ground to a halt = good coffee shop name



Manhattan Bridge, 10:30pm last night

Those of you who don’t keep track of these things should know there’s a transit strike in Manhattan right now, which really has to be experienced to be believed. I guess the equivalent in the rest of America is to have all four tires slashed and nobody to fix them, and it’s up to you to get to work sixteen miles away in the dead of winter. Oh, and all of your friends’ tires are slashed too.

You can’t drive into Manhattan without three other people in your car until 11am, and entire city avenues are closed to normal traffic. Out front of my apartment today, the normally-quiet side street was gridlocked with furious horn-honking. You’d think, in this era of nanotechnology and obsession with efficiency, that it would be hard to shut down one of the most important cities in the world, but MAN IS IT EASY!

Being a softie, a leftie, and a commie, my temptation is to side with the striking workers, but their demands seem (to this layman, anyway) to be a bit extreme, with ridiculous retirement ages, a payment structure that fucks new arrivals, and a median income that puts many of my friends to shame. That, and the head of the Transit Workers Union seems like an enormous boob, shouting into the cold wind demanding “respect.”

Then again, the MTA apparently pulled some last-second pension demand that would only save them $20 million, which is infintessimally small given the billions NYC is now losing every night with the strike.

Like I said, I’m sure there are things I don’t understand, but this time, both parties are leaving a funny taste in my mouth. It’s damn near impossible, with a city that has so many competing agendas and penis-measuring contests, built on sediment comprised of favors, payoffs, Mob contacts and lazy corruption – to find the truth. As I always tell Tessa, I’m amazed, in any given apartment in the East Village, that you turn on a faucet and actual water comes out.

In the meantime, it’s a few days before Christmas and the city has slowed to a glacial crawl. My entire family just got here from California and Iowa, and they’ll have to be creative to get into Midtown to buy underpriced musical electronics. As for us, we’re getting out of here, even if the first two hours of the trip take four hours. I have a pine sapling to cut down and adorn with bizarre pagan knick-knacks.

0 thoughts on “ground to a halt = good coffee shop name

  1. Matt

    Pataki should fire their greedy, no-good asses, then blacklist them from future city employment the way Reagan did striking air-traffic controllers (and they were skilled). The offer that was on the table was better than any other city in the country pays for similar transport work. If you strike illegally, you pay the price. Anything else will just green-light other unions to hold the city hostage every time a contract is up for negotiation.

  2. CP

    I am BEYOND pissed about this. spoke to my dad today and am considering canceling my trip home if this thing isn’t settled by thursday, because damn if getting around the city (or just IN AND OUT for that matter) isn’t gonna be a HUGE PAIN IN THE ASS. (and seemingly for nothing.)
    out west you grow a little softer, and realize just how hard the city you grew up in actually is to live, how high-maintenance, and are baffled that you were able to deal with it for 20 plus years, and with such a sense of camaraderie and pride. here you suffer alone, in your car. back home everyone’s miserable together.
    it’s late. I’m rambling. like you ian, I’m generally a fan of unions, worker’s rights and clifford odets, but waiting for lefty this is not. it’s actually more reminiscent of a (like a certain someone’s last name) french farce. fuck roger toussaint and the horse he rode in on! (cause he’s obviously not riding the subway…) fuck local 100 and their ridiculous demands! good on mike bloomberg for not mincing words and calling them out.
    I just wanna go home for a few days and eat some decent pizza, take the 1/9 to see family and friends. is that too much to ask?

  3. greg from winston dorm's roommate

    I totally agree with Matt. Like the air traffic controllers in the 1980’s, these guys have NO legal right to strike. Reagan (I know he is probably not this blog’s favorite Pres) canned all the air traffic controllers and the country did not miss a single beat — thank you, by the way, to the US military for that. Fire these pricks and use other folks. I am willing to go oout on a limb and say driving a bus or train is an easier job than being an air traffic controller. Hell, my church even has some senile blue-haired granny drive our church bus and she never makes a mistake or misses a pothole. She’d probably pitch in if needed.

  4. greg from winston dorm's roommate

    One question for all you guys: I am in NC and generally quite ignorant of NYC. I am flying in to LaGuardia on 12/28 and have arranged for a car to be there to drive me and my family to my in-laws’ home in NJ. In the past, the driver uses the GW Bridge. Anyway, if this strike is still going on, can I expect an absolute clusterfuck trying to get from LaGuardia to NJ across the GW????

  5. Beth

    The difference between the air traffic controllers’ strike and the transit workers’ strike is precisely the military–the MTA doesn’t have any backups to do the job. So calling for them all to be fired doesn’t help; it just ignites tempers. This is not to suggest that I support the TWU. Like Ian, I think both sides are behaving badly, though I can’t help but be even more annoyed by the TWU and their demands, which sound to me like luxury–retiring at 50? With a pension plan at all? Health insurance that they don’t have to contribute to? Six percent non-incentive-based annual increases? And one of their rationales for lowering the retirement age is that handling money is “hazardous”: the inks are toxic when they’re breathed in! I’m sorry, but good liberal or no, I find that impossible to get behind.
    Greg’s roommate, hopefully the strike will be over by 12/28 (she says naively, ahem, optimistically). But if it isn’t, have you considered flying into Newark, NJ, and avoiding NYC entirely?

  6. Beth

    Okay, I’m reading back over my comment and thinking that maybe my husband was right when he suggested that (in addition to being ridiculously inconvenienced), we’re all jealous of the TWU for getting things the rest of us want but don’t/can’t have.

  7. greg from winston dorm's roommate

    Beth, thanks for the input re my flight to LaGuardia. I live in Wilmington, NC and my choice of flights is fairly ltd. Wilm has a direct flight to LaG instead of a 90-min layover in Charlotte if headed to Newark. Given that I’ll be going with my 4-year-old and 10-month-old, we chose the shorter route. But, now I fear we are screwed.
    Last, Beth — don’t believe for a second that there are no backups for the transit workers. First, use the military — they drive vehicles larger than a bus. Second, if the city is losing so much every day, they can pay a little extra to the scabs to come drive. If the city wanted to squash this strike, they could fire all the illegal strikers and never miss a beat.

  8. Claudia

    Have we found something (other than Lucy’s cuteness) that we can all agree on??? I guess the “lemonade” in all of this MISERABLE FUCKING SHITTY MESS is peace on the blog, if not in the city.

  9. Rich

    I agree, Ian, both sides kinda stink. Being a union member myself (albeit a member of some of the weakest unions around: SAG, AFTRA and AEA), it is my kneejerk reaction to automatically side with the striking union, but I have to say these guys make a hell of a lot more money that I do, and, let’s face it, many, if not most, have no college education.
    But I also find myself in an age where the Republican Big Business Monster seems to be trying to undo every union around (everything from Wal-Mart to Radio City and their musicians to Actors Equity) so I can’t help but feel suspicious that the MTA, and especially Pataki are trying to act out some union-busting agenda (the Taylor Law is already one way of attempting that – no union should be legally barred from striking). And there’s also that thing about a ONE BILLION DOLLAR SURPLUS that the MTA “discovered” when they were forced to open their books when they were crying poor recently.
    So both sides seem greedy to me. I sympathize with neither side. I DO sympathize with the millions of people stranded in and around the city. I’m grateful that I don’t need to get to my apartment this week, but if I did, I’d like to think that I’d pick up as many stranded commuters as I could (as long as they were clean and friendly-looking) and bring them into the city with me. And out again, if needed.
    I was a kid in seventh grade the last time the struck and I don’t remember it being as crippling. Then again, I was 11 or 12.
    There is only one beneficiary to an event like this, and frankly, I’m ready to throw up on it all: the media. They’ve been having a field day with this. You could see the anchors licking their chops, drooling with wide-eyed anticipation as the strike deadline drew nearer. Coverage is one thing, getting hard-ons over shit like this is apalling.
    I hope this gets settled soon, only for all of you who are affected by it.

  10. CL

    Greg’s roommate, you’ll get there eventually. Transportation across the bridges doesn’t seem too bad right now. But that’s a week away, don’t worry.
    Although I feel bad for New Yorkers, they are constantly saying cruel things to me about New Jersey and asking me (as one guy did a few months ago on a date), “Why do you live there?” One of the reasons is that New York tends to strangle itself from time to time – strikes, blizzards, etc. all cause problems. The transit from NJ to NYC is running fine right now.
    Anyway, I’m hoping that this four-to-a-cab rule means that some nice single people in New York meet each other and some marriages result. The strike is dangerous for people who need to get to their doctors, etc., but perhaps it will help someone find love in that cold, cruel city. Then they can name their baby Toussaint.

  11. greg from winston dorm's roommate

    No one should knock NJ. I got from NJ via train to MSG to watch the Tar Heels (the Doherty era) quicker than I got from one museum to the other within NYC. I am country bumpkin from NC, but to protect the honor of my NJ girl wife . . I stick up for the Garden State (except for the toll roads).

  12. craighill

    thank god i live somewhere where people still say “merry christmas” and there’s no union TO strike. don’t get me wrong, i often miss nyc, but north carolina is looking pretty fkn great about now.

  13. caveman

    Touissant is a criminal and what he is trying to do to New York is senseless. His is putting many people at risk with his miscalculation of strength in his position. On the margin how much more will they get by holding the city hostage vs. more aggresive negotiation (which the parent union of the Local 100 assholes whole-heartedly supports)? I’ll answer that, not shit. This guy is out of his league and is playing a game of chicken with the wrong homeboys.

  14. Rich

    Now, now, now, let’s not start bashing NYC. This was such a peaceful blog so far.
    NYC is cold sometimes, unfair, sometimes, but not cruel.
    I’m a native New Yorker, born and raised on the upper west side. We natives are friendly and will help anyone in need. During the recent blackout we were directing traffic, directing pedestrians, helping stranded people out of elevators and subway escape hatches. In blizzards we help the elderly (who always seem to come out in DROVES during inclement weather) get from A to Z.
    And I don’t need to mention the post-9/11 stuff.
    A true New Yorker does not bash New Jersey. We appreciate and respect it. Ever been to Wawayanda State Park? Greenwood Lake? Cape May? The Shore? Beautiful. And, not for nothing, the sales tax is cheaper there, so it’s always a great place to shop. My only caveat is getting the Garden State Plaza to open on Sundays.
    I’m sorry if anyone had an unfriendly experience in NYC, but it’s just not a cruel place. And we do indeed say “Merry Christmas” here.
    Incidentally, Merry Christmas, everyone!

  15. J.Boogie

    the left-wing unions ruined the public schools
    the left-wing unions ruined General Motors
    and now the left-wing unions are grinding the lib NYC public transportation system to a halt
    Always funny to see how the lib New Yorkers vote against their own best interests. I wonder if the libs are waiting for old Hitlery Clinton and upChuck Schumer to come and drive the buses and subway cars. Even Ian seems to be giving up on the NPR/DNC propaganda and is making an attempt at thinking for himself for once, he’s finally waking up to the greedy unions and their unreasonable demands.

  16. kjf

    i am wondering why managers can’t run those subways. i used to work for a freight railroad (the mighty union pacific) and whenever there was a strike or threat of strike they shipped management out to run the trains. (these managers were formerly in engine service so it wasn’t like they were strangers to the craft) and if i recall during the air traffic controller strike they had managers staff the towers. so why aren’t they doing this in the city? they have to have some qualified people to do this.

  17. Beth

    kjf, I think it’s because there are 34,000 transit workers on strike. Even if management were to get out there and staff the trains and buses, there’d be nowhere near enough of them to even be a drop in the bucket. That’s also why the military couldn’t take over for the striking workers.
    Although I did read that the Lord & Taylor executives were out on the floor selling gloves yesterday, because they couldn’t get enough employees in.

  18. Tim

    Wow. Some of the comments seem pretty harsh from what I thought was a “progressive” leaning crowd. It seems like some of the audience is fine and good with certain ideals as longs as it doesn’t prevent them from getting to 5th Avenue or Times Square in under ten minutes. Beth, I wholeheartedly agree with you. George Pataki and Bloomberg (and Rudy before him) sure like to dish it out, but don’t you dare try to give it back to them. Caveman, I am hardly enthralled with Touissant but in this game of chicken, I’d say he’s whipping old Mikey boy’s ass. Below is an e-mail I sent to a friend yesterday who immediately called me to bitch about “your damn unions fucking with my life.”
    My quick and dirty on the transit strike:
    -Toussaint, the TWU local president, is up for re-election next year. Cannot afford to look like Bloomberg’s b*tch for the rank and file. He could not accept the crumbs the city was offering when the MTA is sitting on a $1 billion surplus.
    -Don’t underestimate Bloomberg’s fault/stubbornness in this. The main criticism of him is that he gets stubbornly fixated on things when he thinks he is “right” on matters (e.g. the Jets stadium on the West Side-failure, the Olympic bid-failure) and, for whatever reason, he wanted to have this fight with the transit workers because he thought he was “right”. The two main sticking points were only a percentage point difference on a wage increase (3-4%) and workers getting a full pension at 55 rather than 62. To me, you demonstrate leadership as a mayor, work something out, and avoid this mess instead of being proud of how “right” you are on the matter. You reap what you sow, Mike. And for him to think Toussaint would not call his bluff while facing re-election next year is pure amateur hour.
    -Also, CNN is making it sound like every transit worker has a corner condo in Trump Tower over looking Central Park. The average salary of a transit worker is $45,000. Hardly Fat City in NYC.

  19. Tim

    A quick question:
    How many appointments (out of 23-I think) does Pataki have to the MTA? Four? It seems like he is letting Bloomberg be the public face for this and I may have mistakenly thought Pataki had less control over this than he does. Where has he been in the media? Is he still out in Iowa gearing up is whiz-bang presidential campaign? President Pataki. Sure.

  20. caveman

    “Caveman, I am hardly enthralled with Touissant but in this game of chicken, I’d say he’s whipping old Mikey boy’s ass.”
    How so? The entire city wants Touissant’s head on a platter. We’ll see how this plays out but my money, and smart money, is on Bloomy.
    Tell me the last time you ran into a pleasant attendant at a subway token booth. Don’t talk to me about respect, Touissant, you piece of shit. To try to shut down the City at this time of the year with everything else that is going on in the world is unforgivable.

  21. Tim

    Caveman, I am not volunteering to carry Touissant’s water here, but I’m just frustrated that the IMMEDIATE reaction is to go for the union leader’s head and let Pataki and Bloomberg escape all blame. As mentioned above (e.g. the MTA’s bullshit “discovery” of a loose billion floating around—to me, that is lack of respect shown for serious negotiations), the MTA was never serious about getting this deal done figuring, “We’ll just piss on them like Rudy liked to do and they’ll take whatever we give them.” Well, that constant capitualtion got Touissant’s predecessor bounced and Bloomberg (I’m guessing) didn’t think they’d have the balls to call the MTA’s bluff. Also, please remember these folks are getting docked two days pay for every day they strike (per Taylor)so I think it’s unfair to assume they are doing this for shits and giggles just to fuck with your trip to Saks.

  22. Tim

    Caveman, only meant to post it once. I could go on and on about what I think are organized labor’s problems, but I have to tip my hat to a group of people who were not being taken seriously (and had not been for some time) and finally pushed back. I was going to call your numnuts with a fuckwad, but, for chrissakes, it’s Christmas. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.

  23. CP

    my trip to saks? to 5th avenue and times square? nice, tim. nice and cheap. try my trip home to see my family.
    these negotiations have really come down to the smallest of bargaining points. the union made a drastic move that’s holding the city hostage and screwing things up for a lot of people. at holiday time no less. and you wonder why people (even those with progressive leanings) want toussaint’s head on a platter and not bloomberg’s or pataki’s? I think it’s simply (from what I understand) that the MTA’s offer is basically fine. so if you live by the sword, you die by it too. that said, toussaint is now the poster child for the frustrations of many new yorkers, expats or otherwise. he is not cesar chavez, not a hero for the working man, just another in a long line of bumbling NYC municipal employees and union reps with their hearts in the right places and their heads up their asses. he should come work for the WGAw, where he’d fit right in.
    happy holidays.

  24. Mary Mary

    Bravo Tim! Thank you for being the only person here to post the actual average salary. While many have commented on it and some have even spoken of the salaries with envy, you are the only one to provide the actual figure. Is there still anyone here who eyes 45K in NYC with envy? If so, I’d wager you have never lived here.
    Let the psuedo-liberals rally ’round Bloomberg if they want. He doesn’t speak for me. And neither do a bunch of hate filled people who assume the worst about the strikers without knowing any of the facts. “Greedy, no-good asses” indeed.

  25. CP

    the average salary (according to is actually somewhere between 47-55K
    the parent union of TWU local 100 (TWU international) does not support the strike
    it’s not about hate, nor is this a massive uprising of the downtrodden, but simply a matter of COMMON SENSE. the union leaders are going about getting what they want in the completely wrong way, and have dramatically, dangerously overreacted. they are putting themselves and their employees at very real financial (and now apparently legal) risk. they are erasing any hope of good will they might have hoped to achieve with the city and its inhabitants for the purpose of helping meet their ultimate goal. the few members of the general public who do support their cause, only seem to do so b/c as a good progressive one sides with labor, having to tow that line. sound progressive? I think not. it actually sounds very familiar, if a little like the (gasp) bush administration and the dwindling numbers who still staunchly believe their bullshit.
    conservative, liberal, you either drink the kool-aid or you don’t.

  26. Tim

    The international leadership of the TWU (former leader Sonny Hall and current president Michael O’Brien)have long been toadies of the MTA/Rudy G. regime and lined their own pockets while selling out their members to the MTA.(the Village Voice has plenty of history on this) Al D’Amato publicly bragged, right in the middle of contract negotiations in ’02, that Sonny Hall would “save the day” before the TWU ever went on strike. Toiussant, while far from perfect, has refused to play kissy-face with Pataki, Bloomberg, who still can’t deal with this reality and deserve much of the blame for this strike being called. I am not going to get into a stats battle as far average/median salaries (I think the figure you cited is high), but let’s call it $55k—are you claiming these folks with families are living high off the hog in NYC? I ask what is the “right way” for the union to be dealt with seriously by the MTA? Ask “Pretty, pretty, please, Mister Mayor?” When are they supposed to go on strike? At 3:00-4:30 a.m on a Saturday in August when everybody is out of town? You stated that these negotiations “come down to the smallest of bargaining points”. Fucking with my pension (like every other corporation is trying to do in contract negotiations) is not a “small” bargaining point. You infer that the union should just sit back and concede these points because, well, you know, you’ve got to visit your family. I’ll keep proudly drinking my Kool-Aid. And you don’t have to be Cesar Chavez to say enough is enough—we are tired of being treated like children who should just shut the fuck up and eat your vegetables and/or,”Hey, all we had to do was grease Sonny Hall back in the day and your little union made nice-nice-what’s the hold-up now?” The public’s good will is not worth a damn thing when fighting for a defined-benefit pension in 2005. Flexing your collective power and jacking with their Christmas is.
    J. Boogie, you and and any member of your Brooks Brothers posse couldn’t make it to lunch on your first day on a GM assembly line.

  27. CP

    alright. you win. I still think the pension thing is a very small point and shutting down the entire subway system (the entire city) over it at christmas is a very risky overreaction, but now I see where you’re coming from in terms of the accountability of city and state government (even if I don’t see it, again, as a massive uprising of workers getting seriously hosed.)
    well argued.

  28. Sean Williams

    None of my friends make as much as these workers, unless they work two jobs, and everyone lives in New York. There is a huge majority of New York that are blue collar, hard ass New Yorkers, which shouldn’t come as a surprise, and this strike is hitting the poorest the hardest.
    People live where they can afford, far out in the boroughs, and they work where people have money, in Mahattan. Restaurants closed today because they didn’t have busboys, which sucks for the restaurants, but is life threatening for the busboys.
    If you think 45-55k a year is not great pay, you aren’t a real New Yorker. You’re an ex-pat Yuppie. I have friends who live in Astoria and work near Wall Street, and don’t make nearly as much as the people who usually drive them to work. They still went, walking for hours.
    If you aren’t here, then you don’t know. Like so many other things that have happened in the last five years.

  29. caveman

    Sean hit the nail on the fkn head.
    “I ask what is the “right way” for the union to be dealt with seriously by the MTA?”
    How about binding arbitration?
    All this Sonny Hall, grease bullshit is well and good but the fact remains that this strike, relative to what they are getting paid and the benefits they receive makes no sense. You can try to ride me about some trip to Saks all you want but my mom who has been a teacher for 30 years has NEVER made this money. On the margin, what benefits are they going to receive by shutting down the City vs either a) aggresive negotiating or b) binding arbitration. If you think the gap between ultimate outcomes is so great then so be it, but I think it is a ridiculous notion.
    Come back Beth.

  30. Matt

    Hey Mary Mary.
    They should be fired. Pronto. 47-55k/yr, retire with pension at 50, no deductible, etc. That ain’t crumbs, and it ain’t busboy pay either. It’s pretty darn good for unskilled labor. And it’s illegal (for good reason!) for them to strike.
    But what surprises me most about the so-called “progressives” here, is that they don’t see who this strike is hurting the most. It’s the people on hourly wages making far less than 50k/yr, the small business owner who is losing out on the busiest time of the year. And you’re backing the unions? For what? So they can retire at 50. You don’t need an economics degree to see that the state will be supporting most of these folks for more years than they worked.
    This is absolutely crazy, and I’m relieved that most here are able to see it more clearly.

  31. Deb

    I really hate the term “real New Yorker”. I grew up in and around NYC. Our Sunday papers were Newsday and The Times. We watched Chuck Scarborough, Jack Cafferty and Sue Simmons on the news. I’ve lived in Chicago for the last five years, and was crippled by the fact that I was here during 9/11. I felt like I had no right to mourn, no right to call NY *my* city, despite the fact that I hadn’t even been gone a year.
    It’s not just that my family and friends live in NY that I pay attention to and empathize with blackouts, snowstorms, elections, strikes. It’s because NY has been and always will be home, no matter where my body resides, no matter who I vote for, no matter how much I make, and no matter whose side of an ideological argument I’m on.

  32. Tim

    Truce happily declared! Peace with Honor! J. Boogie sent to the Hague To Be Tried On Charges of Being a Fucking Moron!
    Caveman-no argument from me on binding arbitration. Would’ve been a much more likely outcome had the MTA been bargaining in good faith from the beginning instead of screwing around (e.g.,”We’re broke…uh, wait a minute, here’s a billion bucks, no you can’t have any of it, by the way, we will begin fucking with your pensions immediately…”) because they thought no strike was possible.
    To the rest of you hung up on the salaries. You got me. There apparently are around 35,000 people (mostly black—Jimmy Breslin has been all over the Katrina-esque race factor that a lot of you white faux liberals don’t want to get into) who quite possibly are enjoying a middle-class existence (your standard of), health coverage with no through-the-nose premiums, and a decent pension in America’s largest city in 2005 A.D. Clearly, these people must be stopped and crushed. I mean, it’s not going to stop here, folks. What is next? Covering some of the 45 million people in this country who lack health insurance? For the love of God! What will they tell the children?

  33. Matt

    Tim, the TWU was basically striking to avoid future employees from paying 6% into their pensions rather than the current 2%. Give me a break. That’s not unreasonable, considering their salary and benefits. After law school I interviewed with EPA HQ in DC (hardly an inexpensive place to live) and they were offering considerably less than 50k, which you called it “crumbs”. The strike wasn’t about respect, it was about greed. As for the “Katrina-esque race factor”, it didn’t exist. Breslin’s wrong, again.
    “Katrina Killed Across Class Lines
    “The well-to-do died along with the poor, an analysis of data shows. The findings counter common beliefs that disadvantaged blacks bore the brunt.”,0,7754290.story

  34. Tim

    From this morning’s Daily News…best news I’ve read in a while—
    In a WWRL poll, 71% of respondents blamed the MTA and only 14% blamed the transit workers, which Bishop said he found “a little surprising. I would have thought it would have been more even.”
    Almost every station that took calls found support for the transit workers. “I’ve used the transit system for years,” said Margaret, a caller to WOR, “and I’ve talked with many workers about the horrible conditions. We need to support them.”
    “Perhaps surprisingly, there’s a lot of support for the strike,” said WOR news director Joe Bartlett. He suggested residents were coping with the strike “because this is a city that doesn’t cave under pressure. New Yorkers thrive on adversity.”
    Matt, I forgot about all of those uptown, rich, white folks begging to be rescued off of their rooftops during Katrina. And Jimmy Breslin has no street credibility when it comes to knowledge and feel of New York City. I got it.

  35. Matt

    There was a lot of support for the strike, eh? Sure. As for Katrina, read the LAT article, Tim. I really can’t blame you for being so misinformed. The media’s performance was shameful and misled lots of well-meaning folks.

  36. Matt

    That’s quite a bit different than 71-14, no? Apparently, only 52% have their heads “up their asses.” This site is fairly liberal, I think, and a majority here seem to have some perspective on the issue.

  37. Tim

    Barrister Matt:
    You are right. 52 is lower than 71. I am just shocked there is any poll showing a majority level of support for a group of blue-collar workers who clearly need to wake up and get some “perspective”. All of you organized workers who have collectively bargained for a decent wage and benefits over the years and who now live in George Bush’s Enron America, lay down and die like dogs. Give in and lick the MTA’s boot because they are going to fuck with your pensions just a little bit. After all some of the Barrister’s best friends make less than these “people” (Breslin and I know the word some of you have dancing in the dark corners of your latte-fueled heads) and the Barrister damn near settled for less than $50k right out of law school because Skadden was a little slow on their offer due to that little “incident” at the Yankees game during that summer associate stint after the Barrister’s second year. The Barrister just snagged some hot Broadway tickets off e-bay and he needs to get Muffy that last-minute Hermes scarf. So, come on, get back to work, people.

  38. Lindsay (Wake Up, Sheeple!)

    I’m really embarrassed by some of the comments here. Not by jboogie, who is a creep, and I think Matt is a professional conservative commentator who has a pretty clear online record of being anti-worker, but some of the rest of you surprise me.
    The TWU rank and file is not selling out new members, that’s exactly what they refused to do and part of why they are striking. Hell, the people who are running the risk of big fines and public backlash (and are out in the cold like everyone else) could keep everything they have and not strike, they are doing it for future workers. That’s the kind of altruism that we don’t seem from many in the left—at least as soon as they are asked to sacrifice anything.
    Yes, the strike hurts working people more than anyone else, which is a shame. But unions only have two things they can do. Work, or not work. Management can control many factors: raises, cost of living pay increases, pension plan pay-ins, health plans, new workers vs. existing workers. But unions only have the one real power.
    TWU workers start off at $28,000 a year. Cops start off at $25,000. Why do cops make less? Because their union has no teeth. Like I said, unions can only do two things, except for public employees under NY’s Taylor law who can’t legally strike. The cops know that, unlike the TWU, the NY public would not stand for a police strike even for a couple days). Therefore, they got screwed at the last contract negotiation.
    $14 an hour is better than Wal-Mart, sure, but it ain’t much. And $45,000 is not a great deal of money for people raising a family in New York City. It might seem pretty good for a young person in the arts (and I mean me here, not any of Ian’s or Sean’s friends that he mentioned.) I made less than the TWU starting salary running a nonprofit theater, but you pay for working in an aspirational (if that is a word) field. No one will pay their dues for the thrill of cleaning up homeless people’s pee on the A train. Nor will they ever make much more than that, no matter how well they clean pee or drive trains.
    The MTA management gave itself a 30% raise this year, by the way.
    The retirement age is not “ridiculous” compared to other city workers. Or in some of the countries that people on here wanted to move to after the elections, but that’s another story. The important part is that is the current deal that the MTA could live with 3 years ago. And the MTA is running a billion dollar surplus–one of the reasons it did so was that the last contract had substantial wage concessions. Now the workers as a whole are being asked to give up more. For what exactly? Keeping the system running during a period of incredible growth in ridership? A weak stock market that made it harder to manage the pension fund? The rise in gas prices? Mismanagement by the MTA that saw two fare increases, wage concessions, and big-ass surplus, and STILL is going to have a deficit? I don’t see how any of this should affect new union members.
    It’s true that the union members pay far less for their benefits than many Americans. But it is an out-and-out lie to say that they pay nothing. They get a deduction from their paychecks every week to cover part of the costs of their health plans. The fact that the MTA was saying that they don’t in the press led to a lot of the mistrust that fueled the breakdown in negotiations. But besides that, what’s the point of begrudging them what the MTA has already allowed in the negotiations? You can’t have almost-full health care coverage as a benefit of working what can be a dangerous job, because I don’t? That makes no sense.
    People in union jobs make more and get better benefits than people in non-union jobs. But non-union jobs that target the same workforce have to pay a little more and do a little better by their employees to keep up. And then jobs on rungs of the economic ladder above and below have to do better, too. It’s middle-class trickle-out economics. Middle and working class folks and liberals to pit themselves against union members is shitting where we eat. Worry about CEO salaries, not brakemen’s dental plans.
    If you really want the TWU worker’s to have equivalent pensions and health plans to yours, then start a union and collectively bargain for yourself.
    What this is really about
    Pataki, who controls the MTA, announced yesterday that there will be no further negotiations until the strike is over? WTF? Who does he think he is Ariel Sharon? You can’t refuse to talk until you get what you want up front. Or strongarm your way to the negotiation table. Clearly, he is less interested in the riders and workers, and economy of the city, than he is looking tough for his Presidential bid, and BREAKING THE UNION. And that’s what this is all about. The republicans want no unions in this country, and this would be a great stepping stone to national power for the Gov. For the city, no unions would be a boon of many millions of dollars that they could use to cut property and corporate taxes. Or educate kids. Ya know, city stuff. But why do it on the backs of union members?
    The people pushing for this are completely aware this will cause a huge rift between the parent union, who was against the strike, and the local. What they might not be aware of is that if the union is broken for real, and the local drops the national or is bankrupted by the fines that the “activist judges” are assessing them, then the Teamsters will be more than happy to take Local 100 under their wing. They’ve already been nosing around.
    Yep, the Teamsters. They have a HUGE war chest/strike fund, and won’t think twice about shutting the city down for as long as it takes. You think it’s cold now? If the House that Hoffa built gets involved we could really be fucked.

  39. Matt

    You’re pretty hung up on my occupation, aren’t you, Tim. Some days it seems like half the people leaving comments here are lawyers. I only mentioned it as an example to show that 50k is hardly “crumbs.” And, Linsay, I’m not “anti-worker” nor a “professional conservative commentator.” I wonder what that pays?
    I’ll come back to read the rest of your post later and respond if anything is directed to me, but I’ve got to head out for a bit right now.

  40. Tim

    “Worry about CEO salaries, not brakemen’s dental plans.”
    Lindsay, I have no idea who you are, but will you marry me?
    I realize I have turned into an asshole on this three days before Christmas, but some of these comments were driving me insane. Thank you very much for your wonderful insight and commentary.

  41. Tim

    I am a lawyer, too. I work for less than $50k at a deeply rewarding job but, it’s still less than $50k, so is your firm hiring? I’ll walk over for the interview.

  42. Beth

    An interesting tidbit from the blog “The Daily Slope” that helps explain why the transit workers aren’t readily replaced:
    “Subway motormen on the BRT had gone out on strike on Nov. 1st, 1918. Dispatchers and supervisors were pressed into service as replacement workers. That day, dispatcher Antonio Luciano was assigned as motorman on the Brighton Line that ran at that time from Park Row over the Brooklyn Bridge (which had train traffic at the time) and Fulton Street to the current Franklin Shuttle. He had never before operated elevated trains in passenger service.”
    “… Luciano had to navigate an S-shaped curve on what would later be called the Franklin Shuttle at Malbone Street. The speed limit at the location was posted as 6 MPH, but those on the scene later reported that he roared through at what must have been 50 MPH. The first car held the rails, suffering only minor damage, but the second and third cars derailed, the second being demolished and the third nearly so. About 100 passengers lost their lives, though Luciano was spared.”

  43. Lindsay

    Tim, I’m already married, and I’m worried that my penis might not approve.
    And Matt, if you are not the Matt Ypilsanti, or whatever, who got his butt kicked all over the net for his pro-Wal-Mart stance a few weeks back, then I apologize. Some of your factoids on that subject sounded so canned that I googled a few of them and come up with his stuff.
    Anyway, nothing in my post was directed to you. Just my so-called liberal brethern. This is directed to you:
    To call striking workers, who won’t even directly benfit from their actions, “lazy, no-good” and to praise Dead Ronnie’s firing of the Air Traffic Controllers sounds as anti-worker as it gets. I mean, I’m sure you’re pro-fetching and ironing and stuff. I mean the actual workers themselves.
    Since you’re good with figures, how many more collisions and near-misses have there been in the 20 years since the biggest union bust in US history as compared to the 20 years before?
    And if we were talking about a union like the United Auto Workers, would you say “lazy, no good” or some other word choice?
    “Lazy, no-count”, by the way, might be the phrase you were looking for to describe the UTW members. I know, it’s hard to remember the exact wording of these old slurs. But don’t worry, the Right in the country is trying to turn back the clock so quickly that all the old faves will be at the tips of our tongues soon.

  44. Matt

    Your previous post was sort of funny, Tim, in all honesty. I don’t work for a law firm anymore. I manage an IP portfolio for an Agri corp, which might shed some light on my previous defenses on this blog of GMOs and proprietary seeds. We aren’t presently hiring, but if you’re looking for a pay bump, you might try the TWU.
    I think Lindsay makes as good an argument for the union as I’ve read, at least until she gets to the “who does Pataki think he is” part. It’s the unions who were strong-arming the city, holding it hostage by illegally striking. They were refusing to work until they got what they wanted, instead of continuing to negotiate. Clearly, that doesn’t bother her. But why would Pataki want to reward their illegal behavior?

  45. Lindsay (Back to the money thing)

    While I was gooling that other matt, I found the factoid that the average household in the US made $46,000 in 1999.
    I think we can all agree that living in the tri-state area is more expensive than the average in NYC. And that the cost of living has gone up in the last 6 years.
    Again, I fail to see why TWU members should make below-average wages just people other workers in this country are getting screwed. Obviously, the MTA can live with those numbers, since they just basically accepted a compromise.

  46. Matt

    I’m not Matt Ypilsanti, whoever he is, but I was in a Wal-Mart debate here not long ago. Without rehashing that one, I’ll just say I certainly did not get my “butt kicked.”
    “To call striking workers, who won’t even directly benfit from their actions, “lazy, no-good” and to praise Dead Ronnie’s firing of the Air Traffic Controllers sounds as anti-worker as it gets. I mean, I’m sure you’re pro-fetching and ironing and stuff. I mean the actual workers themselves.”
    What the TWU and the ACs back in the 80s did was ILLEGAL. I find it a difficult argument to make that the offer the TWU had before them was unjust. Nothing you’ve said has changed my opinion on that.
    “Since you’re good with figures, how many more collisions and near-misses have there been in the 20 years since the biggest union bust in US history as compared to the 20 years before?”
    Are you going to tell me? There are legitimate safety concerns and good reasons why it is illegal for certain government employees to strike. They accepted employment knowing that. Yet they broke the law. I don’t feel a bit sorry for the ACs who got canned.
    “And if we were talking about a union like the United Auto Workers, would you say “lazy, no good” or some other word choice?”
    My remark was clearly limited to the TWU.
    “‘Lazy, no-count’, by the way, might be the phrase you were looking for…”
    Must be before my time.

  47. Matt

    “I found the factoid that the average household in the US made $46,000 in 1999. … I fail to see why TWU members should make below-average wages…”
    How much college education is required to work for the TWU? Wouldn’t you agree that there are a lot more factors involved than simple average salary in determining whether the MTAs contract offer was fair? Surely you don’t think it’s appropriate to compare a subway worker’s base salary with that of, say, a doctor?

  48. Tim

    Lindsay…my fault. Lindsey Nelson was one of my favorite baseball announcers and Lindsay Knapp was one of my favorite badass Notre Dame football players growing up. Still, your post should be bronzed.
    Barrister, a wheel in the cororate ag racket? Color me not surprised. Now, there’s a corner of the economic world that operates above board at all times. ADM (convicted) and Cargill rip us all off everyday with their price-fixing of almost every food item we consume. They also own the GOP-controlled Congress with their subsidies and shakedowns paid for by taxpayers like the TWU members. The farmers sneaky enough to get in on your racket receive so many ridiculous tax-payer subsidies (often not to grow anything)that back in Indiana (where I was born and raised)we bury with them their palms up so the sons of bitches will have their hands out for eternity. The honest, legit, family farmers who do not pay to play are told to get fucked, wither, and die. The ag game soundss like a match made in heaven for the Barrister. Muffy, if you are reading, forget Hermes—the Barrister is flush with Cargill’s cash. Take the limo to Harry Winston. I’ll bet he pays.

  49. Lindsay

    Yeah. Sorry to jump all over you. I was saying that Matt Yslegais, who is the commentator I thought you were was getting his butt kicked, not you. And some of your working was similar, so I thought you were him.
    As far as the Taylor Law goes, it is a State law that basically makes it illegal for firemen (firepeoples?), cops, and subway workers to have a real union. Because, like I said, a union only has one thing it can do–go on strike.
    Now, no one thinks that a firemen or police strike makes any sense. But I don’t ever think we would see anything like that, because a strike cannot be sustained if the union doesn’t have support from the public. Regardless, the fact remains that the police got screwed on thei last contract because the city called them on their bluff: whaddya gonna do about it? All the cops could do was go to the media, and the city didn’t care.
    The firemen’s contract comes up next year, I think, and you will see the same thing happen. Because when firemen go on strike, people die.
    Now, cops, firemen, subway workers. Which of these things are not like the others? What the union is going be breaking the Taylor law (ILLEGALLY, as you point out) is challenging the law, in a way that the other unions can’t, and stading up for all public employees. And if they are broken (moot point, since they have won the day if the compromise is at all fair) it will hurt other classes of unions, too. But they didn’t break, and the law will now go to through the court system, and might be amended to not include transit workers.
    So it’s not a conversation-killer to point out that the strike was ILLEGAL under state law.
    Plus, the Sherman Antitrust act was amended by Taft-Hartley to specifically protect the right to organize and collectively bargain. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Taylor Law were overturned because it contradicts Taft-Hartley.

  50. Matt

    You’re good, Tim, I’ll give you that. I grew up on a family farm in Iowa, by the way, and I don’t like subsidies anymore than you. You’re way off on the “Ag racket” of course. Such companies feed many millions of people and they spend billions creating ever-more productive and disease-resistant varieties of seed which allow farmers greater yield. If it wasn’t for patent protections, most of these advances wouldn’t exist and a great many people the world over would suffer needlessly. As for my own employer, we donated over half a million in food aid this year to tsunami-stricken areas in India and Indonesia. Poke fun all you like, but I sleep well. And I wish they paid us corporate lackies half as much as you seem to think.

  51. Lindsay

    Matt, I agree that it takes more to figure if the TWU member’s salary was fair. I was responding to the people who say that $45,000 was a great salary in New York City (mostly I have heard that off this blog and around town). I pointed out that it is below average for the US (when NYC standard of living is factored in). The fact that most TWU workers probably don’t have degrees only proves my point: These folks are supporting families and have no upward mobility. What they can get from their contracts is all they will ever get.
    Now, I’ll address your point as if it had anything to do with what I’m talking about, just to show that I have the Christmas spirit.
    The average person in the US is not a doctor, Matt. In fact, only 1 in 4 four people have college degrees at all. So, in comparing the average TWU salary (as I pointed out, they start at $28,000) to the average US stats has more validity than you give it credit for having. Perhaps you are right and less than 1 in 4 TWU members has a degree. But I bet the higher cost of living in NYC mitigates or even cancels out that factor.
    Anyway, I have to go for now and get some work done before heading out into the non-traffic choked Park Slope streets to pick up my son from daycare. Maybe I’ll check for responses later.
    By the way, there was a horrible wreck on 8th Avenue during rush hour Tuesday Ian, that’s why it was so bad near you.
    Tim and Matt, good night. By the way, I lived for a few years of my youth, on my Grandma’s farm in North Carolina. We were taught that farm boys from Iowa and Indiana were all wusses.

  52. caveman

    “I am hardly enthralled with Touissant but in this game of chicken, I’d say he’s whipping old Mikey boy’s ass.”
    memories…..light the corners of my mind

  53. Matt

    North Carolina, eh? Is it true they call duct tape Carolina Chrome?
    By the way, that $46k figure you cite above is for average households, which probably includes a good portion of dual incomes. In that light, the average TWU salary of $50k is far from “below average.” Since we’re discussing whether or not their compensation package is fair, I think it’s very relevant (as opposed to starting salary), as did you since you brought it up.
    You seem to know a lot more about labor law than I do, so maybe there is a reason the Taylor Law couldn’t be challenged without first going on strike? Even if it is constitutional (state or federal), there are ways in a representative democracy to overturn bad laws and policies. But if you break the law, you should be prepared to pay the price.

  54. Lindsay

    South Carolina chrome.
    Anyway, first you say much more info is needed, than you say it (the median income example) is in fact, important, and that I brought it up to justify the fairness of the package.
    I repeat, it’s just an example to show that $45,000 is a great salary TO RAISE A FAMILY in New York. So I already allowed for household income (raise a family) AND I never claimed it had much bearing on the package’s fairness. In fact, I immediately cleared that up when you mentioned it.
    But, like before, I’ll play, anyway: 35% of households are dual earners. I have no idea how to figure out how that changes the numbers. So, do the math on that, then figure out how much higher NYC cost of living is than the average , then figure out educational distribution in the TWU vs. the rest of the country.
    My gut feeling is that we are still in the ballpark. But what do I know?
    But, what I do know is that the best way to see if the package was indeed fair is to see if the MTA accepts it or something close to it. Which they already have. We’ll hear more details later.
    P.S. Walmart was just fined 172 million for refusing employees lunch breaks.
    It’s good to be a progressive, because we’re right and history will always show it eventually. Except the Rosenbergs…. but about everything else, we’re right.

  55. Matt

    Lindsay, my argument has always been that their average salary of $50k/yr was important. How it compares to average *household* incomes is less relevant by itself, due to other factors such as education, skill level, number of family income earners, etc. You argued that they were earning below average wages, which isn’t true. In fact, the average household income of TWU families is undoubtedly much higher than the national average regardless of the other factors. Whatever, the Christmas holiday is here and I’m going to enjoy it.
    As for history and being right, I suppose it wouldn’t surprise you that I’m equally sure it will reflect favorably on conservatives and prove us right …except for Jack Abramoff and that Iran-Contra thing.
    Merry Christmas!

  56. Lindsay

    OK, one more time, my point was that 46K is not a lot of money to raise a family on in NYC and I used census data to show folks what people make in America as a comparison. I will cheerfully admit that the little fillip about “why do people want to keep them below average” was wrong and overreaching.
    Anyway, that was all seperate from my arguments about why the demands made by the union that the MTA was balking at were appropriate. I don’t even know where the 46 or 50K numbers came from, by the way. This whole argument has become a straw man for my real points.
    I’ll refer you back to my original post. The only point from that you took issue with was my characterization of Pataki, which I stand by and I’ve seen several editorials this evening that took him to task for exactly the same thing.
    Dead horse, meet good, solid beating. Let’s drop it. We’ll see what happens when the already-made secret agreement is revealed in a few days, although it will be billed as a deal that was only worked out after the strike ended. That way Pataki gets to keep the 1973 borders. I mean say that we don’t negotiate with kidnappers, I mean look tough.
    But I think that the union will have carried the day here.
    Matt, I’m glad you see the light on Abramoff and Iran/Contra. Will you also admit that Social Security was a pretty good idea?

  57. Matt

    Ok, Lindsay, in the spirit of Christmas unity let’s put it to rest. I’ll just note that the $46K figure was your own, which you said you found Googling, and the $50K figure came from my splitting the difference between the figures cited by CP and Tim.
    It was fun to actually agree with most people here for once. Where’s Warrior of the Woods now that it finally happened?
    “Will you also admit that Social Security was a pretty good idea?”
    Of course (good one, FDR!), now let’s preserve it by allowing people the CHOICE of putting 6.2% of their payroll tax into individually owned, privately invested accounts. Those who wish to remain in the traditional SS system would be free to do so, of course.


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