The New York City transit strike was about one thing and one thing only: Racial Hatred. If we had a Black or Latino mayor no strike would have been called. Time and again the Transit Workers and their minority leadership said the strike was about “respect and dignity” and neither of those terms have anything to do with salary or health and pension benefits. The transit workers’ strike against the City of New York was Racist and rotten at its core. Respect and dignity, in the sense the union was referencing, is a street term and not an intellectual argument for higher wages.

Respect and dignity are about power and control and your color and when a minority position finds itself in a power struggle against the White majority, no good can come of it when the major bargaining point of the minority isn’t pension but “respect and dignity.”

This strike was about disrespecting the White Father and it was done in the name of welfare and salary and that is wrong. Six days ago I wrote about the New York City Transit Strike Fake-Out and I am sad to report today how right I was then. Yes, there was a “strike” but it was petty and half-hearted and its intent was to hurt all New Yorkers but it was cruelest to the minority majority in New York because those are the people who rely on busses and trains the most in New York City. By trying to force respect and dignity from the White Man, the union punished their own and received what in the end?

There’s no contract. There’s no benefits increase.

Transit workers lost three days of pay for each day out (no pay a day for not working on top of a fine of two days pay for that missed day) and their union’s $3 million reserve fund was eaten away by a Black judge who warned the union beforehand he would fine them if the union broke the law and called a strike. We are a nation of laws and no union is above the bounds of the law. The judge fined the union at the rate of a million dollars a day when they went lawless. We know this strike was an emotional conspiracy about Race and not an intellectual argument over money because the International parent union of the local union went to court to make it clear they did not support or authorize a strike.

The international union liked how the negotiations were progressing with the MTA and found no reason to leave the table and declare a strike. Perhaps with the local union bankrupt of money, ideas and leadership, the international union can step in and bring some sanity back to the worker’s union. The tide began to turn against the union when it was revealed the average price for bus and train drivers was already $60,000 a year with many making over $100,000 a year. The “working class” argument of the union bosses quickly dissipated with that news and suddenly the name of Rosa Parks was invoked to explain why the union broke the law and went on strike.

The union leadership miserably and faintly tried to argue there is a higher calling than the law — and I agree there is such a higher calling, but it doesn’t get called from the hands of those grubbing $60,000 a year to drive a bus or train — and, like Rosa Parks, the union claimed they needed to squeeze respect and dignity, not more money, out of the MTA. For the union to use the historic civil rights action of Rosa Parks to meet such a narrow and selfish and shallow monetary end earns no respect and curries zero dignity. The mayor called the local union leaders “thugs” and he was right.

Their thuggery was evident from the first threat of an illegal strike and the union leadership’s attempt to spin the mayor’s words against him by claiming the mayor was calling the workers themselves thugs — he was not — set the stage for a long litany of conspiracy theories and misguided boogie men meant to scare the striking workers instead of getting them a non-emotional improved contract.

If the police, firefighters and teachers can work without a contract for three years without striking and then get retroactive pay increases, so can the transit workers. Why did the transit worker leadership think they deserved more special treatment than those civil servants?

The unfortunate answer is Racist arrogance and in their perceived capacity to cripple the integrity of the city with a strike. Well, the strike failed. There is no contract. The MTA is strong. The White Mayor is not bowed. The City lost a billion dollars but we will bounce back stronger in the eye of a misbegotten strike.

You may be able to knock down a New Yorker but we always rise back with more righteous resolve than we had when first struck. New York City survived the pseudo-strike and the transit workers lost precisely what they claimed they needed most in order to avoid a strike: Dignity and respect.

14 Comments

  1. Thanks, Carla! I’ve been doing a slow burn over this for three days.
    The transit workers get to retire at age 55 and their yearly pension is half of their salary — not a bad deal.
    The union claims that workers live only three years after retirement due to diesel fuel fumes poisoning while on the job, but I haven’t seen any hard facts on that claim yet.

  2. I agree dignity and respect do not belong in contract negotiations. Something else was going on here and you hit it. There was no way to stay and no way to walk without losing face with that emotional argument.

  3. It was a confusing three days, Karvain. There is a White Vice President of the local union who said yesterday he was against stopping the strike. He said his people lost nine days worth of pay, they lost the bargaining chip of ruining Christmas and they walked back to work with nothing in hand. He was furious for the local board for de-authorizing the strike so fast and backing down.

  4. It was a huge loss of face and, if you are street bargaining with intangible emotions with no real meaning you can’t ever win. But this wasn’t about winning. It was about making a point that no one is getting. The workers today are still talking about the dignity and respect thing and how they won it by walking out but they don’t get it the fib’s on them when their next paycheck shows up minus nine days.

  5. To go on strike when one is making $100K per year is contemptable, especially when it is done on the shoulders of the working poor who have no alternative means of transportation. If they were making $5.15 per hour, I’d say strike, you probably need a raise. On the other hand, someone making $50.00 per hour needs to be thankful for their blessings.
    The transit workers are making way above the median salary for most people working in NYC. According to Wikipedia, the per capita income is $22,402. (Source).
    I was curious to see how a $100,000 salary compares to the cost of living in my area in Indiana just outside of Chicago and found that it’s comparable to $79,000 per year. (Source: Salary Calculator, NYC and Merrillville, Ind.).
    It shows that even factoring the high cost of living, the transit workers are still pulling in a very nice salary.
    The transit workers are making more money than some professionals. The average salary for an attorney is $80,000, according to Salary Wizard. (Source). The bus drivers are making more than what half of American attorneys make and they don’t have to repay student loans, malpractice insurance, continuing education, office rent, staff salaries, etc.
    I can’t feel sorry for people who during most election years would be considered to be part of the wealthy class making way more than most Americans.

  6. Hi Chris!
    Your post was held in moderation because of all your cool hotlinks! Too many hotlinks in a comment and WordPress thinks you’re a Spammer. I love hotlinks, though, so keep it up! I also hotlinked your hotlinks so they would not run off the page.
    You make a clear and factual point that the Transit Workers make a heckuva good living already and I don’t know many people who would turn down the opportunity to work in such a well-protected position of earning power and early retirement.
    Pensions are important and are a huge sticking point for many cities and their unions. There is a small town in South Dakota that pays one third of their income into healthcare for retired city workers. That rate of payment is unsustainable and the city will be broken by that kind of never-ending financial burden.
    When the UPS workers went on strike a few years ago and it was publicly revealed the average “box carrier” made $55,000 a year at that time — public sentiment quickly turned against the workers and a resolution to end the strike was fast afoot.
    Unions don’t want us to know how much their people make because the higher the salary the higher the union dues! So it creates a vicious circle of grabbing and wanting more and more with no end in sight. Cities need to protect the future for all workers and citizens and it cannot be at the expense of salving a single union’s selfish wishes.

  7. I haven’t read the comments carefully, but I do find interesting when you say: “… was cruelest to the minority majority in New York because those are the people who rely on busses and trains the most in New York City.”
    I agree that the strike was petty and did not achieve much. I also find it interesting that the media do not share blame in creating (or at least perpetuating) the dichotomy of the “white” MTA and the “minority” TWU. Interesting that it has played that way…and by the way, let us drop these generalisations that the majority of the workers are “poor and minorities.” Yes, according to the NYCT, as of 2002 the majoriy of riders were low-income and/or minorities, but the numbers of riders from other income brackets have increased. However, this strike has made me realise, ever more clearly that this city is becoming increasingly for the very wealthy, because the working class (minority or not) is constantly getting screwed.

  8. The majority of the people who ride public transportation are not White they are minorities who use the system to get to work and feed their families since many don’t have any other way to get around and this is expecially true in the outer boroughs. Maybe Manhattan subways are getting Whiter, but that’s a small slice of the whole.
    In 2000, 66% of the transit workers were minorities and 72% of that number were Black. The transit workers union is still a major minority union today.

  9. Your numbers and experience reflect my experience as well, Karvain, and I’m not getting my information from the mass media. I read and research and listen to direct quotes from the major players and I form my own arguments and conclusions.