Thursday, December 29, 2005

What is a Good Contract?

I'm racing against the clock grading final exams right now, and don't really have time to do a real entry. This is my excuse. Do you buy it?
I'd like to open the virtual floor for discussion on the transit strike. When I got up yesterday morning, I heard Mimi Rosenberg on WBAI saying the MTA had won a "good contract." Other people I've talked to have characterized it as "phyrric victory" at best. What I hadn't realized when I heard ol' Mimi talking yesterday was that the give back on health care, characterized as 1 + 1/2 percent in the press, amounts to a $34 million dollar give back. Also, when you consider how low the raises they got were (barely cost of living), the give-back on health care means their wage increase is below inflation. But, with the focus on the pension demand getting taken off the table, having workers contribute "just a little" to their health care didn't seem that bad.
Nonetheless, the press carries on their war on the working class. I saw a typical comment in NY magazine yesterday while I was sitting in the waiting room at the doctor's office. In their issue on things to love about NY, make the annoying and inaccurate comment that NYers, who have "nothing against republicans" but save our "real rage for terrorists and dissemblers and possibly a certain transit union that asks for full pensions at age 50." whaa----?
Doesn't that just capture the "Bloomberg democrat" attitude to a T?
So, here's the question. I see Rosenberg's wish to define this as a "good contract" as some effort to see a victory! in the strike instead of adopting a critical attitude of union leadership in such an anti-union climate. It's probably also the product of the low expectations and small-minded incrementalism that characterize labor bureaucrats in general.
What is the solution, oh readers? In an era of what a friend of mine calls "desperation strikes" that are sweeping the country in a mini-strike wave, is it possible to make these efforts victorious rather than disastrous in the long term?


Anonymous said...

via Steve Gilliard (he thinks it is a good contract):

"What Bloomberg and many white New Yorkers forget is that the heart of the city's revival is not the Eurotrash and hipsters of Billyburg, but the working class and middle class union workers of the city's minorities. It is the TWU members and Con Ed and Verizon workers who not only keep this city running, but who also invest in the city's neighborhoods, demand better schools and send their kids to the city's colleges. They make New York work, where so many other cities failed. Unlike Washington DC, they didn't flee to the suburbs, leaving behind only the poor. Even the city's housing projects have large numbers of working people."

Anonymous said...

More Gilliard on the strike - he may not write so pretty sometimes but he does cite the sources for the (extensive? excessive?) quotes on his blog:

"Damn. Pataki should ask the TWU for his testicles back one day.

The fact is that the MTA needs labor peace in the years ahead. The critics can spout, but it's no longer their city. The MTA needs the good will of its workers and the minority middle class, regardless of Pataki. Once again, Pataki's "hard line" makes him look like a clown."

He's writing about this NY Times article - certainly makes the contract sound like a better deal with the $100 million pension refund:

"The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has signed an agreement that guarantees to compensate transit workers more than $100 million if elected officials in Albany block a critical component of the contract settlement that the authority reached with the union this week, according to several representatives on the union's side.

The officials disclosed the existence of the agreement when they were asked to respond to Gov. George E. Pataki's threat to block the proposed contract provision, which calls for about 20,000 transit workers to receive thousands of dollars each in refunds for a portion of pension contributions they made between 1994 and 2001."

On the related subject of the totally screwed up US healthcare system there's a diary up at DKos that is worth reading too.

Anonymous said...

Great blog I hope we can work to build a better health care system as we are in a major crisis and health insurance is a major aspect to many.

daniel john said...

Certainly this is interesting question that What is a Good Contract?

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