Transit Strike Epilogue: The Unholy Union
December 28, 2005
R. D. Kushner
A moment of silence should be observed by all New Yorkers for their selfish and short sighted behavior during the 60 hour transit strike organized by the Transit Workers Union. The situation called for self-abnegation and understanding, but instead New Yorkers expressed their aptitude for conspicuous consumption and economic myopia.
If New York is the quintessential “blue state,” and New York City its de facto liberal capital, then perhaps The New York Times should have been writing an epitaph for trade unions instead of regurgitating half-baked economic forecasts mottled with graphs, bar charts, and decimal points. The so-called king of the “liberal media” reminded Americans once again that it is little more than the mouth piece for the corporate oligarchy. This time, however the party line wasn’t enough; The Times front page headlines during the transit strike made Fox News look like non-profit, egalitarian basilica of morality. Instead of offering its readers a fair and balanced look at the Transit Union's goals, the New York Times offered forecasts for economic terror.
The city’s and the Times’ spiritual leader, Michael Bloomberg – the plutocrat in chief – was too busy swooning in the lusty bed-sheets of his blind corporate ethos to appreciate that his cynicism about the TWU was more corrupt than their hobbled attempt to chase down a fraction of one percent of his American dream. Mike tried hard to cover up his stench by suggesting that as he was firing invectives at the “Union,” he really only meant its leadership. That inept attempt at revisionist history will fool only the most morally unconscious of New Yorkers; and most writers at the New York Times.
Finally out of the closet, the Mayor has now demonstrated that he is more of a Republican than New Yorkers wanted to believe when they cast their ballots in November. His union-busting behavior, is the kind of social carcinogen that the Bush Administration prides itself on; pretty soon Mike will be offering tax cuts to the rich, arguing against abortion, and joining a book tour with Pat Robertson.
With artists and entrepreneurs fleeing New York City, like Republican Congressmen fleeing the White House leadership in the run-up to the November elections, the leaders of the city that never sleeps are sleeping on the job. With real estate and rental prices following a trajectory into a low Earth orbit, the only free rent initiatives in the city are offered to big businesses with deep pockets. It may be true that Bloomberg isn't beholden to corporate interests from a lobbying standpoint, but his management philosophy brands him the CEO of New York City as he masquerades as its Mayor.
Like all politicians inclined to worship big business, Bloomberg made a predictable decision to pursue an end to the transit strike by any means possible; and in doing so he tried to make sure that upward mobility for 33,000 transit workers and their children would be stifled for generations. If Bloomberg continues to dismantle organized labor with this kind of efficiency he may be tapped by George W. Bush to lead additional social upheaval on a national level.
But just because Bloomberg and corporate America are blinded by profits, doesn't mean the TWU can take a free ride on New York's subways and buses. If economic productivity is the litmus test for weighing the compensation benefits to be bequeathed upon workers, then some discussion of the profitability of the MTA should have been established by the TWU. Highlighting a proportional relationship between profits and benefits would have lead the way to a much more interesting conversation between Lord Bloomberg and the rest of the New York City serfdom.
While local media outlets were busy representing establishment interests, and ignoring obvious questions about the MTA's shady business practices, there was no conversation or reporting about the constructive nature, and the importance of Unions in American labor history. Unions have been responsible for organizing labor to achieve things as simple and important as health insurance, a 40 hour work week, pension benefits, and decent, safe working conditions. Apparently this long history of progress wasn't important enough to report on; simply saying, "Taylor Law," and "illegal strike," was all the main stream media offered to shed light on this complicated situation. Instead of pretending to report the news, the New York Times should have just published an epitaph for the American Union, which probably should have read something like this:
First they came for the Unions. We were angry with organized labor for disrupting our lives. We yelled and we screamed, and said, "haul them away!" And things seemed good for a while. A very short while. But their thirst for social destruction was as great as their greed and their disdain for the poor. And when they came for us there were no unions to protect us from their depraved abuses.