A New York City token

We are giving you fair warning: For better or for worse, in the next two months you are going to hear a lot about the plight of the modern transit worker and the incompetence of the MTA. Why? Because the last-mintue three-year contract that the Transport Workers Union signed with the MTA in 2002 expires at 12:01 a.m. on December 16. Isn't that still a bit off? Yes, but negotiations started yesterday.

What is on the table? A lot. The MTA has been systematically screwing around with the union in order to "balance" its books and the union has not been taking it lying down (see the two conductors once again on the L). All of the MTA's issues that have been coming out of the woodwork for the past few years are going to be brought into play now, with the ever-present spectre of terrorism floating just above. We're talking about One-Person Train Operation (OPTO), token booth clerks being turned into customer service agents, terrorism training, standard salary issues, the MTA's famously bad accounting, and more, all peppered with the constant threat of an illegal strike.

With all those factors in mind, when we see a Union rep telling the Times that "the talks might be more difficult than last time, the safety issues are much thornier this time around" our gut tells us to buckle up because we're in for a bumpy ride.

Our completely unfounded prediction? This is going to get an increasingly large amount of press as the election approaches followed by a lull for a few weeks, then as the deadline approaches you are going to see more talk of a strike, with emergency plans and legal threats being thrown left and right. And then, we suspect, a new contract will be agreed upon in the nick of time. But that's just our hunch, what's yours?