Monday, January 02, 2006

MTA Strike Update

A recap from The Village Voice:
The final words of the lead [New York Daily] News editorial said it all: "Now, after devastating New York, (the union) has won." That's because besides snaring raises, a day off for MLK, improved healthcare in return for a 1.5 percent premium, and protecting pension benefits, the union won a payback for contributions that older members made to the system during a pervious contract. The checks could run to $14,000 a worker, which ought to cover those members' Taylor Law fines for the strike—and then some.

And as long as we're tallying union victories, don't forget the intangible edge the union has gained in future contract fights by striking during this one. The threat of a strike is one of the chips a union has at the table, and as one subway substation worker told me on the picket line last Thursday, sometimes you have to act on a threat to make it real.

Of course, few victories are total. The TWU will have to deal with its fines and other legal consequences before it is strong enough to wage another strike, and the next contract will expire after the holidays, giving the workers less leverage. Some union members -—worried about the precedent set by the health care payments—- don't think the TWU won at all. And budget watchdogs' worries about pension costs are valid—not because of the specifics of the TWU deal, but because pensions in general are the next great looming policy crisis.

All the same, "irrational" and "dead end" -—like their cousin "thuggish"-- are adjectives that look less and less applicable to the strike as it fades in the rear-view.

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