MTA Disrespects Us All, Governor Dodges Accountability
New York City area commuters are all too familiar with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's disrespect for its riders: the MTA hid its budget surpluses to justify a fare increase and, in a time of growing concern about security, has reduced the presence of knowledgeable personnel in trains, stations, and elevators.
Likewise, taxpayers throughout New York State are acquainted with the MTA's lack of consideration for the public's money as the MTA tried to sell publicly-owned real estate it controls for hundreds of millions less than its true value.
Now we see that the MTA has no more regard for its employees than it does for riders or taxpayers. Members of the Transport Workers Union, whose last contract was negotiated in the depths of recession, have asked for things like negotiable wage increases, more reasonable leave policies, and the right to take bathroom breaks without receiving a citation.
But the MTA has been intransigent. Knowing its employees would face tremendous penalties if they were to exercise their most effective bargaining tool and refuse to continue working, it has demanded concessions on pension and health benefits and refused to budge.
But part of this picture is missing. The MTA is a state public authority, primarily controlled by NY Governor George Pataki. Governor Pataki starved the MTA's budget, appointed real estate developer/GOP donor Peter Kalikow to head the MTA and selected the majority of the board that runs the Authority.
Yet Governor Pataki gets let off the hook. We let him dodge accountability, and say: "This is not something where politicians at the last minute ride in on a white horse." That's an unacceptable response from the man who has been the official ultimately in charge of the MTA for the last ten years.
If the MTA continues to stonewall its employees and we all find ourselves unable to get to work one morning -- an outcome that looks likely at this moment of "partial strikes" -- Governor Pataki is the one to call with our complaints.