Thursday, December 22, 2005

Unions 101: Some Thoughts on the New York Transit Strike

The current New York Transit strike has got considerable international attention. So I thought I'd write about the people who the mayor of New York called thugs.

It's a pretty damn cool strike. First of all it's illegal, the Union will be fined a million dollars a day for the strike, and each worker will lose two days pay for each day they strike. I don't know a single New Zealand union that would do that (I certainly haven't heard of any illegal strikes in New Zealand since I've been an aware of that sort of thing).

The main issue seems to be that the MTA is trying to claw-back conditions relating to retirement, so that workers would have to pay 6% of their salary for the first 10 years to get retirement benefits. What is just amazing is that they'd grandparent the current wages and conditions. So the workers are going on strike, and facing huge penalties, to ensure that everyone else after them will have what they've got now. Protests like this give me the hope that fuels my activism.

Now I read a few American feminist blogs, and some of them have been writing about the strike. What has disturbed me is how many of the commenters, who seem to consider themselves lefties, have been judging the union, discussing what a living wage in New York would be, whether or not a retirement age of 55 is fair and reasonable, and blaming the striking workers for the chaos caused for New York.

It's not up to us, because we don't work there. Union decisions are (or should be) made by the members, because it's their lives that are at stake. If people are prepared to fight for better wages and conditions then anyone who has any left-wing credentials, must support them unconditionally (I can think of some reasonable exceptions, but - because it's cold - is not one of them).

Some of the commenters are even comparing the amount transit workers are paid to the amount teachers are paid. It doesn't work like that under capitalism you don't get paid what you deserve (and I don't necessarily think teachers deserve less than MTA workers, but that's another issue), you get paid the lowest possible amount they can get away with paying you. If you're in a well organised industry then you may be able to get what seems like quite a lot. That's a good thing for the rest of us.

6 comments:

  1. There were a number of wildcat strikes which were illegal on the Wellington railways a couple of years ago. In one instance the struck when a worker was summarily fired. I'm sure there have been a few more.

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  2. I am all for protecting workers from exploitation... now we need to protect the economy from economic terrorism that unions practice... look at GM, look at Ford, look at the MTA. High cost, low quality products, while non-union, more educated, more useful contributors to society and the economy can be fired and have no future..... unions do not want to pay 1% to THEIR healthcare for NEW hires.... Bin Laden couldn't be happier with the economic harm they are causing.

    Please read; http://imran.com/media/blog/2005/12/mr-reagan-tear-down-this-wall-of.html

    regards

    Imran
    http://imran.TV

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  3. That's funny, Imran graced my blog with his presence as well. He must be paid to make the rounds with his 'Taylor-made' diatribe against the strike.

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  4. Okay, I'm gobsmacked! Where do these people come from?

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  5. I don't know but it's bullshit that makes me want to edit my comments for content.

    Workers not working as told - I guess that could be consider terrorism, if you believed in slavery.

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  6. go read indymedia new york: http://nyc.indymedia.org

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