New York's Looming Illegal Transit Strike
Section 210 of The Taylor Law (Public Employees' Fair Employment Act), New York Civil Service Law, Article 14:
1. No public employee or employee organization shall engage in a strike, and no public employee or employee organization shall cause, instigate, encourage, or condone a strike.
So why is New York City preparing itself for a complete transit shutdown beginning Friday at 12:01am?
The MTA and the Transit Workers Union Local 100 have thus far failed to come anywhere near agreement on a new contract (the MTA has offered a 5% raise over 2 years; the TWU wants 24% over 3 years), prompting union members to authorize a strike if the Friday deadline lapses without a new contract.
If the strike goes ahead, there are few winners. The city will all but shut down. Workers will be fined double their daily salaries. And union leaders can be jailed.
Fines, incarceration, and dealing a crippling blow to one's city and employer all give little pause to TWU President Roger Toussaint though, who notes:
“It may be illegal, but we believe that there is law and there is justice,” Toussaint said. “If Rosa Parks had stayed behind the bus and not stood for justice, many people would still be riding the back of the bus.”
Toussaint continued, “Jail is the easy part of it. Fines of my members are a much bigger concern to me…at the end of the day, I think the workers’ position is we will go on strike if we have to.”
Well, indeed he's right - workers have taken up the same position. Then again, relatively few of them were likely on the MTA payroll during the last (also illegal) strike in 1980, when workers walked out for 11 days, and in the process lost 10% of their annual salaries. Not to mention the lost productivity citywide.
In addition to the hefty salary increase, the union also wants the pension age lowered from 55 to 50, further burdening city coffers. While the city is flush with surplus this year, massive budget deficits are forecast going forward, even without these MTA expenditure increases. The immense pressure being applied by the TWU seems like a highly foolish attempt to capitalize on what can be (wrongly) painted as a situation wherein the city has lots of spare cash to sling around.
Depending on Mayor Bloomberg's appetite for controversy, he does have a card to play (or make a credible threat to play), namely to enjoin the union from striking, using the Taylor Law. In 1999, Rudy Giuliani used this tactic (which would've risen the daily fines for walkers-out to $25,000, doubling every day) to avert a transit strike.
It may seem like an overly harsh measure, but the alternative is to accept that threats of illegal activity (which would wreak significant economic damage and genuine public safety hazards on our city) are an acceptable bargaining tactic. The TWU is pushing New York City pretty hard. It wouldn't be unreasonable to push back.
Handcrafted by Flip on December 12, 2005 |
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