One more thing for the Big Apple to worry about: a transit strike. On Wednesday, the Transport Workers Union rallied in lower Manhattan, amassing 10,000 laborers to protest management’s demand for an austere contract. “We’re here to shut it down,” members vowed.
Striking is illegal and seems irrational — but we aren’t living in law-abiding or rational times, and in the chaotic vacuum of national politics, the union may think it has found its moment.
A strike would have been unthinkable a couple of years ago. The 2005 Christmas-week strike was a failure, resulting in fines so high that the union had to sell its headquarters. The union also temporarily lost the right to collect dues via payroll deduction.
Afterward, the union changed management and tactics. Being close personal friends with Gov. Andrew Cuomo — and patient — paid off. In 2012, the union’s then-chief, John Samuelson, did something that had never happened before: allow the union to work without a contract. Cuomo was still in his first-term freeze-spending mood, and Samuelson waited him out.
By 2014, Cuomo had changed moods, and the TWU got a five-year contract, retroactive to 2012, that kept up with inflation, plus parental leave and better health care. In return, the union would pay 2 percent of wages to health care, rather than 1.5. In 2017, the TWU got an even sweeter deal, with better-than-inflation raises and new perks, no givebacks required.
This goodwill has evaporated.
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