Happy Transit Strike!

I had a nice two-hour commute down to school today, which involved a 35-block walk downtown, and a 7-block cross-town walk (and if you’re a New Yorker, you know that those cross-town blocks are loooong). I live on the Upper East Side. I walked, basically, to the Empire State building. And if you’re familiar with New York — especially New York around the holidays — you know that walking from the UES to 33rd and 6th means walking through the most obnoxiously touristy parts of town, and getting bombarded by throngs of white people walking five across, slowly, wearing their brand-new bright white tennis shoes (because I hear in New York, you walk a lot!) and I Heart NY ski caps, hitting you with their Macys bags and standing on the corner of 34th and 5th going, “Where’s the Empire State building? I don’t see it!” (Look UP, it’s that big thing blocking the sun).

So that was fun. I even saw a guy — and I’m not kidding here — who was not only wearing Uggs with his tapered jeans tucked into them, but was also pulling a rolling backpack. Uggs. Tapered Jeans. Tapered jeans in Uggs. Rolling backpack. No, I did not laugh out loud, but I’ll admit that I smirked. (And to the sensitive person reading this indignantly and going, “Gosh, Jill, maybe he has back problems,” I repeat: Uggs. Tapered jeans.) By the way, I’d push my shit in a stroller before I’d use a rolling backpack.

So from 33rd street it was the PATH train downtown. For once in my life, I am grateful to New Jersey and the fact that their transit system extends into New York (I never thought I’d say that. I still support charging $50 a trip on weekend nights). Of course, the PATH, being a commuter train, doesn’t let you buy just one ticket — you have to buy, like 11 of them. Actually, the minimum is two, but their machines don’t take credit cards and don’t accept $20 bills. They take subway cards, but not the unlimited kind. And naturally, all I had were credit cards, $20s, and an unlimited subway card (what the hell kind of machine doesn’t accept a credit card?). But the nice PATH employees — and they really were quite nice — swiped me in for free.

Two hours after I left my apartment, I was snug and study-ready in the NYU Law Library. Now it’s just a question of how the hell I’m going to get home — walking for an hour in the cold at 11:30 at night just doesn’t sound pleasant, but I’m not sure how I feel about paying for a cab with these new strike-day “zone” rules (they charge $10 to go anywhere within the first zone, and $5 for each zone after that; I live many, many zones away from NYU, and it would probably be a $40 cab ride). Perhaps I will be camping out at the library tonight. Yay!

Look, I’m all for worker’s rights and I’m usually very pro-union, but this seems ridiculous (and not just because I’m personally inconvenienced). This will probably be a very unpopular sentiment in these parts, so someone please correct me if I’m misunderstanding things. But from what I’ve read, the MTA dropped the retirement-age issue, so workers can continue to retire at 55 with full benefits (I don’t know about you, but I plan on working long past 55; so do my parents). But in order to pay for those benefits, they’re asking workers to pay 6% of their salaries into their pension funds for the first 10 years of employment. Six percent is a lot, especially when the current payment is 2% — but if you want an early retirement age, you’ve gotta pay for it somehow, right? MTA employees also make something like $55,000 a year. Now, their jobs are dangerous and trying, and they certainly deserve every penny they earn — but they’re making $55,000 a year with no educational requirements and full retirement benefits at 55. If the city and the MTA was making unreasonable demands, or if they were refusing to compromise, I’d have more sympathy. But they’ve offered workers what seems to me like a pretty good deal (again, I might be wrong, I haven’t really researched this, so correct me if I am). To the credit of MTA employees, they picked a damn good time to strike — when holiday shopping is at its peak, and the tourist season is in full swing. Retailers are going to take a big hit if this continues, and will definitely be pressuring the city to fix it fast.

So we’ll see what happens. Anyone wanna drive me home tonight?

UPDATE: At least I’m not as bad off as some folks. My Starbucks was open, thank GOD!

At least some people will be getting lucky tonight. Lots of people, apparently. And then there’s the memorabilia.

And just in case it wasn’t clear: TWU members are high and mighty communist douchebag dialysis-obstructing murderers. Why can’t we be more like Iran?


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79 comments for “Happy Transit Strike!

  1. zuzu
    December 20, 2005 at 3:34 pm

    Of course, the PATH, being a commuter train, doesn’t let you buy just one ticket — you have to buy, like 11 of them.

    The turnstiles will take dollar bills and change. Walk past the ticket machine and look for the big turnstile.

  2. sam
    December 20, 2005 at 3:40 pm

    I think your right – and I think it’s why the international (the local’s “parent” org) is refusing to support the strike (and the latest I’ve heard is that they’re trying to actually take over the negotiations). While they didn’t expect the local to necessarily accept the MTA’s last offer (which is pretty much what you describe, and in addition, they increased their yearly pay increases), the international was of the opinion that it was at least a good enough offer (and a good faith enough offer) that the local should have stayed at the table and continued to negotiate.

    Apparently a lot of this has to do with competing internal union factions and nothing to do with what is a actually a “fair” or “good” deal for the workers. Toussaint had to present himself as a “strong” leader in order to avoid a challenge by some other factions, and the strike call was a part of that.

    (and I say all of this as someone who is generally much more sympathetic to the union – my uncle was a bus driver for the MTA and certainly has never lived high on the hog).

  3. December 20, 2005 at 3:48 pm

    The turnstiles will take dollar bills and change. Walk past the ticket machine and look for the big turnstile.

    Yeah, that was my problem — I had no dollar bills, and no change. Just $20s, a metro card, and credit cards.

  4. December 20, 2005 at 3:57 pm

    I’m not familiar with the intricacies of the negotiations, or the NY transportation scene, so I really don’t know if the workers have “justice” on their side; it seems like “not”, but I could be wrong there.

    However, they are public employees, and their strike is crippling New York. That’s simply unacceptable. This is an exemplar of why public employees should not have the right to unionize.

  5. steve
    December 20, 2005 at 4:07 pm

    How did you know the jeans were tapered if they were tucked into his uggs?

  6. December 20, 2005 at 4:09 pm

    I believe — though I might be mistaken — that the sticking points are for *future* employees, not current ones. I have heard that money was not the concern, but I couldn’t find details.

    I wonder how the actual employees — the ones getting fined huge amounts of money for the strike — feel. I also wonder why they’re not doing cycling strikes and leaving some things running. I do commend them for (a) not sabotaging stuff and (b) having the courage of their convictions and not just all calling in sick a lot.

  7. December 20, 2005 at 4:19 pm

    Jill, from what I’ve read your description of the TWU’s demands is actually kind of generous. Retirement age was supposedly a major sticking point – the TWU is demanding that it is LOWERED to age 50. The MTA’s original proposal was to raise it to age 62 (which is much closer to what you’d find in, uuuuh – any other employment sector). I hate the MTA, but from what I’ve read, they actually made a great many concessions, and the union made none. The language out of Toussaint was a demand for “respect” which I find hard to tie to the outrageous financial demands they’re actually making.

    I wholeheartedly support unions to protect shit on employees, but the TWU is being greedy. The only public justification they’ve made for the jaw-dropping 8% annual raise is that the MTA has a Billion dollar surplus this year. Greed. Bastards.

    I had a 3 1/2 mile 1 1/2 hour walk from Brooklyn to Midtown (with a ferry ride for fun in the middel) through mostly deserted streets. Much less unpleasant than I expected – in fact, if it were warm I would have enjoyed it. I feel your tourist-navigating pain as I work around the corner from THE TREE at Rockefeller and have to fight them all the time. Good luck getting home. I’m treating myself to a cab, and from my understanding, you’d be looking at $25 to get home. PDF of the map here.

  8. bigb
    December 20, 2005 at 4:20 pm

    Yeah, but—

    I love NY and I love being that tourist who is obnoxious and stupid about where everything is and walking 3-4 wide down the streets of The Big Apple. No other city like it and I hope I get to visit again this spring.

    You did chose to live there,right??

  9. December 20, 2005 at 4:27 pm

    the ones getting fined huge amounts of money for the strike

    The huge fines are what the city is asking for in court. At this point I believe employees are only being fined 2 days pay for each strike day. The union is being fined $1 m per day and may be punished by removing member’s dues payroll deductions and other technical items.

  10. December 20, 2005 at 4:30 pm

    Maybe it’s just me, but two day’s pay per day is not chump change.

  11. December 20, 2005 at 4:34 pm

    You did chose to live there,right??

    Yes, and I love it. I just get annoyed with tourists, which my mom says is mean, since they bring in a lot of money to the city and since they’re generally nice people who like New York and want to check it out. That’s fine. I just wish they would realize that people here have places to go, and there are efficient ways of walking — like don’t walk more than two across, stay to the right so that the people walking in the opposite direction aren’t having to shove past you, etc. And when you’re on the subway, move in to the car so that other people can fit. If you’re standing by the doors, step out and let other people get off instead of standing there and blocking everyone’s way (don’t worry, you’ll get back on).

    Long story short, I wouldn’t mind ’em so much if they would at least try and adopt a little bit to the culture and basic rules of getting around in the city. It’s not so bad where I live now, but when I used to have to walk down Canal street to get to work, uggh… swarms and swarms of ladies from Texas blocking the street, all in the name of Louis Vuitton knock-offs.

    But yes, absent tourists, this city would be sad. We’d have nothing to make fun of, except New Jersey.

  12. December 20, 2005 at 4:35 pm

    I love being that tourist who is obnoxious and stupid about where everything is and walking 3-4 wide down the streets of The Big Apple.

    When you visit a place, you have to adjust to the cultures and customs of that place. Think of NYC sidewalks like roads, and pedestrians like cars.. Walk one or two abreast. Stay to the right (unless you are walking as fast as you can). Do not stop on the sidewalk (you have to pull over to stop). And get out of the way of oncoming traffic.

    You’d think I was obnoxious if I drove down your interstate at 30 mph and didn’t let anyone pass, right?

  13. December 20, 2005 at 4:35 pm

    And thanks for the map, Ryan. For $25, it’s probably worth it.

  14. December 20, 2005 at 4:38 pm

    Maybe it’s just me, but two day’s pay per day is not chump change.

    You must not be getting paid $54,000 per year.

  15. Marksman2000
    December 20, 2005 at 4:42 pm

    By the way, I’d push my shit in a stroller before I’d use a rolling backpack.

    Gawd, that’s saying a lot coming from Jill.

    Although I would pay GOOD money to see a photo of Jill pushing a stroller loaded with law books down the streets of NYC.

    Let’s think about that for a minute in a metaphorical context…

  16. December 20, 2005 at 4:44 pm

    See, Ryan knows the rules! It’s not hard, folks.

  17. December 20, 2005 at 4:46 pm

    Also, my dear friend, roommate’s boyfriend, and loyal blog reader Mr. Rizzo says that I should mention that the Uggs-wearing man wasn’t only wearing tapered jeans and pulling a rolling backpack, but he was wearing tapered, stonewashed jeans. I suspect he was wearing a cotton mock turtleneck underneath his coat. It just fits the whole picture, doesn’t it?

  18. December 20, 2005 at 4:48 pm

    Jill, I hate to upset you further, but stonewash is coming back…

  19. December 20, 2005 at 4:50 pm

    Jill, I hate to upset you further, but stonewash is coming back…

    …you live in Williamsburg, don’t you?

  20. Grace
    December 20, 2005 at 4:54 pm

    Uh, I hate to be the one to stir the proverbial pot, but it is my understanding that $55,000 a year in New York is not a hell of a lot of money. I don’t live in New York, and I may well be mistaken, but that doesn’t seem greedy in a land where a $1,000/month for rent is considered cheap.

    Additionally, I think it’s…uh…interesting to say that the workers are being greedy when they are asking for what many of us claim to support – a living, middle class wage for hard work regardless of background.

    As far as “educational requirements”…I have a master’s degree and am back in grad school working on another, and I couldn’t run a subway car or a city bus. Could you? Skilled labor is all but obliterated in this country, and it hurts to see people I assumed would support it complaining vociferously about it.

  21. December 20, 2005 at 5:02 pm

    Median income in NYC is $38K, so $54K is still a very good salary here. Especially for skilled labor. You cannot extrapolate NYC cost of living to other areas of the country because housing costs are a much larger portion of a person’s disposable income here (generally offset by not normally needing to rely on a car). Housing is a separate issue, and definitely a problem to work out in NYC.

    I don’t disparage the MTA workers or their jobs (I personally think the union is playing politics and being greedy, not the rank and file), but I still say that it’s greedy to ask for MUCH higher wages and MUCH better and cheaper benefits for public servants than are commonly available to the public that pays their salaries.

  22. December 20, 2005 at 5:06 pm

    I gotta root for the union, just ’cause the MTA chief is such a dick. Didn’t anybody see Money Train?

  23. December 20, 2005 at 5:08 pm

    THANK YOU Jill for taking such a reasonable stance on this!!!! Your walk is actually worse than mine–I take a 20-minute hike to the PATH and then it’s home to Hoboken. But it’s true…I can think of MANY workers far more oppressed than the transit workers.

    But what is this about $50 to travel from New Jersey? ;-)

  24. December 20, 2005 at 5:31 pm

    I think you made some valid points. It is a bit nutso to ask for the retirement age to be below 55 – that’s pretty young nowadays. But two days pay is a lot – I make a bit more than they do and I know I would be stressed if I lost two days pay, better yet the several days that are probable. And I am glad that I don’t have to work in a moving vehicle or in a dangerous place all day – we do need them to do their jobs.

  25. December 20, 2005 at 5:40 pm

    But yes, absent tourists, this city would be sad. We’d have nothing to make fun of, except New Jersey.

    ha! you should still use any chance you get to make fun of Jersey, regardless of the tourist population.

    i think the thing about making fun of tourists is just that – it’s kinda fun. it’s a little stress reliever, and way better than letting all that frustration build up until you end up pushing them into oncoming traffic, right?

  26. Jason
    December 20, 2005 at 5:41 pm

    By the way, I’d push my shit in a stroller before I’d use a rolling backpack.

    I quite agree. Those people in law school that carry their books in a roller are so annoying. “Look at me, I’m such a hard-working, busy student, with so much homework that I have to carry every one of my books. They’re SO heavy!” I felt evil for having such contempt for those people. Thanks Jill for letting me know that I’m not the only one.

  27. Jason
    December 20, 2005 at 5:43 pm

    Why do you study in the library if it takes 4 hours a day to commute there? Can’t you find a place near your home? Or study at home?

  28. David Thompson
    December 20, 2005 at 5:50 pm

    MTA employees also make something like $55,000 a year. Now, their jobs are dangerous and trying, and they certainly deserve every penny they earn — but they’re making $55,000 a year with no educational requirements and full retirement benefits at 55.

    $55,000 year in New! York! City! is equivalent to about, what, $8,000 a year in Alabama?

    The unspoken truth about contemporary unionism in the United States is that the level of wages and benefits are not a measure of the employee’s worth to the employer, but a danegeld paid by the employer to forestall large-scale (and therefore costly) disruptions in service. The employer receives a term guarantee against labor actions, and the employees periodically receive a nice boost in their lifestyle. This works well so long as the money is available to support the regular increases in employee compensation. The ugly endgame is achieved when the rate of increase in compensation reaches a pace that exceeds and eventually exhausts the employer’s available resources. At this point, the employer must dramatically scale down both the rate and baseline of compensation or simply go bust. This has been going on in various unionized sectors for a while now, and you can expect to see a LOT more of it in the next few years.

  29. Slim Slow Slider
    December 20, 2005 at 6:07 pm

    i repeat steve’s point – HOW could you tell the jeans were tapered if they were tucked into Uggs???????? I am just dying to know.
    For you NYers, can anyone tell me where in NY is Mt Sinai Hospital and how far from Brooklyn it is? I have friends who work/live there.

  30. December 20, 2005 at 6:15 pm

    What, 2 day’s pay (at 55k/year, that’s ~26/h, so something over 400 dollars a day) is not a lot of money to be losing? Lucky you.

    Whether you agree with the strike or not, I can’t really imagine many people who can afford to be fined two day’s pay — I’d consider it a huge fine.

  31. December 20, 2005 at 6:20 pm

    The ‘making fun of tourists’ thing can be applied to Hawaii as well. Funny how locals love to make fun of the out-of-towners.

  32. December 20, 2005 at 6:29 pm

    Mt. Sinai is on 99th and Madison. Well, it’s longer than that, but that’s kind of Mt. Sinai central. It’s pretty far from Brooklyn. It’d be about 7 miles from Brooklyn Heights (not as the crow flies, but the only way you could actually commute there), which is right across the river. Depending on where in Brooklyn your friends live, it could be much further.

    Jill, if the strike continues, you might want to pop for a pay-per-ride Metrocard, which you could then use on the PATH. You can get those in pretty small denominations with a credit card.

  33. December 20, 2005 at 7:01 pm

    Mt. Sinai is on 99th and Madison.

    God, New Yorkers and their self-centeredness!

    Mt. Sinai is way over in the Middle East somewhere.

    Some people…

  34. randomliberal/Robert
    December 20, 2005 at 7:02 pm

    What exactly is wrong with a rolling backpack?

    I’ll agree that the rest of the guy’s dress was pretty fucking stupid, though.

    As for the strike, I’m going to take a nuanced stance. From what very little I know (basically what I’ve read here), the union is probably in the wrong for striking. MTA appears to have made good faith efforts and concessions, and TWU should have stayed at the negotiating table. However, a fine of 2 days pay per strike day is ridiculous. That’s a rather large chunk for anyone, and should be thrown out by the courts as illegal union-busting. I also strongly disagree with Robert above: All workers should be allowed to unionize and strike, including public employees. Otherwise, employers have all the advantage, and the employees have no negotiating tools.

  35. December 20, 2005 at 7:09 pm

    What Grace said.

    And BTW, it’s all well and good to expect to work longer than 55, but I’d really be curious about the average time an MTA employee gets to collect retirement. In the construction end of the IBEW, electricans generally live to collect two years of pension (we don’t have early retirement; our full-pension retirement is at age 60). Frankly, I think that sucks. Sure, I eat right, don’t smoke, take care of myself….but the hazards of my job, the stuff I’m exposed to on the job, is likely to shorten my life. That’s part of what my higher-than-average pay is supposed to compensate me for; my shortened lifespan. I’m thinking that MTA employees also have a job environment that exposes them to elements likely to shorten their lives. Why is it so wrong to want to collect some retirement before you die? To enjoy some time off and play with your grandchildren before having dirt thrown in your face? People who sit behind a desk for a living have the privilege to assume a long life. Blue collar workers don’t.

  36. December 20, 2005 at 7:15 pm

    And Robert? Public employees have the right to the same freedoms as everyone else, including the right to strike. The only exceptions are those employees whose jobs involve public safety (police, fire, utility workers, etc.). Even on strike, they must perform the jobs necessary to preserve public safety.

    Is it a hassle to walk to work? Sure. But it isn’t going to kill you. Not a public safety matter.

  37. zuzu
    December 20, 2005 at 7:27 pm

    You know, the military allows you to retire after 20 years with full bennies. My ex-BIL retired at 38 from the Navy.

    Sanitation, NYPD and (if I’m not mistaken) FDNY also have 20-year retirement horizons. The retirement age for the MTA used to be 50 or so, which is higher than the 38 my ex-BIL retired at, and he didn’t have to pick up dead rats from near the third rail in asbestos-filled tunnels.

    While I’m not entirely sympathetic to the TWU, I’m way the hell less sympathetic to the MTA. Unlike three years ago, the last time a strike was threatened, the MTA has a surplus, a rather large one. Not only that, they poor-mouthed, hiked fares without public hearings, and THEN disclosed that they actually had a surplus. But instead of adding service, they hoarded the surplus and rolled back fares only during the holiday season, and only right before the mayoral election.

    NOW they’re saying they used up their surplus last week, oops, sorry, don’t have any money to raise salaries that we knew were coming up for negotiation for three years.

    Uh, yeah. Great bargaining position, guys.

  38. zuzu
    December 20, 2005 at 7:33 pm

    Oh, and how you can tell they’re tapered pants tucked into the Uggs? No foldover line.

    Plus, if they’re acid-washed, they’re tapered by definition. And other ryan, if you take part in the revival of acid-wash, you should be flogged. I will personally flog you if I see those jeans with zippers on the backs of the ankles so you can get your feet in, topped with denim bows. I wore those the first time.

    I just get annoyed with tourists, which my mom says is mean, since they bring in a lot of money to the city and since they’re generally nice people who like New York and want to check it out.

    Oh, they’re not nice people. They might be polite, but they’re not nice (I spent a few years in the Midwest, and I *know*). A few years ago, I was working in Rock Centre (near the FUCKING TREE), and was out in the Plaza getting lunch when I slipped on the sidewalk and fell. I was even wearing a suit, so I was obviously not a derelict. But did any of the tourists so much as ask me if I was okay? THEY DID NOT. The local homeless guy did. I gave him my sandwich.

  39. John Galt
    December 20, 2005 at 7:53 pm

    Jill says:
    -Look, I’m all for worker’s rights and I’m usually very pro-union, but this seems ridiculous….so someone please correct me if I’m misunderstanding things.-

    No, Jill. You GET it. Alienating the proles was a bad call. Be careful though, you’re standing in a right facing position. That damn contract law will turn you into a critical thinker. (teasing sarcasm)

    And La Lubu? Unfortunately, no “right to strike” exists. Individuals have the right to collectively bargain. Striking is a tactic in the bargaining.

  40. Dianne
    December 20, 2005 at 7:57 pm

    Jill, I can’t get behind you on this one. The MTA admins gave themselves large raises, demanded that transit workers take over new duties without raising their pay, and refused to start negotitations until very late (something like a week before deadline.) I’m not convinced that the union is acting in an entirely rational manner, but given the behavior of the MTA, I’m not suprised that they’re out for blood. I put the primary blame on the MTA admin for this one, not the transit workers. As far as retirement at 55 goes, the last offer I heard was that the current employees could retire at 55 but new hires would retire at 62. So the union is fighting for people who aren’t members yet. This impresses me favorably: they’re actually acting with a little altruism. I don’t plan to retire at 55, but then again I don’t have a job that requires me to spend 8 hours a day in the hel known as the NYC subways, risk my life on the tracks, or be insulted and threatened by random New Yorkers all day. If I did, I’d probably want to retire at 45 or maybe 35.

    (BTW: I live in Harlem and work in Gramercy Park. I’m inconvenienced too.)

  41. December 20, 2005 at 7:59 pm

    Public employees have the right to the same freedoms as everyone else, including the right to strike.

    The law would appear to disagree, what with the fines and the injunctions and all.

    If you’re speaking morally, rather than legally, I would disagree. Public employees do not have the burdens that private sector employees do. Specifically, there is much less concern that the employer will go out of business, leaving the employees suddenly out of a job. There is much more predictability and reliability than is available in the private sector; my employees don’t get a guaranteed 3 percent raise three years running, or what have you; they get whatever the market dictates, which might mean a pay cut.

    The tradeoff for that security is reciprocity – as the employee doesn’t stay up nights wondering if she’ll have a job next week, so the employer can count on the employees to show up for work, and not skite off because they didn’t get some absurd bump in their compensation. This permits a degree of planning and stability that is essential for well-functioning government.

    The union leadership should take a hard look at the progress in automated transit systems in Europe, and should reflect on the wisdom of emphasizing the contingent loyalty of their workers and how easily they can walk off the job at this particular point in history. The train drivers, at least, can be replaced by machines, and without a whole lot of trouble, either.

  42. zuzu
    December 20, 2005 at 8:14 pm

    The law would appear to disagree, what with the fines and the injunctions and all.

    Your point was that they shouldn’t be able to unionize. The Taylor Law prohibits striking by public employee unions.

    BTW, police and fire unions are also subject to the Taylor Law. Should they not be allowed to unionize?

    The union leadership should take a hard look at the progress in automated transit systems in Europe, and should reflect on the wisdom of emphasizing the contingent loyalty of their workers and how easily they can walk off the job at this particular point in history. The train drivers, at least, can be replaced by machines, and without a whole lot of trouble, either.

    Oh, Robert. It’s so obvious you’re not from around here. They do know how easily things can be automated — there was a recent announcement that conductors would be eliminated from a lot of trains, and ticket machines have been supplanting token booths for quite a while now — my subway stop lost its part-time ticket agent at my end of the station a few years ago.

    Of course, the MTA had a surplus before they started doing this, and they still have a surplus, and they haven’t increased services. They also haven’t opened their books, despite transparency laws. They don’t give a shit about that, because people depend on the service.

    I wouldn’t get on a train in the NYC system where the driver had been replaced by a robot. The system is a hundred years old and isn’t wired for that.

  43. December 20, 2005 at 8:22 pm

    Zuzu, the post by La Lubu to which I was responding alleged that the workers had the right to strike. They obviously don’t.

  44. Dianne
    December 20, 2005 at 8:24 pm

    The train drivers, at least, can be replaced by machines, and without a whole lot of trouble, either.

    There’s another problem, apart from those that zuzu mentioned. New Yorkers tend to be…pushy. People hold open the train doors, trying to squeeze on. And the trains can’t go until the doors close. So without conductors to yell at people to let the doors close, I don’t think the trains would ever go anywhere.

  45. zuzu
    December 20, 2005 at 8:35 pm

    And just the other day, I was on a train where the conductor announced that he was aware that there was a rather malodorous individual in one of the cars, so he was going to hold the doors open a few seconds longer in case anyone wanted to change cars.

    Try getting a machine to do that.

  46. JennaJ
    December 20, 2005 at 9:29 pm

    The unspoken truth about contemporary unionism in the United States is that the level of wages and benefits are not a measure of the employee’s worth to the employer

    Okay. I think that’s hardly a secret, considering it’s the fairly well known truth of American capitalism, ie the wage system. When has anyone’s wages ever been based on their level of benefit to the employer, rather than assigning some arbitrary hourly wage that’s a tiny fraction of the amount the employee is contributing to the enterprise and which represents nothing more than the lowest amount that the employer can get away with paying? Hey, if you’re getting paid the random amount of $5.25/hr and you manage to generate taht much revenue in the first five seconds of that hour, keep working to your upmost, productivity is king the person who contributes teh most while receiving the least renumeration wins and will be replaced by a machine last, as a special reward!

  47. JennaJ
    December 20, 2005 at 9:49 pm

    La Luba, amen. Public sector workers work as hard as anyone under really crappy and physically taxing conditions and I don’t begrudge them anything they can get. I’ve never heard of anything more insane than demanding that workers PAY THE CITY an extra day’s wage for every day they’re on strike. If that’s remotely legal, then our laws are screwed up beyond repair. How anyone can think that’s reasonable is beyond me, while it’s still legal to pay an employee less than a living wagem, at least explicit indentured servitude was outlawed quite a while back as I recall. It fits with the ethos of our times, though, Hey, garbage collectors, fire fighters, public school teachers, and everybody who does the hardest and most indespensible work in our society, we need you, so you OWE us! You have to stay on the job and do what we need you to do to make our lives easier, no matter how badly you’re screwed by us, we don’t owe you a damn thing, or you’re selfish!

    Also, there are more issues than retirement age, like dignity. They’ve instituted new regulations where some of the workers have to come out of the booths to answer questions, which is dangerous, there are issues with bathroom facilities, extreme temperatures, noise levels, exposeure to filth and toxins, etc. I work in the private sector, and it really angers me that there’s an attempt by conservatives who don’t actually give a damn about anyone who works for a living to pit private sector and public sector employees against each other. Yes, our situation in the private sector is getting worse all the damn time, but that’s sure as hell not the fault of public sector workers, and dragging them down to our level so they also receive no benefits and barely get paid helps us how, exactly? Not at all, and actually it’s going to end up screwing us even more in the long run. Resenting them won’t improve our lot one bit.

  48. David Thompson
    December 20, 2005 at 10:03 pm

    which represents nothing more than the lowest amount that the employer can get away with paying

    Think about the full implications of the bolded portion, and come back when you comprehend it and can engage in a mature discussion.

  49. December 20, 2005 at 10:07 pm

    I don’t understand how any leftie could not support a strike – unless I guess if there was evidence that the union was working against the wishes of its members (and you’d be a real fool to try and take people out on strike who didn’t want to go).

    The point of unionism is that workers get a democratic say in their workplace. It doesn’t matter whether I agree or disagree with demands (and I’m totally with the subway workers) – I don’t work there, it’s not up to me, it’s up to them.

  50. zuzu
    December 20, 2005 at 10:11 pm

    I’ve never heard of anything more insane than demanding that workers PAY THE CITY an extra day’s wage for every day they’re on strike. If that’s remotely legal, then our laws are screwed up beyond repair.

    I don’t think so. Public workers like transit, police, fire, etc., have a huge weapon in their hands with a strike because they can paralyze a city of 8 million people. Workers in the private sector don’t have that kind of power.

    The Taylor Laws haven’t stopped public-employee strikes, but they have made sure that those strikes are well-deployed. In this case, the union leaders made the decision that being jailed or fined was worth the stand they were going to make. I don’t think it would have been a good tactic three years ago, when the city was in budget crisis. Now, you had an MTA that was waving around its surplus before claiming it couldn’t pay its workers more and demanding higher retirement age.

  51. December 20, 2005 at 10:11 pm

    es, our situation in the private sector is getting worse all the damn time, but that’s sure as hell not the fault of public sector workers, and dragging them down to our level so they also receive no benefits and barely get paid helps us how, exactly?

    See this is the thing that I believe Jill was trying to address. I’m not clear if you’re talking about transit workers here or just low-wage workers in general, but how is contributing 1%-6% of your salary to benefits (the proposal of the MTA) “receiving no benefits?” How is $50k (the current salary) “barely getting paid?” Since when do transit workers receive barely a living wage? Even if $50k is not a lot to live on in NYC, the average person here makes less than that, so it’s not as if transit workers are all living in abject poverty. And actually, the private sector is worse about these things, charging almost 30% for benefits and paying lower starting salaries ($25-30k usually).

    You have a point about the minimum wage being too low, but if you’re under the impression that transit workers work minimum wage and are about to lose their benefits (are you? I’m not sure from your post so please correct me if so), then you’ve been given some misinformation somewhere along the line.

    I do agree that the way the workers are treated on the job and the crap they have to take not only from NY’ers but also from their bosses leave a lot to be desired. But also at issue is that the strike does not inconvenience the economically privileged as much as it does the OTHER working poor in the city. How does Mike Bloomberg get to work? Limo. How are some $100k-plus investment bankers getting to work? Taxi, or driving. But how do deli workers and dishwashers get to work? Subway or foot, and a cab could easily be a full day’s salary (or more) for them.

    So to claim that one is for the working class, but then support ONLY the transit workers while thinking of no one else, is shortsighted. Transit workers are not the only hardworking people in the city, or the only ones supporting families, or the only ones who are working class. And the idea that all white-collar workers are wealthy and have everything rosy and relaxed at their jobs is also grossly inaccurate (not implying that JennaJ said this, but just a general comment).

  52. John Galt
    December 20, 2005 at 10:20 pm

    JennaJ, you mention employees receiving a living wage.

    How much would that be?

    Specifically, for NYC transit workers, what is a living wage?

    For example, if their salary is $50,000/yr, that’s about $26/hour for a 40 hour week.

    What should it be?

  53. December 20, 2005 at 10:45 pm

    John–Exactly, that was my point. If $50k is not considered a living wage for New York anymore, then there are a lot of people we’d need to advocate for. First-year sales reps (before commission), new teachers, social workers, cops, and a whole slew of other people make about $25-30k to start with. And yes it is low, but people talk as though bluecollar = low salary and whitecollar = high salary, which just isn’t true, especially at the entry level.

    I know, I know….the physical demands of sales labor and teaching aren’t the same. But if we’re arguing living wage, not stress level of the work, then a wage is a wage and the cost of food is the cost of food. Thus if $50k is unethical pay for transit workers, then if people really support working folk, then it’s unethical pay for everyone.

    I’d be interested for Jenna to come back and comment on this! still around?

  54. John Galt
    December 20, 2005 at 10:49 pm

    Right. So how much should the living wage be for NYC?

  55. December 20, 2005 at 11:08 pm

    John: Right. So how much should the living wage be for NYC?

    Hmm. well, I’m probably not the one to ask, since I’m one of those who went to New Jersey to escape the Manhattan rent. ;-)

    Are you referring to federal minimum wage, or a practical/mathematical living wage commensurate to the cost of middle-class living? I definitely think the min wage should be much more than the $5.00 an hour it is now, but how high is debatable because there are economic consequences to raising wages too high. e.g., you raise it, and people take home more money, but then the company spends more and “can’t afford” to do as much hiring.

    Interestingly, Wisconsin’s min wage is higher than NYC’s, $7.50/hour. And you can live on a smaller salary in Wisconsin, hence all the married 21-year-old parents who own houses there..

    As far as how much is “enough to live on” in NY from a middle class perspective, that’s a tough one. if you consider that most apartments with plenty of room for a family of 4 go for at least $2k/month, that’s $24k/year. If rent should be a third of your income or less, then in that case it would seem that $75k is needed in order to raise a family comfortably. Day care is outrageously expensive too, but if you trade that off by being a stay at home mom, then your husband better make $75k–even harder for one person to do.

    This is why so many people with kids move to Jersey, or at least the outer boroughs. We plan to move to a place in Jersey when we have kids, where a 1.5-br apartment goes for the price of a Manhattan studio. It goes to show that the cost of living in Manhattan is getting ridiculous, and if it doesn’t collapse in on itself first, then in 20 years it will be a city only for the very rich.

    Jenna may therefore be right that $50k isn’t much to live on. It’s just that the salaries in NYC are anything but commensurate with the cost of living, and it’s not just blue collar workers who face that problem.

  56. December 20, 2005 at 11:10 pm

    I should add that if you’re single or live with a roommate, or if you’re married with no kids and a working spouse, you can probably live on much less.

  57. John Galt
    December 20, 2005 at 11:27 pm

    Marian, you’re right and I think you and I are on the same page.

    The point I was making is that the term “living wage” gets tossed around without any definition to how much that should be.

    No one supports an unliving wage, so let’s define it.

    So my question still stand to anyone who wants to tackle it:
    How much should the living wage be for NYC?

    Where’s Jill when she’s needed? (Come On, Jill, you’re not really studying!)

    BTW, Marian, start your blog back up.

  58. Sally
    December 20, 2005 at 11:35 pm

    Transit strikes suck because they invariably hit the working poor much harder than other people. The pain is probably more evenly spread in New York than elsewhere, but poor people are still going to suffer a whole lot more than anyone else. Having said that, I do believe that all workers have a moral, if not a legal right to strike, and it’s hard to understand why the transit authority is asking workers to triple their pension contributions at a time when there’s a surplus. (And, for what it’s worth, giving in on the pension plan, which according to the NYT was the sticking point, would have cost the MTA significantly less than the strike will.)

  59. December 21, 2005 at 6:30 am

    It’s probably harder to calculate what a “living wage” might be in NYC than in some other cities because the cost of housing varies so widely. $50-55k/year would certainly not allow one to live in Manhattan or in more “desirable” (i.e., relatively safe and easy to commute from) areas of other boroughs, especially with a family (need for separate bedroom), at least at market rates. I have 3 graduate degrees and most years I don’t net as much as a transit worker–but I also don’t work under smelly, dangerous, and humiliating conditions, and we’ve lived here a long time so housing is more reasonable.

    I don’t think it’s helpful to say that because the transit workers earn more than some other city employees, or other workers in general, that their demands are unreasonable. The middle class is disappearing here; there are the rich, who own and run businesses, and the increasingly (due to inflation and unemployment) poor. Most of us working people in NYC–both professionals and laborers–are aware that we are a paycheck or two, or a catastrophic illness, away from bankruptcy and/or homelessness. IMO, we need to raise the bar for all working people, rather than dismiss the union’s demands because other workers aren’t doing that well.

    I’ve lived in NY all my life, but having been a disoriented tourist in countries where my NY black was definitely not in line with the native couture, it’s hard for me to make judgments about the behavior and garb of well-intentioned visitors here.

    I’d say more but it’s time to gear up to walk over the bkln bridge. Good luck today, Jill, and everyone else with a difficult commute.

  60. December 21, 2005 at 8:29 am

    Robert, you’re right—I was speaking to the moral right of public sector employees to strike. I am in agreement with the perspective of life-safety trumping the right to strike (and this even extends to overtime, folks—linemen in my Local withheld their overtime during tough bargaining talks several years ago, but when a life-safety overtime call came in, like one of the hospitals losing a transformer—they went in. The utility thrives on overtime a helluva lot more than the linemen do—they don’t want to hire more linemen!). But that’s it. I think it ought to be perfectly legal for the transit employees to withhold their labor. Ultimately, workers really don’t have much to bargain with, even during good times.

    With that said, I do think strikes are a poor tactic in this day and age. They worked better before the yuppie values (you are what you own, screw your neighbor, ethics—what ethics?!) took over. Strikes used to be respected by other unions and the folks at large. Times have changed. I’m old school—I won’t cross a picket line. But I still think we (unionists) have a lot of work ahead of us to (re)build that community. And yeah—part of that is our own damn fault. When the union movement got away from organizing the unorganized, it was all downhill from there.

    The thing with the strike is—-most of the people walking aren’t going to be thinking about the greed of the MTA and how they gave themselves raises. They’re going to be thinking about how long their walk is and how much it sucks to be out in the cold that long. That sense of solidarity is long gone, and the MTA is aware of that.

    Robert—I don’t know where you live, but here in Illinois, public sector workers don’t have any more job security than private sector. The economic situation has devastated the tax base here, and without a tax base, there go the jobs. Scads of public employees from the State level on down have been laid off. My daughter’s school district has been hit especially hard—no school librarians (at the elementary level), significantly fewer teachers, etc. What the public sector has that most of the private sector doesn’t, is unions. That’s a big benefit, especially to women and others of color, who (without union protection) almost always get paid significantly less than white men of the same experience and education.

    Naah….not much job security anywhere these days.

  61. December 21, 2005 at 9:23 am

    I can;t get over how quickly middle class America will sell itself out based on propaganda and sloganeering.
    Billionaires are taking multi-million$ tax cuts from Bush, that you and your kids will be paying for, but when a union balks at being forced to take less from the corp. that runs it, many Americans begin moaning.
    If you are middle-class, or want to be:
    THIS IS YOUR FIGHT!

    So start educating yourself.
    Be aware that, while you NEVER hear it from the MSM, the TWU is on strike NOT for personal greed. They had everything they wanted PRIOR to the MTA/Pataki/Kalikow’s decision to FORCE a strike.
    This is a political lock out, caused by Pataki’s desire to look strong to wary Conservatives that aren’t enamored of Pataki’s run for the Presidency.
    And it’s helped by bad blood between the TWU and the known-to-be-crooked International Union.
    Go here and here.
    In today’s NY Times they publish, FOR THE FIRST TIME, the truth behind the strike.
    And, it turns out that, at the very last minute, Kalikow tried to begin the process pf screwing future workers. (Same-same Bush with Social Security, Education and Medicaid.)
    As the Conservatives strategy gels, you should see that by bypassing today’s voters they hope to put feudalism back into play. (We’ll only change SS for your kids, you’ll still get checks when you retire. THEY WON’T, as we’ll gamble on stocks and/or lend money to favorite corporate donors, with their retirement funds.)
    I’d recommend reading both Tom Robbins and Wayne Barret in the Village Voice, but that might seem to be a bit too left leaning in the discussion. So, read the NY Times article “In Final Hours, M.T.A. Took a Big Risk on Pensions” and you’ll find that, just like WMD and domestic spying, there’s more you DON’T find out in today’s mainstream media than you do.

    ,Please forgive me if I come off strident here. It’s just that days of reading posts on the ‘Net, from people who usually impress me with their displays of intelligence AND compassion when it comes to other Liberal causes suddenly turn ugly because they had to walk to work, or stay home, because of a battle over principle, I get upset.
    And when I see these folks placing the blame on the wrong side of the battle, and siding with those who, in the end, will harm most of us, I get strident.
    I’ve written on this at Blue Collar Politics, and will again.
    But I’m starting to see that the middle-class is not only ignoring the flesh eating corporate bacteria that is intent on doing away with it, but, like in the transit strike, the middle-class is actually rooting for the bacteria!

    Jack Ballinger
    E-Mail = Jack.Ballinger@gmail.com
    Blue Collar blog: http://bluecollarpolitics.com

  62. December 21, 2005 at 9:40 am

    BTW, Marian, start your blog back up.

    *sigh* damn writer’s block. New Year’s resolution, mmkay? :-)

  63. December 21, 2005 at 9:44 am

    BTW, I noticed that they re-allowed traffic on Park Avenue (I’m at 52nd St.). this makes the walk more congested. Is there a reason why they didn’t keep up the restriction from yesterday?

  64. December 21, 2005 at 10:21 am

    “Oh, they’re not nice people. They might be polite, but they’re not nice (I spent a few years in the Midwest, and I *know*).”

    As a Midwesterner, I have to defend my “tribe” here. It depends on the crowd when it comes to politeness. I always say that if it comes to being in trouble, give me blue collar folks any day. When I lived in a less than savory area of town and my POS car would get stuck in the snow or ice, I ALWAYS had people rush over to help me get going, and without any expectation of any sort of reward. But when I was cat-sitting in an upper-middle class neighborhood and my car got stuck in a snow drift as I tried pulling out of the driveway, I watched many people pass me right by without even pausing as I vainly attempted to shovel myself out.

    At any rate, I always say there are assholes of every stripe, but there are also saints to be found in the unlikeliest of places. I wouldn’t discount the flyover states so handily.

  65. December 21, 2005 at 11:02 am

    Ehh, jerks are everywhere. Wisconsin is decidedly not asshole-free. Neither are Chicago or Minneapolis. I grew up with my share of bullies in Madison, and ironically when I was working at a job in NY that required me to call all over the country, I had more Midwesterners snap at me than New Yorkers.

    Then again, I’ve had New Yorkers try to beat me up on the subway when I bumped them by accident (no joke). When I go home to Madison, people seem a bit more forgiving of small things, but that might be due to the dearth of crowd stress.

    The stereotype is that New York is the rudest place in the country, but I don’t think rude is limited to one region.

  66. December 21, 2005 at 11:38 am

    I don’t understand how any leftie could not support a strike – unless I guess if there was evidence that the union was working against the wishes of its members (and you’d be a real fool to try and take people out on strike who didn’t want to go).

    Um, critical thought? As a leftie, I think fairness is important. The TWU is just looking for as much money as they can get – and they already have more than the average ny-ers who pay their salary. Yeah yeah yeah the MTA is corrupt and a general ass, but this strike is doing nothing to hurt the MTA (which already has my money for the month) and everything to hurt the city and poor ny-ers who are most vulnerable.

    It’s too easy to play armchair lefty and cheer for unions in all cases, but this case is a union leveraging it’s power for greed – not to protect it’s workers, but to pay them as much as possible. That’s not something I’d support as a leftie, nor from any other position. I’m no Bush “You’re with me or against me” black and white thinker. This strike is all grey issues, and there’s no good guy to “pull for” but all bad guys to bitch and moan about.

  67. December 21, 2005 at 1:12 pm

    One thing seems to be clear from the discussion so far here–that there’s some complex stuff going on, and that assertions along the lines of either “anything the union does is right” or “anything the union does is wrong” don’t really fit in with the reality of the situation (as much as I lean toward the former as a default!).

    I think that Lindsay over at Majikthise has a pretty good (implicit) response to some of what Jill has said about the 6% contribution toward retirement thing here.

    Also, one more comment: Several people are talking as if the TWU is the only group in this situation with the power to keep a strike from happening, when it is more true to say that the combined efforts of the MTA and TWU have caused the strike (i.e. check out Lindsay’s point, linked above, that the MTA put forward the 6% thing at the last minute, as well as put off negotiating at all until recently, etc.).

    Ok, one MORE thing: Feministe still has the best commenting interface around. Love it.

  68. zuzu
    December 21, 2005 at 1:24 pm

    I would just like to say that I got a call from work (I haven’t gone in, since I live 11 miles from the office and know how long it takes to walk home since I did it after the blackout — in daylight, in August). I work for a small firm, where the office manager is the principal’s wife, an arrangement that can be a bit uncomfortable at times. Luckily, she mostly works from home.

    On Monday, she called everyone asking what their contingency plans were. Now, everyone else lives in Manhattan, Jersey or Westchester, so they can all get to the office with relatively little hassle. She started freaking on me that I wouldn’t be coming in, even though I’ve taken work home (not that I’ve actually done much of it…).

    So today, I get a call and the first question is whether I’m going to make it to the Christmas party tomorrow night. Um, yeah. Even if I got to work, I’d be skipping it because I really don’t want to be walking down Flatbush Avenue Extension at midnight because I had to go to your stinkin’ party. Cripes! Just reschedule it!

    The second question was whether I had enough work.

  69. December 21, 2005 at 4:28 pm

    Several people are talking as if the TWU is the only group in this situation with the power to keep a strike from happening, when it is more true to say that the combined efforts of the MTA and TWU have caused the strike (i.e. check out Lindsay’s point, linked above, that the MTA put forward the 6% thing at the last minute, as well as put off negotiating at all until recently, etc.).

    Hello rhetoric. Actually the union is the only group who could vote to strike. Saying the MTA presented a crappy offer is one thing. They did not “force” a strike – and the TWU is not being treated so badly that they needed to strike and screw over the whole city.

  70. AB
    December 21, 2005 at 4:47 pm

    Uh, and I really don’t think it’s a crappy offer. The union seems to be engaging in Repub-style wishful thinking: the pension is already $450 million underfunded, and with life expectancy consistently rising (as well as health care costs, but I haven’t seen anywhere the retiree health benefits are covered, so let’s assume not) while the retirement age is stuck at 55. That money has to come from somewhere.

    Saying the MTA was shitty in springing it on the union at the last minute: well, that’s fair. But I have yet to read an argument that convinces me that the 6% contribution is at all unreasonable. (And if anyone cites that the contribution uptick will “only” save $20 million over 3 years, my poor little math-major head will explode. All over my monitor.)

  71. zuzu
    December 21, 2005 at 10:30 pm

    Saying the MTA was shitty in springing it on the union at the last minute: well, that’s fair.

    If I’m not mistaken, they have a duty to and are required by law to negotiate in good faith; if they’re taking a hard line and then springing something on the union at the last minute, they’re not negotiating in good faith.

  72. December 22, 2005 at 6:58 am

    But Ryan wages under capitalism aren’t about ‘fairness’ they’re about paying people the absolute minimum you can. When organised industries get more, that helps the rest of us, it doesn’t harm us.

    We don’t work on that worksite, we don’t get a say. Only workers on the job can decide what they’re prepared to fight for. It’s like an abortion, if you actually believe in women’s right to choose you don’t get a say over the choice she makes. If you actually believe in workers right to organise you don’t get a say in when and how they fight. You want a say, go join the appropriate local.

  73. AB
    December 22, 2005 at 10:58 am

    zuzu, I meant that that’s a fair critique of the MTA (whereas I don’t think asking for a 6% contribution level is a fair thing to critique the MTA over).

    And reddecca–one could definitely argue that the people of NY have every right to have a say. After all, it’s NY taxpayers that “own” the system (in the sense that their taxes subsidize the service and they have some say in who runs it, via voting), and if the pension needs to be bailed out due to underfunding in 20 years, it’s coming out of the pockets or being cut out of the social service programs serving New Yorkers. (Those outside NY, you have a point. It’s none of our business, I suppose. Mea culpa.)

  74. December 22, 2005 at 12:12 pm

    other ryan–
    hello strawperson argument?

    other ryan said:

    Actually the union is the only group who could vote to strike

    But: I didn’t say that the MTA could vote to strike.

    other ryan said:

    They [the MTA] did not “force” a strike

    But: I didn’t say that the MTA forced a strike. What I said was (to my mind) something quite different:

    Several people are talking as if the TWU is the only group in this situation with the power to keep a strike from happening, when it is more true to say that the combined efforts of the MTA and TWU have caused the strike (i.e. check out Lindsay’s point, linked above, that the MTA put forward the 6% thing at the last minute, as well as put off negotiating at all until recently, etc.).

    Sure, the TWU are the only ones who can vote to strike, but they’re not the only ones who can prevent a strike. It takes at least two groups to cause a strike (note, I didn’t say, “to vote for a strike”), just as it takes more than one group to avoid a strike.

    To put things in your own terms, my point would be this: The MTA put forward an offer, crappy or not, and just because the TWU could have accepted that offer but didn’t doesn’t mean that the TWU is wholly responsible. Some commenters have spoken as if the TWU is wholly responsible, which I was objecting to.

    This is the thing: We can argue over whether or not the MTA gave a crappy offer (I think Lindsay makes a good case for this, as I linked to before), we can argue whether or not the TWU could have picked some other options besides striking in winter, etc. These are all points up for debate. What I think should be tabled is the idea that either the TWU or the MTA is wholly responsible for the strike. That’s the sort of oversimplification that I think ought to be resisted, when possible. (It also, if the comments on this blog are any indication, is the sort of view that people who have to walk to work in the cold weather tend to latch onto, with some notable exceptions–which, y’know, is sort of understandable.)

    As I stated above, this stuff is actually pretty causally complex, seems to me, and to ignore those complexities seems disingenuous, to me.

  75. December 22, 2005 at 2:26 pm

    We don’t work on that worksite, we don’t get a say. Only workers on the job can decide what they’re prepared to fight for. It’s like an abortion, if you actually believe in women’s right to choose you don’t get a say over the choice she makes. If you actually believe in workers right to organise you don’t get a say in when and how they fight. You want a say, go join the appropriate local.

    Sure, ok, I’ll buy all this dogma (ok, no, I won’t buy the comparison to abortion) within the bubble of the private sector. A union striking to get better working conditions by hurting their employers, but in this case the TWU hurt me and hudreds (thousands) of other small businesses (or in my case freelance sole-proprieters) and the working poor who lost wages because they didn’t have the means to either live close to work or pay for private transportation.

    What about disabled or older folks who couldn’t physically walk miles to go to work (or wherever their destination)? Emergency rooms all reported upticks in admissions due to the strike. All this is justifiable so the TWU could hold onto their plum benefits? You need to step outside of your idealistic bubble and look at this like the not-black-and-white situation is is (hopefully was). Would you be ok with the police striking? How about nurses? Water company?

    Private sector employees don’t hurt The Man when they strike, they hurt the people.

  76. December 22, 2005 at 2:33 pm

    jeffliveshere,

    Your fine rhetorical examination of causation is facinating in an abstract conversation, and technically I suppose I should concede to your call of a straw man (which, as a pejoritic colloquialism I think is probably not a target of feminist rhetorical reclamation), but you’re implying that the MTA could have conceded more to prevent a strike, which, from the accounts I’ve read is probably not true, unless they caved to all the rediculous demands the TWU made before the strike (like Toussaint saying that the strike was because the MTA would not LOWER the retirement age to 50, which is completely unrealistic for more reasons than I care to detail here).

    I’m repeating myself many times over at this point, but this is not an acedemic paper, this was a real situation, and this stike effected millions of people, which outrages me, as the ends do not justify the means.

  77. December 22, 2005 at 3:34 pm

    other ryan–

    At the risk of hijaking the comments (should we take it outside?):

    I resist the notion that my point is some sort of ‘purely academic’ point or some such, as you seem to think given you pointed out that “this is not an acedemic [sic] paper”. One of the main themes in the discussion about the strike is ‘who is at fault’, and that is inextricably intertwined with the notion of who caused the strike; my point was directly related to figuring out the causes. If you say (repeatedly) that only the TWU could have averted the strike, then, according to my point, above, you’re making a mistake. And I think this is exactly the sort of mistake that any city or corporation (and lots of cities are corporations!) wants you to make. So my point isn’t a purely academic one, as far as I can see. (Further, I don’t really get why you think it is, so more info would be helpful. Do you not like my language? Do you not like my conclusions? My tone?)

    As far as what I am implying, I wasn’t trying to imply only that the MTA could have conceded more to prevent a strike–if that had been the thrust of my point that’s what I would have said. My point is that they’re both responsible, and we should be talking about the degree of blame/praise we ought to be giving each side, rather than foisting it all on either one individually, like you continue to do. I think it’s important in this “real situation” that both parties be held accountable for their mistakes (i.e. I do think it could be fiarly easily argued that the TWU shouldn’t have called for a strike right now, but waited a month or so more and it could be argued that the MTA shouldn’t have foisted the new things in the last hour of negotiations, etc.) Get mad at the union because you have to walk in the cold weather to work, sure, but get mad at the city for its part in making you walk to work in the cold, too.

    Email me if you want to talk about it some more (unless you want the last word on the ol’ public forum):

    jpjesus at speakeasy.net

    ps–I prefer ‘strawperson’ over ‘strawman’ for my own uses, though I know what you mean, I think. I have taught critical thinking courses before, and partly because sexist language permeates philosophy courses in general, I may have a different perspective on the terms than you.

  78. December 22, 2005 at 3:57 pm

    When dialog degrades to the unbearable condescension of pointing out typos, citing academic/professional qualifications and attack quotes, well, it’s obviously over. Nice flourish with the whole “last word” bit. Love that. Maybe I’ll steal it.

  79. December 22, 2005 at 6:49 pm

    Wow. Anything to avoid responding to the content of my comment, I suppose. Unbearable condescension? You’re the one who started the ‘dialogue’ with

    “Hello rhetoric.”

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