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Essays on Issues, Ideas and Reflections on the Times. Published now and
then. Opinions pro or con are welcome.

Striking at the Transit System

North Miami Beach, FL 12-22-2005
A.H. Schectman

             The strike of transit workers has stopped New York City in its tracks (as it were) just as effectively as if by a terrorist’s bomb. Some workers from other boroughs and states came in pitiful numbers to go to work in all those offices, eat in all those restaurants and go to see all those movies and stage shows.  What disturbs me is that this strike was called by two contestants, one representing the Union and the other representing the voters. A multi-millionaire who(I believe but cannot be gainsaid on this) never did a speck of work with his hands in his whole life stands in opposition to thousands of workers and the workers refused to transport the people.


            What we have here in New York City where my daughter and grandchild (who is soon to be married) work, is proof that the system developed over decades to prevent or mitigate such draconian measures as strikes and the oppression that is sure to follow, does not work. This, despite the million dollars per day fine assessed the union and making the union the bad partner is surely not warranted by fact. The additional steps threatened- fining individual strikers and throwing their leaders into jail are not the answers.  I lived through the jailing of union leaders and found it offensive, undemocratic and not effective.


            The right to work includes the right to strike.  The right to organize and unionize is also basic to democracy.  The problem with unions and other associations is their leaders sometimes become dictators and bosses in the same way that management forgets the rights of workers and oppress them. When bad executives go to jail, the entire business is not seen as bad. It is not only an instance of perception.  It is that strong vein of righteousness that exists in a moralistic America that somehow distrusts the man with dirt on his hand but worships the one with manicured fingernails. 


            But democracy presents us with a conundrum.  We use majority rule but the majority sometimes abuses the minority.  The working people in America seem not to want to belong to unions and certainly are not a majority of those whose earnings support themselves.  I cannot see how investing (investing what and how much?) in the stock market will make everyone rich.  I cannot see how people who earn so little spend so much in the vain hope of striking it rich by winning a lottery.  Yet, people believe in miracles and invoke the supernatural in specious and empty hope.


            Striking at the transit system in NYC is the same as setting off bombs in subways and toll booths.  Both sides should sit down and settle their differences – but reality is the situation turns ugly when people find their customary habits and expectations are denied them. New York City has been effectively destroyed by being without its usual transportation – in the freezing cold.



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