Thursday, November 05, 2009

Notes on the Philly transit strike

Willie Brown, President, Transport Workers Union Local 234 via Reuters:

SEPTA's board is demanding that TWU members pay for a greater share of their pension to make up for their mismanagement of the plan. Meanwhile SEPTA is increasing pension benefits for managers who make lower contributions -- which we find completely unfair.

Something I like to do when any workforce decides to strike is to familiarize myself with their concerns.  Because so many people in this category are already living paycheck to paycheck, it's usually safe to assume that whatever the sticking points of the negotiations, they are serious enough that those of limited means would forfeit income and stability in the hopes of arriving at an optimal resolution.

I seek out the perspectives of working people because, by and large, they do not have public relations departments; nor are their organizations integrated commercially with the regional media outlets that make such routine use of them.  Groups that have these things, or that otherwise enjoy vast resource advantages, generally get their point across.  Those that don't get slandered -- as weaker parties are always wont do.

What I often find in the case of local labor negotiations is a total lack of awareness of the union's position, out of which every variety of prejudicial nonsense subsequently takes flight.  Today I heard from a person who would do very well to have a city job that "Anybody who earns 50k a year just to drive a bus doesn't have a right to complain in today's economy."™  This is a perennial crowd pleaser, bemoaning as it does that the sort of soul to be found driving buses would ever presume to defend a job which, by some undisclosed formula of compensation, affords the means to a near-middle class existence for one's family!

Of course, in circumstances as pitiful as these, even claims made from the union side -- see above -- will present themselves to the average observer as something akin to a revelation, inasmuch as they are comprehended at all.  A simple trip to the local union's homepage will unearth concepts heretofore unimagined in the public arena, and transcend all investigative reporting on Channels 2-13.  Invariably, this elicits the response: "I hadn't heard that."  Of course, you didn't; as that is the entire point.

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