Nobody should gloat about the recent transit strike. Neither the real arrogance of the MTA nor the fictional greed of the TWU carried the day. It hurt everyone. But like the pain of physical therapy after illness or injury, it may have been essential for the long-term recovery of the patient. That patient is the American Dream of the Middle Class.For a hundred years, every new generation improved its standard of living and quality of life over those that passed before. Economic, social, and political policies of the whole nation and on every level favored it. It was a “given.” Manufacturing jobs were not exported , as now, to nations where slave and prison labor are the norm, and the meekest protest is life-threatening. Neither were they driven to countries, as now, where American companies don’t have their “entrepreneurship” corrupted by pesky irritants like the constitutional rights of their employees, health and pension costs, or those godless profit-eroding anti-pollution laws that spark “class warfare.”
Dignity in the workplace wasn’t deemed a radical power-grab, or “due-process” protections an ultimatum from unthankful militants. Patriotism was more than an epithet calling dupes to arms; it was a call to material and spiritual prosperity for ordinary, hard-working, law-abiding people. But that was then and this is now. In New York State today, reactionary politicians and media are seeking to divide the labor movement by pitting union against union, worker against worker. They are also trying to drive a wedge in the public’s mind between union leaders and their membership. They want to cultivate petty jealousies and rivalries based on contract one-upsmanship and other diversionary clashes. Despite the collateral agony of the strike on New Yorkers, an awareness of which is deeply hurtful to the caring TWU employees, their struggle was and remains on behalf of those of your readers who do not wallow in dividends or party with golden parachutes. It should shock all of those whose belief in the “American Way” is authentic, that the most “generous” contracts settled in recent years with public employee unions, scarcely keep up with the official “cost of living.” Under the Taylor Law, employers are mandated to bargain in “good-faith.” But that level-playing field theory is never practiced. They are under no pressure ever, even if they offered no raises interminably. Workers who strike have in effect their livelihood confiscated, because of the brutal, one-sided penalties of the Taylor Law. Even workers most frugal in their habits are typically two paychecks ahead of the poorhouse. The mayor and governor want to reduce that to one paycheck. Mayor Bloomberg, chivalrous knight for the “little guy”, earns more money in an hour than most Americans do in a lifetime. Unions are banned from his own company, and the Chief Executive reportedly orders fumigation teams to clear the air of rooms where his workers talk of collective bargaining. But Bloomberg is indeed a “man of the people” as he stands erect on the Brooklyn Bridge just across from everyman’s “J and R.” He shrugs off winter’s chill as hovering helicopters emit, with laser-precision, beams of warmth that create an invisible cozy kiosk for the mayor, following and encasing him as he strides. Above, streamers trail a Bloomberg corporate jet, scrambled from the Murdoch Airfield, proclaim across the porcelain, cloudless skies the wondrous handiwork of his sea-to-shining-sea unionless holdings. Bless his ascot!
Ron Isaac aka Redhog is a chapter leader in Queens.