Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Union to New York: Drop Dead

Mrs. Abe's sister and her family are currently visiting New York City, and we certainly appreciate everything the Transit Workers Union (TWU) is doing to make these French visitors feel right at home. Ironically, the place they work in France was also hit by a strike today, so it's almost like they never left.

Practically every time we go to France there's some strike or other action: burning GM crops; trashing a MacDonald's; dumping tank trucks of wine on the highway; and so on. Generally, the actions are illegal, but no one ever seems to face significant punishment over these things, and the owners of the property are just out of luck.

New York businesses are losing an estimated $400 million a day in business due to the illegal transit strike. A judge is fining the union $1 million a day for the strike, but that seems like small potatoes compared to the damage they are doing. They've timed it for maximum damage, of course, during the "holiday season" as the PC crowd requires us to call it.

Of course one can't help but be sympathetic for those poor workers, struggling to get by, as the Wall Street Journal (subscription link) reports:
Today TWU bus drivers earn, on average, $63,000 annually, while subway motormen make $54,000 and subway cleaners $40,000. Workers get full health benefits, make no contributions to insurance premiums and can retire after 25 years of service or at age 55. The MTA has an unfunded pension liability of $1 billion. Given the strike, one might think the MTA is asking for significant givebacks of these perks. Hardly. It asked to push the retirement age back to 62 for new workers but dropped that demand and is now merely asking that they contribute 6% of their pre-tax salaries toward their pension for their first 10 years on the job, as well as pay 1% of salary for health insurance. By contrast, the TWU demanded that the MTA lower retirement age to 50 for its current workers and grant 8% wage increases over the next three years.
Admittedly, the cost of living is high in New York (and this is a big reason why), but this is 25% above the pay for comparable jobs in the private sector in New York. And that's before the rich benefit package.

In 1980 we interviewed for a job as a professor at a university on Long Island. The salary for the job, which required a PhD in chemistry, was $14,000 per year. At the time the garbage collectors in the city made $20,000, and they were on strike. Our guess is that the educational requirements for the garbage jobs were somewhat lower than for the college professor jobs.

Governor Pataki of New York fancies himself Presidential Material, but has yet to do anything to distinguish himself (in a postive way). Elliot Spitzer has been trying to build up his presidential resume by prosecuting everyone in sight, but apparently doesn't see anyone here to prosecute. Mayor Bloomberg has caved to this kind of thing before and seems to have no stomach to defend the New York taxpayers against the depredations of the public sector unions. Come on, boys, show us you deserve your current jobs, enforce the law.

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