Unionized labor may have its downsides, but the steady decline of union membership has been disastrous for American workers, including Pennsylvanians. That's one reason the TWU deserves your backing.
Editor's note: Read Jacob Lambert's critique of the Transit Workers Union strike here.
While I sympathize with the riders who have been put out, I have no problem at all saying I support the Transit Workers Union. The Daily News reports that SEPTA management has been underfunding the pension fund by 52 percent, and Willie Brown says it's been up to 12 years since the transit company contributed. "We don't want to end up like AIG," Brown says, and I don't blame him: salaries cap out at $50,000, which really isn't that much money when you're raising a couple of kids, saving for the cost of college, and trying to save for retirement. And for the record that's that cap: bus drivers start at less than $30,000.
But more shocking to me is the crazy anti-worker attitude taken by so many in our city.
Look, I'll be the first to admit that a lot of transit workers can be jerks. But I think it's also worth noting that some of the worst aspects of using SEPTA aren't their fault: SEPTA's dysfunctional culture extends down from the very top. It wasn't the drivers who decided to jack the fare to $2 (PDF). It ain't the union that made the "no change" policy. And whether the transit workers themselves are unsympathetic or not is hardly the point anyway. It's about workers defending the benefits they fought for. It's about management keeping up its end of the bargain. And maybe it's because union membership is so low in the U.S. that people kind of forget why unions are important.
Unionized labor may have its downsides, but the steady decline of union membership has been disastrous for American workers, including Pennsylvanians. It's one of the reasons health care costs go up. And its one of the reasons so many of us don't have pensions at all anymore. It's why Wal-Mart gets away with treating its employees like garbage.
The Economic Policy Institute provides a long list of how unions benefit everyone, including non-union workers. For just a few examples:
• Unions reduce wage inequality because they raise wages more for low- and middle-wage workers than for higher-wage workers, more for blue-collar than for white-collar workers, and more for workers who do not have a college degree.
• Strong unions set a pay standard that nonunion employers follow. For example, a high school graduate whose workplace is not unionized but whose industry is 25% unionized is paid 5% more than similar workers in less unionized industries.
Most importantly, "Unions play a pivotal role both in securing legislated labor protections and rights such as safety and health, overtime, and family/medical leave and in enforcing those rights on the job."
Yet, I've heard way too many people follow our mayor's lead, who said "People have lost their jobs, they've lost their pensions, they've lost their health care, and most are just happy to have a job." Not that I expected more from a man whose first reaction to the city's financial crisis, ironically brought on in part by underfunding its own pensions, was to try to shut down pools and libraries (although notably not the one in his neighborhood), but this is a truly repulsive statement.
So people who are lucky enough to have pensions should bend over and take it when management doesn't fund their retirement savings properly, because other people don't have jobs? "My 401K is in ruins, so yours should be too"?
Or as Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky put it, without a drop of irony, "your negotiating hasn't been just about getting more for yourselves. It's been about getting more - much, much more - than the rest of us." This, from someone who's in a union herself.
So I emailed staff at the Daily News to get a sense of what a columnist makes relative to a transit worker. Everyone spoke to claimed ignorance. Then I called the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia, where i was told "salary information is confidential".
But if Editor and Publisher magazine can be believed, some of those columnists make quite a pretty penny. In the case of sports columnist Stephen A. Smith, it was more than four times as much as the most well-paid transit workers.
Still wanna talk about "much, much more than the rest of us", Ronnie?
I'm sure that the next time there's a disagreement between writers and management at 400 N. Broad, no one would consider walking out, because hey other people are lucky to HAVE jobs, right?
The company and the Guild have clashed over management's proposal to freeze and take over the pension, cut sick pay benefits and disregard seniority when it comes to layoffs.
Holcomb said he hadn't heard directly from the council about its willingness to cross picket lines. If they do, they would be breaking a long Philadelphia tradition, he said.
Here's the lamest thing in the world: When somebody calls a protest and the protesters end up outnumbered by A) the journalists who show up to cover the protest, B) the cops who show up to make sure things don't get out of hand, or C) both.
Will Philadelphians show up to express their anger over the SEPTA strike?
Plus: A trans woman files suit against the library. And area parents are worried the flu vaccine will hurt their kids.
I am the wife of a “cashier” and I did not appreciate your article. This job is not an easy one. They have to deal with ignorant people everyday. No matter how polite they are to the customers, the customers are never happy with the answers.
Probably light political blogging here today, folks. Trying to stay abreast of developments in the SEPTA strike for PW’s main website.
Like I’ve often said, SEPTA’s service is usually so crappy that it seems like they’re on strike even when they’re not. But now that Philly’s transit system is truly crippled — and for who knows how long — we hope you’re able to get where you need to go.
At least they waited until after the World Series home games were over. But the surprise strike by the Transport Workers Union caught Philly commuters off-guard -- and presented Mayor Michael Nutter with yet another crisis to solve.
Here’s a prediction for Game 3 of the World Series: The Transport Workers Union will win another round of labor negotiations with SEPTA and baseball fans will be able to take public transportation to the park. But will taxpayers win?
For commuters, the denial meant lost work hours, missed school days, and a status quo of disruption. TWU chief Willie Brown, obstinate as a toddler, was absolutely correct: there was little reason not to hate him.
Also: Cowboys beat the Eagles. And flu shots are available today.
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