Wednesday, December 14, 2005

New York Transit Strike

Update: December 21

I've noticed I'm getting a lot of hits from Google coming to this post (which is from last week before the strike started). If you came here from Google, you may want to click here to see my latest post on the NYC transit strike.

Original Post:

Later this week, the lives of 4 million people may be severely disrupted. People will be unable to get to work, companies will see their entire business operations disrupted. People will die in their homes waiting for ambulances that cannot make it there through the gridlock, and people will die walking out in the cold. Sound like a terrorist attack? Perhaps, but it's not. I'm talking about the possible New York transit strike that may happen this Friday, on a day when we are expecting a major winter storm here.

New York is a city dependent on transit. Much of the business community in New York is in the big office towers in Manhattan. Of course, most people don't live there, but about 4 million people a day commute into Manhattan in the morning and out again in the evening, and a huge number of those folks do so using public transit: subways and buses. It is estimated that a transit strike by the 34,000 transit workers will result in almost 700 million dollars PER DAY in losses for New York businesses.

Now, transit strikes are supposed to be illegal. In New York State, we have something called the Taylor Law, which is supposed to make transit strikes illegal. The City of New York went today to get a court injunction against the union, barring them from going on strike. And yet, after all this, Roger Toussaint, the president of the Transit Workers Union, had the unmitigated gall to stand up at a rally and yell to the crowd, "If Mayor Bloomberg wants to know what we think about this lawsuit, I'll show you," tearing up the legal papers in front of them. Evidently, the injunction isn't fazing these guys from their nefarious strike plans at all.

What I do not understand is why the city politicians are even putting up with this. Have they no spine? Why are they letting this small group of low-skilled workers hold an entire city of 8 million people hostage?

If the Transit Workers Union defies a court injunction, breaks the law, and goes out on strike anyway, I say fire their asses. Don't even give them an option of coming back to work: they don't show up on Friday, they can consider themselves fired. Good riddance to bad garbage. If they want to come back to work after that, they can re-apply, but the fact they were fired for cause will probably preclude all but the highest performers from being rehired.

Ronald Reagan did this in 1981 for the air traffic controllers, and that worked out quite well. The air traffic controllers had gone out on an illegal strike, and Reagan gave them 48 hours to get back to work or be fired. Many of them thought Reagan was bluffing, and found out the hard way he wasn't. And, it's a heck of a lot harder to replace an air traffic controller than it is to replace a subway operator.

If Ronald Reagan could fire all the illegally striking air traffic controllers in 1981, why can't Michael Bloomberg fire the illegally striking transit workers in 2005? I see no reason at all why he couldn't.