Topic: Around Town

The strike has struck. The TWU and the MTA couldn’t come to an agreement last night, so all city subways and buses are stopped, paralyzing New York City.

I’m trapped in Brooklyn. I could theoretically have walked the Brooklyn Bridge, but by HopStop.com’s estimate, that would have taken two hours and 37 minutes to travel the 5.41 miles, in 24-degree weather with a wind chill of around 12 degrees. And then I’d have to do it again to get home. Instead, I’ve notified people at my office that I’m available to work from home via telephone and email.

That’s me, and I can get away with it, but I worry about all those folks who get paid hourly or by piece or sale and will not be able to reach their jobs. Not to mention the transit workers themselves, who will suffer this holiday season.

I’m disappointed in the TWU for calling the strike now. I agree that the MTA has been shady with its finances, to say the least, and that the TWU should be given a deal equivalent to those that other municipal unions have received. On the other hand, transit workers make an average of $50,000 a year — more than I make — don’t pay anything for their healthcare and receive generous pensions at age 55.

Considering these less-than-Dickensian current conditions, the TWU could have stayed on the job without a contract for some period of time, as the less-well-paid United Federation of Teachers (UFT) did for two years, ending in November of this year. At the very least, the TWU should have waited to strike until after the holidays so that the economic impact on the communities they serve would be less devastating, and so that its own union members could get to Christmas without facing lost pay and possible fines.

Yes, the MTA should have been more flexible, but it is Roger Toussaint who decided on the timing of this strike, and I am unimpressed with his arguments that this had to happen now.