Thursday, January 26, 2006

A lesson in Labor tactics (or why we may have another TWU strike)

Coverage of the MTA's proposal here, coutesy Steven Greenhouse and Sewell Chan.

I'm still not 100 percent sure why 11,000 transit workers rejected the contract. I know the health insurance contribution was not something people were not happy about, but the contract, on a whole, was not bad. Some think (and I'm one) that one of the reasons this deal got defeated was the horrible press coverage, the newspapers telling the world that Roger Toussaint was weak and the deal had very little differences from the contract offered before the strike deadline. Except, as I've talked about before, that's not so.

So, to force the union into binding arbitration, the MTA has gone regressive. They've added a whole bunch of things to their new package guaranteed to make the negotiations MORE contentious (who knew that was possible), including the return of the pension contribution provision, dropping the pension refund, and (my personal favorite) THE EXPANSION OF ONE-PERSON TRAIN OPERATIONS.

I explained this to some friends over the weekend. Binding arbitration is kinda like an argument... Momma K always said that "the truth is somewhere between the two stories." Generally, an arbitrator will look at the positions of the two parties, and, basically, split the difference. Certainly there's a lot more to it than that, but more often than not, that is the general MO. Now here, as my advisor in college would say, is where it gets interesting. Because the arbitrator will often be looking at the last two offers as a starting point... so what this does, is encourage bad faith barganing. If you know an arbitrator is going to come into play, why weaken your position? Why try to make concessions? It encourages stonewalling.

And this, my friends, is part of the plan of the MTA. And of the dissidents of the TWU. See, there are some people in the TWU who have issues with Roger Toussaint. For the MTA, they have a much better shot going to the Public Employees Relations Board (PERB), a board stuffed with 12 years of Back Door George palookas for binding arbitration. For those who would oust Roger Toussaint, they've succeeded in voting down a big victory for him, and have put him in an even more difficult place, with the eventual goal of taking over the leadership of TWU. I think it's pretty wack, really.

But I've also got some tough words for everyone out there, dear readers. This MTA offer is emblematic of the tactics they've used in the last 3 years. Either they're too arrogant or too stupid to realize this union might still go out. And they'd rather blindly push forward with complete disregard for their workers and for us. 11,000 people voted against the last contract, you think they'll take a step backwards lying down?

Further, I need people to hear this: this is an important battle for working class living in New York City. These are hardworking people that make our city go, at their own peril. And if they have a benefits package that you want, and you believe in your hearts that everyone should have, your response SHOULD NOT BE "well, i have to pay xyz, so why should they be different?"

We need to be working towards a society where all of us have full free health care and pension, not looking down upon people who might have it a little better than us in some ways. Saying "I don't have xyz" is not a reason the members of Local 100 shouldn't have it. It's a reason to figure out how to get you xyz.


Blogger sched1/david. said...

amen. a great post.

and sewell chan = HCHS class of '94! and a nice guy.

10:52 AM  

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