Battlepanda: Don't blame the union


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Don't blame the union

I'm sure that if I had to walk across the Brooklyn bridge in NYC in the winter cold, I'd be cursing the strike too. The responsibility for the strike, however, hardly lies completely on the strikers. Majikthise has some good analysis.
Last night I posted about how the MTA precipitated the transit strike by springing an outrageous demand at the last minute. With only a few hours left on the clock, MTA chairman, Peter S. Kalikow demanded that new hires contribute 6% of their pre-tax income to their pension funds during their first decade of service, triple the annual contribution rate of current employees.

The net effect would have been to create a 4% net pay cut for new hires, relative to what they would have gotten if they'd been hired under the old contract.

Old hires would get 3% raise next year, but new hires would effectively suffer a 4% pay cut. Discrepancies like that undermine solidarity within unions, and the MTA knows it

The MTA's proposed demand would only save the company $20 million over three years, by shifting the burden onto new hires. The authority claims insists this small savings in the near future will ultimately create much larger savings over the life of the contract. This too, as Carl Ericson points out, is bogus. Yes, $20 million invested over the next 3 years would grow to $100 million over the next 30 years, but that's beside the point. The issue is who should cough up the $20 million now, new subway conductors or a company with a $1 billion surplus.

The proximate cause of the strike is the bait-and-switch tactic of the MTA, which lead directly to the breakdown in negotiations. Perhaps they felt safe in strongarming the union knowing that New Yorkers would associate their distress with the workers who did not show up rather than the contractual game-playing that caused them not to show up.

Of course, a strike causing NYC to grind to a halt in the runup to Christmas is just about the worst outcome for everybody. But let's be clear about where the responsibility should lie.