Republican Mayor Bloomberg is a Republican, After All
by Matt Stoller, Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 11:43:58 AM EST
So, now we know, thanks to Steve Greenhouse's analytical story about the fight over the pension issue, that the entire savings to the MTA--an authority that has a surplus of at least $1 billion--if it got its pension demand (which both sides agree triggereed the strike) would be a whopping $20 million over the next three years. This is a story that needs widespread attention.
For those people here and elsewhere who blame the union, please, get a grip. It can' t be more clear now that the M.T.A. forced a strike over a pittance to its coffers--but a 4 percent cut to workers. The union's position was: we are not going to hurt the people who want to work in the future. Lord, here's a union standing up for the principle that it has a responsibility to protect the interests of workers who are not even paying dues to the union!!! In other words, for the union, for Roger Toussaint, this wasn't entirely about solving an internal political issue--though, obviously, there are great tensions inside the union leadership.
Contrast that to the M.T.A., Mayor Bloomberg and George Pataki: you've got high-paid executives at the M.T.A., a billionaire mayor and a governor who is raising millions to run for another political office telling workers trying to make a middle-class living that they should take a hit. The M.T.A. is using the rhetoric of slowing down future pension obligations--a crisis that does not exist today. Yes, long-term pension obligations have to be addressed but those can be solved without taking a big whack at workers.
But, you have to give the M.T.A. and their allies credit. They are successfully turning part of the working class against its brethern. Because most people no longer have a decent pension, they are told that those who do have a decent pension should give it up. The same is true of health care. Rather than the debate turning to a public policy strategy that would give everyone affordable health care and decent pensions, employers have masterfully made the debate about the need for workers to sacrifice and get less--a chorus that is joined by some workers who are angry that their living standards are declining but have turned their anger against the wrong people.
Ian Welsh has a lot more on the history of the TWU. The right to organize is really what's at stake here.