Desert of the Mind [v1.5 Beta]
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Thursday, December 22, 2005 |
NYC MTA Transit Workers Union Strike, Day 3
As I suspected yesterday, the Chinatown buses are mustering at Bay Parkway and 62nd streets. I didn't bother investigating yesterday because I was loath to walk a block out of my way, and then another block back if I was wrong. Or course, had I done so I might have saved myself a 20 block 2 mile walk. I missed the big van/small bus, which kinda sucked as I saw one go in the tunnel and I might have been able to get off near my job. Instead, it drove off and I hopped on a small commuter van (capacity of 8) and rode in rather quickly to Chinatown. Had to walk from Chinatown to the office, maybe a half mile at most, but that's breeze as far as I'm concerned. I usually make that walk home 2-3 times a week (my train stops in Chinatown). As for getting home, the vastly harder task, I have a ride arranged, but that means I leave at 2pm today. Thank goodness I have vacation time and a forgiving office, or else I'd be majorly screwed. Screwed like the small businesses, restaurants, and stores that are losing business hand over fist. Permenantly losing business for the season, and possibly losing the profit for the year. Besides losing valuable hours, or spending hard earned money on transportation to get to work, we're looking at a very broad based eceonomic hardship by those that can least afford it: the working class poor/lower middle income. If this goes on too much longer, I see layoffs, bankruptcies, and a mild recession kicking in the poorer neighborhoods. This would be quite tragic, as these people are usually the last to feel the gains from a strong economy and the first to feel the pain from a slowdown. These are also the people who rely primarily on mass transit, and who make up a significant portion of the ridership. If they lose jobs, they don't take the subway/bus, and MTA revenue goes down, which in turn affects *suprise!* the TWU. The TWU seems to have forgotten just what they do for a living. They are not producers, they don't work in a factory, and the service they're selling isn't meant to be sold for a profit. In fact, ideally, it should be selling for a minor loss. Cheap subsidized mass transportation provides a vast incentive for people to live here and for businesses to locate in the city. Resulting tax revenue makes up for the shortfall in the mass transit budget, and culturally, ecologically, and economically everyone benefits. Transit workers are no different then sanitation workers, in effect, both are designed to be giant loss leaders for the more profitable rise in tax revenue. Any surplus generated by the MTA should be either reinvested in capital improvements (to bring maintenance costs down), debt repayment (to bring down costs of doing future business), funding pension obligations (to protect against know increases in pension liability and, you know, guarantee that workers actually recieve a pension), or refunded to riders (to spur more economic development and increase future revenue). Forcing the MTA to spend the surplus on increases in wages ignores the very real future debt obligations of the MTA. Massive fare increases will hit a point of diminishing returns, where people can't afford to ride, economic activity falls, and the system slowly bankrupts itself while laying off employees, dropping medical coverage, and imploding the pension. The state can only bail out the MTA so much, as raising tax rates hits a point of diminishing returns where people move out of state, businesses relocate, ridership falls, and again the system bankrupts. The TWU should take very careful note of how unions at for-profit private businesses have been faring, where management has stronger incentives to keep the books balanced and profitable. Pension and health obligations are taking down GM and Ford, the airlines are slashing and burning benefits, and steelworkers are facing their retirement years with pensions they had counted on being slashed in half, if not more. In fact, those unions are the lucky ones. As the pension time bomb ticks louder and louder, future pension implosions will look even more drastic, probably pennies on the dollar being honored. It might be better to push the pension into insolvency now, and lock in 50% reductions while there's still money to save. But this is about "respect" and "dignity" apparently, and not about economics. Better to sink the ship with honor then to lose a little face and secure the future of union members and the city.
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