New York City is verging on chaos, with an illegal transit-worker strike all but paralyzing the city and costing its economy an estimated $400 million a day. Some experts believe the ultimate cost to the city will be over $1 billion.
From all reports, Mayor Bloomberg is standing tough, facing off against Transport Workers Union President Roger Toussaint and 33,700 striking employees. Yet despite the mayor’s feistiness the strike goes on, proving that being tough in this instance is not enough.
Said the mayor: “It is costing people their jobs. It will cost billions in lost economic activity. It is robbing people of their opportunities to earn a living and provide for their families . . . It is costing students their opportunity to learn. It will make it harder for our police officers, firefighters and EMS to get where they need to go.
“We live in a country of laws where there can be severe consequences for those who break them. Roger Toussaint and the TWU have shamefully decided they don’t care about the people they work for and that they have no respect for the law,” he added. “The leadership of the TWU has thuggishly turned their backs on New York City, and disgraced the noble concept of public service.”
Right on, but not nearly enough.
Look at it this way: these striking workers are creating havoc, subjecting their fellow New Yorkers to economically devastating consequences. Many workers in the city are paid only when they work, and many of them can’t get to work thus robbing of them of any income. Many New Yorkers are being forced to walk long distances to get to their jobs in bitterly cold weather. The streets are jammed with traffic as New Yorkers with cars face monumental traffic jams. And all this is happening in the week before Christmas, the very time many merchants need to earn the profits that help keep them going year long.
And City Comptroller Bill Thompson warns that if the strike lasts a week it will cost New York’s economy $1.6 billion.
The people who have done this – the union bosses and those 33,700 transit workers – have lost any claim they have for job security. They have betrayed the city and the people of New York in the worst possible way and they no longer deserve to be on the city’s payroll.
And it’s some payroll. In a city where the average wage earner makes $45,000, subway operators earned an average of $62,438 a year, including overtime, under the previous three-year contract, according to the Metropolitan Transit Authority. Train conductors averaged $53,000, subway booth clerks $50,720, and bus drivers earned an average of $62,551.
Add to that the fact that these workers can retire at full pension at the age of 55 in a nation where the average retirement age is 65 or higher. That pension program, by the way, is a ticking time bomb down the road that threatens to bankrupt the MTA.
The MTA has offered the union a three-year contract with raises of 3 percent, 4 percent and 3.5 percent through 2008. The transit agency also agreed to retain the union’s full pension retirement eligibility age at 55, on condition that new employees contribute 6 percent of their annual earnings for 10 years to help finance future pensions. So far the union has spurned all such offers.
It’s time for Mayor Bloomberg stand up like a real leader and to do what my father, Ronald Reagan did during the air traffic controller’s strike that threatened to shut down all air traffic – fire all 33,700 of them and fire them now.
The mayor should listen to New Yorkers such as a man named Gary who told CBS News that Bloomberg “should do what Reagan did in the ‘80s when he fired all the air traffic controllers for going on strike. I’m sure in times like these there will be plenty of New Yorkers who’d line up for jobs.”
And if more are needed let the city round up all those illegal aliens living there and put them to work in the transit system.
©2005 Mike Reagan. If you’re not a paying subscriber to our service, you must contact us to print or web post this column. Mike’s column is distributed exclusively by: Cagle Cartoons, Inc. Cari Dawson Bartley email Cari@cagle.com, (800) 696-7561.