A Holiday transit strike, a fate that New York last avoided three years ago, is currently on.
Some people might think me a hypocrite for criticizing the hard-working men and women of the TWU while I'm usually fairly friendly to whatever another union, the Major League Baseball Players Association, does.
The issue is context. Major League Baseball, while one of my favorite things in the world, is not necessary. If it goes dark because people are arguing over money, no one's going to die; a relatively small number of support people are going to lose their job. That's big if you're one of those people, but not that big in the big picture.
A transit strike, in New York City, at Christmas, will have a broad and devastating effect, particularly in the short term. Businesses are counting on mass transit to bring shoppers to them. This is the week that many retailers get in the black, for the year, and that's a bit less likely to happen now. People count on mass transit to bring them to the doctor's office, to enable them to get to work. That's why strikes by transit workers (and cops, and firefighters, for that matter) are illegal in New York.
When he announced the strike, last night while most of us were sleeping, TWU President Roger Toussaint hit his points. He mentioned the Metropolitan Transit Authority's surplus for this year, reportedly a billion dollars or more, repeatedly. He declared that the TWU wasn't simply taking a stand for themselves, but for all the workers out there who are watching the "erosion" of pension, retirement, and health benefits. Toussaint asked the riders to "stand by" the TWU, as he claimed the TWU had stood by riders "to keep token booths open, to keep conductors on the train, to oppose fare hikes."
I don't remember that last part happening, but the first two were more matters of self-interest to Mr. Toussaint's union than altruistic acts for the benefit of the ridership.
Still, I'd be much more likely to have sympathy for the TWU if they were striking in June, rather than when the weather is in the 20's (that's farenheit, yo). Had they simply held out until next week, it would have been a true sign they give a damn about the saps who ride the rails and roads with them.
A transit strike hurts the MTA any day of the year. It hurts the city and the state at any time. However, striking right now, is calculated to hurt New Yorkers--the everyday rider--most.
So sadly, I'm wishing only the worst on Roger and his union right now. May a judge fine them twice their salary per day they strike, and their leaders a few million dollars a day. And should, heaven forbid, anyone die or be hurt, or permanently lose their jobs because of this strike, I hope they sue the illegally-striking union.