The Talking Dog

December 28, 2005, In the strike zone

In this assessment of the wage and benefit package reached by the Transit Workers Union Local 100 after last week's crippling New York City transit strike, the New York Times concludes that the union got the better of the deal.

This is a somewhat interesting assessment, given that the union walked away from the table and the commuters of New York when the wage offer was 10 1/2% over three years. After a painful strike in which each union member lost 6 days pay the wage gain was (wait for it)... 11% over three years. The big sticking point, of course, was the union's refusal to commit new (meaning not yet hired) workers to pay up to 6% of their first 10 years' salaries toward their own pension (resulting in the union storming away from the bargaining table and onto the picket lines).

Well, the union won't have to bear that. Instead, its existing members will now contribute a minimum of 1.5% of their salaries toward their own health care costs (previously, they did not contribute anything), an amount which can be increased if costs of healthcare increase to the MTA, the unaccountable state agency that manages the City's transit system (I continue to find it both frustrating and amusing observing how many otherwise intelligent people here think that the City government runs the MTA, when in fact, its the state government).

I agree wholeheartedly with the Times that the union's leadership comes away with a major face saving. I disagree that the leadership achieved anything for its members, other than shifting controllable pension obligations to future members back to the MTA, while shifting uncontrollable health care obligations onto existing union members. There's a simple word for that deal, given what the union otherwise had available to it: bad.

The union may get lucky, and health care costs may not rise that much, Yeah.

It looks to me that The Times is not assessing this union situation much better than, say, it assessed the credibility of the reporting of Judy Miller or Jayson Blair.