Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The TWU won 
TWU Local 100 and the MTA have reached a tentative agreement on a new 3 year contract. The TWU membership will receive the raises that had been on the table when contract talks broke down last week - 3%, 4%, and 3 1/2%. The proposed 6% pension contribution for new employees has been scrapped, but union members will now have to contribute 1.5% (about $60/month) toward their health insurance.

The sticking point for the union had been the pensions - specifically that current TWU members were to continue their 2%-of-salary contributions but that new employees would contribute 6%. This divide-and-conquer strategy has been prevalent in labor contract negotiations for quite a while now, as management has attempted (with a lot of success) to dilute unions' power by creating multi-tier contracts and a class-stratified rank-and-file - in effect making newer workers distrustful and resentful of their unions and of workers with more seniority and thus better deals. The TWU managed, thankfully, to stave off this left-handed, nibbled-to-death-by-ducks approach to union-busting.

The strike was a pain in the ass for sure, for me and for millions of people in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut area - but the ultimate benefit, for the TWU and for all working Americans should not be underestimated. Unions have been under the gun since Ronald Reagan took on, and destroyed, PATCO back in the early 1980's. Since then, American workers - blue-collar and white, unionized and not - have increasingly been on the shit-end of the stick when it came to employer-employee negotiating power, and the results have included newly huge income disparities, and static or declining household incomes in an economy that has been booming for almost the entire Ronald Reagan - Bush II period.

I'm not, and never have been, a union member, but my father was a public school teacher and teacher's union officer back when teachers had to strike just to get a living wage. When his union struck in 1972, we suffered the same Taylor Law 2-for-1 income loss that the TWU workers and their families are facing today. Unions aren't always in the right, nor management always wrong, and not all strikes are created equal - but in my opinion the TWU were more than justified in walking out. Congrats to Roger Toussaint and the members of the TWU for standing up for their, and our, collective bargaining rights.

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