Like most New Yorkers who rely on mass transit to get to and from work, I’ve been closely following the story of the looming strike of all NYC transit workers, which would essentially halt all subway traffic and many of the commuter trains in and around NYC.
While I’m sympathetic to the workers’ desire for higher wages, increased pension benefits and more healthcare coverage, I’m appalled at the Union’s position of being hell-bent on striking and holding the City of New York as their hostage. Unions, in general, have not done well keeping pace with the changing face of business and the role they play in it. They claim to protect the rights of workers, and attempt to do so by threatening strikes and work slowdowns, in an effort to disrupt the businesses that employ their members.
However, I wonder how many MTA workers, aside from the people at the staged rallies, really want to strike, especially in light of a contract offer that does bring them considerable pay increases over the next two years. Are they really looking to be out of work with no income right before Christmas? Do they think the hundreds of dollars they pay each year in union dues are worth all of this? Furthermore, do they realize that a strike will cost small and medium-sized businesses in NYC hundreds of millions of dollars? The strike would hurt all the wrong people, including members of the union.
Unions, in their current state, are becoming more and more irrelevant in today’s economy. To survive, they must reinvent themselves and prove their value by better understanding the economic issues that drive considerations for wage increases and educating their members on how to protect themselves and diversify their capabilities as workers. Unions have a reputation problem and the theatrics being played out in NYC are not helping matters.