Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Union & Capitalism

Here's the thing about the NYC Transit Union strike: I don't really give a fuck what the complaints of the Union are - I know this: America is a Capitalist Nation. The ULTIMATE Capitalist Nation. That means we mostly have free pricing power on goods and services. Obviously, there are some exceptions.

Now, I have absolutely no doubt that there are hundreds of thousands of workers or un-employed people who would be happy to do the work that the transit workers are doing, for their pay and benefits. Thus, I'm against the strike. I think every fucking one of them should be fired, and we should hire a new transit force. I smiled as I logged on to and disputed the $76 I paid for my 30 day unlimited Metrocard: on the grounds that the MTA has failed to deliver the service I paid for.

Don't rush to judgment to label me a heartless republican - that's not the case at all: I'm a very fair and reasonable man. My point is simple: there are plenty of others who are willing to do the work for the same price: so let them. Never mind the fact that transit workers are compensated pretty well: many of them make in the neighborhood of $20+ per hour. I know that there are plenty of people flipping burgers at McDonalds who would be plenty happy mumbling incoherent crap into the intercom of a subway car every time the door opens.

In the end the problem is that there is a surplus of unskilled/low-skilled labor in the United States. The minimum wage in the U.S. is probably a result of just this fact: if the market was allowed to freely set wages, there would always be someone willing to wash dishes for $2 an hour, and employers would be able to unfairly capitalize on the surplus of labor. Still, with the transit workers, there are plenty of people willing to fill such jobs, thus the Unions lose their leverage: because they shouldn't have any leverage to begin with! Their only leverage is in threatening to strike, which is why the strike is illegal, and why they deserve to be fined and have their pay docked. Each striking employee is docked 3 days of pay for every day they strike. New York One news reported that 1000 workers had crossed the picket line and gone to work last night: kudos.

I was talking with some colleagues who sympathized with the transit workers. Huh? what about the hundreds of thousands of hard working New Yorkers who are getting fucked because it takes them 3 1/2 hours to get to work? The transit workers have a right to a pension? Sure - and New Yorkers have a right to be able to get to work in a reasonably manner: which means not being held hostage by the transit union. Guess what - the pension benefits cost money. You have to pay for those benefits. Those benefits will be worth even more in the future: THAT is why you have to pay more for them now. One of my the people I was discussing this issue with asked me, "How would you feel if your boss tried to replace you with someone who worked for less than your salary?" Guess what: if he could, he would do it in a heartbeat. I earn my income doing a job which not everyone can do - and I get paid a premium for that. If there were 100,000 people who could do my job as well as me, I'd make a helluva lot less.

As a result of the strike, cab drivers are gouging customers, taking advantage of the ridiculous $10 minimum zone system, and scalping un-knowing tourists.

Did you know that transit workers make more money than teachers, firefighters and police officers? (Source: New York Times 12/21/05, Sewell Chan) I really don't think there's anything more that needs to be said.

And I'm on TILT.



Anonymous said...

The only MTA workers I feel bad for are the ones that actually want to work, but can't because the stations aren't open, and it's not like they have a choice about being in the union. That - and they're going to be treated like crap once the strike is over (soon... please... ).

I hope the fines stick, and I can only imagine the celebration we could throw if the union leaders see jail time.

The Bracelet said...

My dad's old company had such a difficult time with the skank leading the union at the original plant that they purchased a company in Texas (A right to work state, or whatever it's officially called) and used it as leverage.



Anonymous said...

Now that the "back breaking" three day strike is over I hope you have gained some much needed perspective. Your rant w/ demands that all TWU members should be fired are words of a man who needs a good dose of humility.

Just like you I am a Manhattan living, non-union white collar working, college educated guy who sits in an air conditioned room all day w/ a computer and plays cards at one of the ever changing local clubs at night. I busted my ass to get to where I am so I don't have to physically bust my ass like some poor TWU worker. You and I live a soft life that can pretty much go on until we decide to retire. Physical labor or running around on your hands and knees in subway tunnels is not soft and only a fool would not fight w/ every fiber of his being to retain the best package that they can get (sound capitalistic to me). Because for them retirement is going to be a physically painful experience.

The real villan in the 2005 Transit strike is the total and complete mismangement by the MTA and it's top heavy, grossly overpaid board. "Two sets of books" - that just about sums it up. Also, why does the subway basically stop running everytime a heavy summer rain hits? You think that would be on someone's "to fix" list. These guys are as crooked as a snake and deserve all of the problems and public anger that come their way. Believe it or not I choose to walk to & from work daily cause I can't stand giving them my money. The 30 min of fresh air is totally worth it.

Give NYC blue collar workers a break. After the coming collapse of the US auto market North American unions in general won't have much left to hold onto. At least the TWU bought 3 more years of a fair deal. That will help out a lot of old timers who have kept this city running for decades.

No hard feels just a difference of opinion.


Kid Dynamite said...

"Trainwreck" - thanks for the well thought out reply.

I am certainly thankful to have had the opportunity to get where I am, and I'm thankful for the job I have - but that's pretty much irrelevant to the TWU strike.

These workers "fighting with every fiber in their being" is not Capitalistic, because they are already paid well above the rate they would receive if the free market set the rate for their services. They are hiding in the debilitating power of the Union to skirt that issue.

The fact that some workers may be busting their asses literally doing hard physical labor is also irrelevant. Some of them work hard - fine. Good for them. They get paid to do that. If they don't want to do hard phsyical work, there are plenty of people who would. THAT is Capitalism.

You say we should give NYC blue collar workers a break, but they are exactly the ones who got fucked most by the TWU strike. I hate paying $15 for a cab to work, but at least I can afford to do so. Many of the people trying to get around NYC during the strike could NOT afford to take a cab or a private car: THEY are the ones who suffered, spending 3 hours each way trying to get to their blue collar jobs, while the TWU held the city hostage.

Read Reagan's quote I posted:

You are correct: the TWU strike didn't ruin my life: but again, that's not my point.

I guess, in the end, my point is exatly this: You said that I should gain a dose of humility for saying that all the hard working striking employees should be fired. You said that I should be thankful that I have the opportunity to earn a great living. My point is, the TWU workers earn a very good living for doing a largely unskilled job. THEY should be the ones who are grateful - THEY should be the ones who should thank their lucky stars that they earn more than NYC teachers. THEY should be the ones who are ecstatic that they don't have to stand over a McDonald's fry-o-later for 8 hours a day at $6/hr.

Instead, they are on strike, thinking they are entitled to free pensions and lack of disciplinary action.

Where do you play cards? I'm guessing we've already met at some point. I'd be happy to have an intelligent conversation with you on this subject. Or to let you destack me with A-Q.