he successfully sued the MTA because they had spent ten thousand dollars investigating him. This somehow made him a hero by the rank and file. Indeed, a member of his own executive board dubbed him “a hero throughout the local as someone who was able to fight back...”

The point here is that Toussaint isn’t just another loudmouth radical; he is a criminal who, like members of an organized crime family, believe in intimidation and extortion as a way of conducting business. And it is worse for the rank and file who disagree with their party line. Even the MTA instructed employees who wanted to cross the picket lines not to do so because they “couldn’t guarantee their safety.” Excuse me? Unions and their brash, arrogant entitlement attitude have now been reinvigorated and solidified. Just watch what will happen when the next teacher, police and fire contracts expire. No, they may not strike, but they will be vocal - very vocal. And truthfully, who can blame them. Their starting salary is below thirty thousand and we’re paying someone to drive a bus, conduct a train and sell tokens fifty thousand. Now, Capo (organized crime terminology for the captain of a “crew”) Toussaint is demanding that we should work in the private sector until we’re 80 and pay taxes so some 20‑year old driver can retire at 55 and never have to pay a penny for their pension or health insurance. But that’s not all. He is also demanding that there be fewer and less severe disciplinary rules. Sure, then there’ll be absolutely no recourse for their rudeness, discourteousness, and nastiness, not to mention their bitterness over having to exert themselves and their acting as though they’re doing us a favor when we ask them for assistance.

If this sounds as liberalism at its best, that’s because it is. Unions have effectively institutionalized dumbness, laziness and rudeness without any accountability for lack of productivity. And don’t forget their overwhelming sense of a wide array of entitlements. Moreover, they never have to bear the consequences for their bullying tactics when others happen to disagree with them, because to them, there is no rule of law other than their own. Where do you think this process starts? Our academic institutions of higher and “enlightened” learning. This past semester at NYU, graduate students - that’s right, graduate students - went on strike. Hundreds of doctoral and master’s students who serve as teaching assistants refused to grade papers and exams, lead discussion sections or teach classes to protest the administration’s refusal to negotiate another contract with the UAW (United Auto Workers). And how did NYU’s president, John Sexton respond? By warning students that they risked losing their spring semester stipend. Oh boy, now I’m shaking in my shoes.

I know, the Taylor law, which makes it illegal for public employees to strike, is supposed to impose penalties such as being assessed two days pay for every day they strike, “hefty” fines for violating court injunctions prohibiting a strike and possibly jail. Big deal. You saw how well that worked. It took three days of commuting hell and millions of (perhaps a billion) dollars in damage to the city and its business, before a judge even suggested that he might jail Toussaint and his henchman. Oh, that and the loss of the right to collect union dues. Do you know what that means? Well, when I began teaching at a public university, you can imagine my surprise when I received my first pay check and there was a deduction for union dues despite my never having joined. No matter, the Taylor law allows them to deduct it anyway. Why? As a “concession” for not being allowed to strike so that they can spend my money holding rallies for the protest de jure. Some good that concession did.

What most pundits, commentators and editorialists missed here was the one and only thing which would have definitively sent an effective message and set the proper precedent. Their termination. At the first threat of a strike, the Governor and Mayor should have made it explicitly clear that any TWU employee who did strike would be summarily terminated along with the complicity of any union official. It worked when President Reagan did it to the air traffic controllers in 1981 and it would work now. Not many employees would be that willing to risk their fifty thousand plus a year salary, health benefits and pension plan for some degenerate thug who would still be receiving his. But it didn’t happen because most politicians, Pataki and Bloomberg included, aren’t willing to risk the political fallout that would inevitably occur. With more than twenty thousand applications already pending at the MTA, it would have been worth the risk, especially since both are lame ducks.

Not to mention the end of Captain Thugssaint and his ilk.
Professor Justice practices Criminal Law in New York, teaches trial advocacy, and is a Professor of Business Law.
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  1. I used to be a graduate assistant. I don't know the specifics of the NYU case, but if it is typical then they are justified in trying to improve their pay and working conditions. They are essentially used as low-cost labor and in many programs the majority don't make it through their courses of study. And that isn't all of it -- there

    So you might ask, what difference does it make if graduate assistants are paid poorly? Nobody forces them to take the jobs, right? That is absolutely correct, and I have no doubt that when NYU fires these students they will easily be replaced -- with international students, probably mostly from China. Fewer and fewer Americans are interested in graduate education today, so we are training the best and brightest of countries that will be our competitors for the next century.

    Now, many of those international students would prefer to stay here once they have completed their degrees, but immigration restrictions are making that harder and harder. Here we see the cumulative effect of multiple stupid policies. We need to encourage more Americans to pursue advanced degrees and to keep the international students we train, but our policies are having the exact opposite effect. Making graduate school more, rather than less, attractive is one step in the right direction.

  2. Absolutely, Charlie. But the NYU students striking over it doesn't do anything but further the number of problems. (Though I thought the article said they struck over a different union's problems, which didn't make sense to me.) The simple issue is how to encourage more students to pursue advanced degrees, and that's a hard question to answer. Forcing schools to give them greater benefits does nothing but bankrupt the schools or the communities/states/government.