DMI Blog

Elana Levin

Union Envy

wizard10.jpg Management threw your pension out the window?

Angry that your boss is telling you to use your vacation days during the strike so you can save him some money?

Not getting reimbursed for carfare?

Jealous because MTA workers can get a living wage and healthcare and you don't?

Get out of that scarcity mentality. The transit workers didn't do that to you. Your BOSS did. But don't mourn. ORGANIZE.

You too could have the power over your own life to say "no" to getting the short-end of the stick. Much of the bitterness I've heard around the blogs from folks that are against the transit workers sounds like jealousy to me. They ask "Why do they deserve to get paid a living wage"?

Because all workers need a living wage. That's the social contract: you work hard, you play by the rules, and, back in the days when most of this country was unionized, following the rules meant you got to retire some day, you got healthcare, you got stability. These days, without a union employees get Enron-ed.

If you don't have a collective bargaining agreement you're at the mercy of your employer. I don't care how great your computer programming skills are buddy, you can't possibly negotiate on equal(ish) footing with your employer unless you and your co-workers stand together (and you know there's another programmer in a different country who will do your job for less).

If the "middle class squeeze" has demonstrated anything it should be the need for more white-collar unions. Adjunct professors can finally see a dentist. If you've ever had to study under a prof. in need of a root canal, let me tell you... we all suffer.

Kalikow and Co. are succeeding at pitting white-collar workers and low income workers against blue collar workers. Ahh, divide and conquer. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, they guy with the creative accounting that keeps outsourcing work to private contractors who cost more than municipal workers. Never mind that the MTA is willing to give away some of its most valuable assets, its landholdings, at below market value. Never mind that last year Kalikow gave himself a 22% raise, or the budget gouging done by Pataki and the upstate marauders. Let's pit regular New Yorkers against each other!

(Luckily, the latest survey's show that New Yorkers see through the MTA's tactics.)

And guess what? Transit workers have shared interest with white-collar workers and low-income workers. If pensions are undermined for transit workers, what does that mean for your pension? If your pension stinks don't blame the transit workers, learn from them. Notice how when Verizon threw pensions in the trash it only did so for non-unionized, white-collar workers. Your college degree will not save you. Solidarity can.

Unions aren't just for blue-collar workers. They're for everyone that's at the mercy of their employers. And that is just about everyone.

Suggesting that the MTA follow the bad example set by many private companies in shifting the burden of retirement more towards employees is very self destructive. The fact that it is happening in the private sector is exactly why we have to call a stop to it in the part of the economy we the people control through our democratic institutions.
Just because you have it bad don't wish a pox on someone else's house. The economy isn't a Zero Sum Game-- management just plays it that way to deflect accountability (and unity).

Don't become part of the race to the bottom! You may get to ride the subway sooner but you won't make it out on top.

Elana Levin: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 5:30 AM, Dec 22, 2005 in Cities | Employment | Labor | MTA Strike | Middle-class squeeze | New York | Progressives | Retirement Security | TWU 100 | Transportation
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