Thursday, December 15, 2005


Tomorrow many New Yorkers might wake up to a nightmare. If the transit workers strike, subways and buses won't run. Despite it being Friday, which means fewer will go to work, tens of thousands will still trek into the city for work, shopping, and final exams.

It is illegal for public employees to strike. CWY raises a valid point; when private employees strike, the only ones impacted are the store and the employees. Yes, the economy too, but that's a very attenuated impact. When public workers strike, when buses and subways don't run, if police and firefighters stay home, if your garbage isn't picked up or teachers don't show up, everyone is affected.

The NYTimes is running an article outlining some of the demands of the transit workers union, which represents about 40,000 people.

1) Pensions: The union wants to change the retirement age to 50 after 20 years of service. MTA wants it to be 62 after 30 years of service. The pension is equal to half of the retirees pay, which averages $55,000.

2) 8% raise

3) The TWU is prepared to accept a 6% raise if disciplinary actions against employees are decreased by 25%.

The TWU is upset because the MTA has a $1b surplus, and the union claims the MTA's proposal barely keeps up with inflation (another way of saying that it more than keeps up with inflation). They claim their demands would cost only $550m a year.

Therein lies the logical disconnect. Surpluses are not guaranteed, indeed, by 2008 the MTA expects to be operating a huge deficit. Saying that now there is a surplus, and therefore give us a raise, money for which must be found *every year* isn't logical. Its an argument, but not a strong one.

I hope they don't strike. If they do, the union is subject to $1m daily fines, and each striking member would be fined $25k per day. The fines double daily. So after a 2 day strike, the average TWU worker would need to forfeit his salary for the entire year. Exactly why the fines will be dismissed when the strike is resolved.