Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Strike Zone

NY1, New York's all-news cable channel, isn't very good, but their reports are sometimes inadvertently revelatory. Yesterday evening while I waited for Lillet to make her three-hour commute home I watched their coverage of the transit strike. Now let's see how real New Yorkers are coping! The second person interviewed was a man in his mid-30's. He was taking the first day in stride — no anger — but he expressed deep concern about a continued strike: My worry is what will happen if the strike is still going on when we all need to get to the airport to go home for the holidays.

I was born here but I have an abiding respect for New Yorkers who have become so by choice. It's not an easy thing to do. But a lot of people who live in New York aren't
New Yorkers. It's reasonable — isn't it? — to expect a "real New Yorker" to think of New York as his home. Not only is this guy going to the airport to go "home for the holidays," he seems to think that we all are, to which I can only say, dude ... don't forget to give your dorm key to the RA or they'll charge you like fifty bucks. I mean, really. I don't wish you any inconvenience or additional expense in getting to LaGuardia, but once you land in Minneapolis dad will pick you up in the Suburban and your biggest worry over Christmas will be remaining mindful of everything your therapist said in your last session.

Let's face it: lots of "New Yorkers" think that striking transit workers are watching Oprah and eating potato chips, laughing at the rest of us who have to fight over taxis to take us between Bloomingdale's and SoHo, or to the airport to go "home." But "home" for the transit workers is New York — it's Morisiana and Washington Heights and Jamaica and Ridgewood. These are people who count on mass transit as much if not more than the rest of us do. And there is no other "home" for them to go to.

So much rhetoric surrounding this strike highlights the fact that New York has become a two-tiered city, yet no one seems to want to acknowledge this. I also saw on NY1 last night an interview with Roger Toussaint. He was asked can union members afford the one million dollars per day fine? It was a ridiculous question and was left unanswered. The interviewer pushed and Toussaint snapped, of course not — no one can afford a million dollars a day!

Well, Peter Kalikow could, for a while at least. And, hell, Mike Bloomberg could afford a million a day.
Even if we fined him via direct deduction it would be several months before he so much as blinked at the ATM screen. Are we supposed to think that it is mere coincidence that the city is being run by wealthy men, that workers must negotiate with billionaires?

When I listen closely to Bloomberg talk about Roger Toussaint I hear something very ugly. I am reminded of Dan Quayle as he and Bush I prepared to run for re-election, concerned that Mario Cuomo might run against them. Quayle would intone "Mario" over and over, trying to make it sound as strange and un-American as possible. Bloomberg is not so simpleminded but when I hear him repeat "Toussaint" over and over I hear Toussaint — black man with an accent from one of those taxi-driver countries.

I heard Bloomberg say that Toussaint and the TWU have no respect for the people they serve, as if they were indentured rickshaw drivers, coolies. Hey, Mike, you work for me, too. Or do you? My impression is that you work not for me but for that tier of New Yorkers who — like yourself — come here to make their fortunes or else to play for a while and then go home (or to Bermuda) for the holidays.

Now we're hearing that TWU officials may be facing prison time. It is, after all, illegal for public sector employees to strike. I would not be at all surprised to see union officials jailed. On the other hand, government surveillance of U.S. citizens without warrant is also illegal, but I will not be holding my breath waiting for anyone to do jail time for that much more chilling crime.


Anonymous z said...

Seriously, WTF? I get mad that all these MFers in the media say over and over again how selfish the union is, how awful...As usual, the folks with the money are inciting the classes "beneath" them to fight for whatever scraps they feel like giving us, so, at a time when we should be united, most folks are griping about the union: "all they do is sit on their asses and make more money than most people do, what the f*ck they have to put money into their pension, at least they HAVE a pension."

I'm as tired as the next person, and just as ready for this strike to be over. I just won't be turning against the union in the process.

I'm a NYer by choice and this is where I'm going to stay.... until it gets so bad in this country that we have to seek asylum somewhere else. *knock wood that doesn't happen*

9:56 AM  
Blogger Mr. H.K. said...

Eloquently stated!

Mr. H.K.
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8:19 PM  

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