The word of the day: Contingency!
As New York City approaches the zero hour for the MTA and the Transit Workers Union's current contract to expire (midnight), all New Yorkers want to do is contemplate what a Friday the Striketeenth would imply. Though the city released its 1980 transit-strike-inspired contingency plan yesterday, everyone is hoping that another last-minute agreement can be made, a la 2002. Last night, as we were reading tomorrow/today's NY Times transit talks story, we worked ourselves into a tizzy with this quote from the MTA's negotiator: "we are not in a good place." However, some reports have said that the TWU may be willing to scale back its wage demands if the MTA will not pursue as much disciplinary action as recent years. And the MTA's negotiator did add that he was optimistic that an agreement could be reached.
Last night, NYC Transit President Larry Reuter was involved in talks, and MTA Chairman Pter Kalikow is expected to get involved. The NY Times has a very helpful explanation of the surplus issue - the TWU has argued that the MTA's much ballyhooed $1 billion surplus this year should help with worker wage increases, but the MTA argues that the money should go towards its debt. The mistrust between the TWU and MTA over money is impressive, as are some projections that the MTA may get even more in surpluses in upcoming years. And yesterday, we got an interesting comment from someone who says he/she is a conductor - here's a little bit of it:
I'm a conductor, and for all the times that I've been threatened, swung at, spit at, spit on, pissed on (yes...PISSED ON), cursed out, degraded, slurred racially, etc...because someone had a bad day, or missed their train or whatever. Nah, they don't pay me enough to take someone else's abuse. I get it on both ends. From management and the riding public. And for sure, I don't want what I already have to be taken away. And if that means that people have to suffer for a few days, then let the chips fall where they may.
To be honest, NONE OF YOU can have any argument or discussion with me about what transit workers deserve or what they don't deserve. You don't work for NYC Transit, so you don't know. You'll never know until you do. When I train new conductors, I always ask them if they had any misconceptions about this job when they were a passenger that have since cleared up when they got the job. They ALWAYS say that they didn't realize that the job was much harder than it looked.
The problem with the strike is that people generally just want to get where they are going, even in spite of their sympathies. Gothamist would love for the MTA to get the wage increases they deserve, but, for example, public school teachers worked for years without a contract, because the job had to get done. We feel badly for transit workers who may have to pay fines if they strike, as we do for workers who don't have the luxury of being able to take a day off or telecommuting.
Has your office discussed what to do tomorrow? What do you think will happen - last minute agreement that makes everyone look like a hero or a one day strike? And isn't it hilarious how the city is really trying to remind people that the strike is illegal? Gothamist's other transit strike posts.
Photograph from Bluejake, taken at the MTA's Transit Museum