Wednesday, December 21, 2005

TWU solidarity from PSC President Barbara Bowen; Transit Tidbit

After reading about the TWU late into the night, I got up this morning to hear these guys from the fiscal policy institute on WBAI's "Wake Up Call." They say it's not pensions that are breaking the bank at the MTA. It's the tax-cutting that led to debt funding of the MTA building projectswhich has led to a huge set of debt payments that get more and more burdensome as times goes on. I seem to recall blogging about this issue about a year ago.

Then, when I turned on my computer, I got this email from the pres. of my union, who says, "support the TWU," in stirring and convincing terms:

The TWU negotiations spotlight the ideological nature of these [city and state contract] negotiations. The TWU strike is primarily about resisting the introduction of a lower level of benefits for the next generation of workers. Transit workers are standing up against what other unions have accepted as inevitable: that collective bargaining will be an opportunity to dismantle the benefits won by generations of workers. The first step in this national anti-labor agenda was undermining salaries; now healthcare and pensions are under attack.

One of the strongest things we can do to support our own contract fight-in addition to the letters to the Chancellor-is support the TWU. Their settlement is likely to have a direct impact on the next round of bargaining in the State, as the TWU is typically the first State contract to be settled. If they lose the fight against a new, lower pension tier, we can expect to see similar concessions in pensions and other benefits demanded of us. And in defying the Taylor Law's regressive, punitive ban on strikes for public employee unions, TWU is helping to change the political climate in which all collective bargaining for public employees in New York takes place. In the most material sense, their fight is our fight. PSC members-and all public sector employees in New York-have a lot at stake in their success.

On this first day of the strike, several PSC members and staffers have already joined TWU strikers on the picket lines. The PSC is organizing a contingent of members to walk the picket line with TWU at the Michael Quill bus depot on 11th Avenue and 41st Street every day the strike lasts, from noon to 2:00. Groups of members in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens have also formed to offer picket support. Call John Hyland at the PSC office if you are available to join them, or check the TWU website for the location nearest you. Members report today that TWU workers are enormously heartened by our presence on the picket line.

The showing of labor solidarity behind the TWU should work to strengthen the position of all the public employee unions in the city that do not yet have contracts. The PSC is pushing relentlessly for a good settlement, and we will continue to work throughout the transit strike and the holiday period to achieve it. I will update you as soon as there is movement. Thank you for your support.

In solidarity,

Barbara Bowen

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