Tuesday, December 20, 2005
In A New York Minute
For this evening’s post I must vent about the subway strike in New York City. All politics is local as Tip O’Neill used to say and for the moment this issue is more important to me than Iraq, the Supreme Court, domestic surveillance and just about anything else you can think of.
As a New Yorker I feel like a child of two divorcing parents who both cheat and drink too much. Both the MTA and the Transit Workers Union are reprehensible. The culture of MTA’s management is a reflection of Governor George Pataki’s stewardship. Governor Pataki has operated very much in the President Bush mold: packing the MTA with corrupt cronies who have disgracefully mismanaged their finances and profited obscenely at the expense of all New Yorkers. For years any attempt to get a true accounting of what is really going on has been impossible. Consequently our subway fares continued to increase with no tangible upgrades in service. Now we learn there is a billion dollar surplus they were hiding! I don’t trust MTA’s management and truly believe they want the surplus for their own greedy hands rather than reaching an equitable solution with the union.
Nonetheless, the more I learn about the points of contention I can’t really sympathize with the union. Typically I am pro-labor as many liberals are. However, this union is not operating in the real world. A transit union worker is striking so he can retire on a lucrative pension in his fifties but not contribute a nickel to this pension? Excuse me but what planet are they living on? Most of us in today’s global economy don’t even have pensions. The best many can hope for is a 401K that their employer contributes nothing and hopefully isn’t raided by some corrupt CEO such as “Kenny Boy” Lay.
While the Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson cynically cloak themselves as the voices of working people during this strike, it is low wage employees who are hurt more than anyone else. We have people who survive paycheck to paycheck in this city that either can’t get to work or must utilize more expensive alternatives they can’t afford. My sympathy is for people like that, not the union. What about the poor woman in her forties with kids to support and no pension? She’s has to wake up three hours earlier and walk across the Brooklyn Bridge in late December. She’s not earning anything close to a transit worker in this city and her finances are severely damaged by this strike. How come Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson don’t stand with those people instead?
As always we New Yorkers are far more civil and cooperative with each other than we’re given credit for. That was true on 9/11. It happened during the blackout in August 2003. Today New Yorkers were helpful and patient during a day of horrible turbulence and inconvenience. It was gratifying to bond with my fellow Brooklynites as we collectively braved the December chill and treked across the Manhattan Bridge. We deserve better than Governor George Pataki’s cronies at the MTA and transit workers who don’t appreciate how well off they truly are.