Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Strike One

You can tell that I am not a very good Democrat when I see a transit strike and I don't take the union's side. Although I think unions can have a very positive impact on improving working conditions and obtaining fair pay for their members, when they become too powerful, they often ask for too much. Unions are notorious for ignoring current and future fiscal conditions in seeking ever increasing wages and benefits.

The New York City transit workers have walked off the job after negotiations fell apart late last night. Two aspects of the contract that are under dispute are making new workers pay more for health care and pension plans and how to spend the current budget surplus. The union thinks much of the $1 billion surplus should be spent on increasing employee wages and benefits and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority says the surplus needs to be saved for future projected budget deficits. With rising health care and pension costs, as well as fiscal troubles many public transportation agencies face, both would be reasonable concessions for the union to make. In fact, pension plans for public officials have been declining for over a decade, and refusing to accept this fact shows that the union is in denial.

Since public officials are prohibited from striking under New York State law, the union is likely to lose big in this fight. Employees will be fined two days pay for each day of the strike, and although New Yorkers are taking it in stride for now, their patience is not likely to last.