Why Unions Are Like Terrorists

Posted: Feb 15, 2006 7:27 PM

I've never had much use for unions, even when I belonged to one. Now, I'm just weary of their methods of holding the public hostage to get what they want, and the Transit Workers Union's strike in New York is the best example in recent memory.

In more ways than one, the TWU leaders have damaged the city they claim to love, and they don't really seem to care so long as they get their way.

What the terrorists did on 9-11 was simple. They took people's lives, crushed the city's economy (and by extension the nation's) and demonstrated that they couldn't care less about who was impacted, so long as their goals were accomplished.

What the transit workers did the week of Dec. 25 is in many ways the same thing. No, they did not fly loaded airplanes into buildings and kill people. But they attempted to take people's livelihood, hoping to crush the city's economy (and by extension the nation's) and demonstrating abject carelessness to the impact it has on those less fortunate – particularly the poor.

Callers from my flagship station WMCA New York, have pleaded with me all week to stop taking the side of the city and stand up for the little man. But when you look at the hard numbers of what the union is asking for, you have to admit, I already am.

If the devil is in the details, then the devil in this situation are those union bosses that made union members strike and not put the law, the welfare of New Yorkers or even their own families above their desire to crush the city.

Here's how it breaks down. The average New Yorker makes $49,000 per year. They also have to pay a hefty part of their own health insurance costs and most likely will have to work till the ages of 62-65 years of age. Low-income residents earn somewhere on average around $24,000-$35,000 a year. Nearly 7 million New Yorkers need public transportation to get to the job that pays them that average salary of $49,000.

What the transit workers were getting prior to the strike went something like this: Two-thirds of the transit worker population earn between $51-63,000 per year. They get retirement at age 55. And they enjoy the most lavish health-care coverage you can imagine – no co-pay, no deductibles, just 100 percent coverage. The bottom third of the transit workers – the ones who sweep up the gum wrappers in the subway platforms – earn $40,000.

The city is offering a 3.5 percent raise each year for the next three years (total of 10.5 percent). It is also asking the union to push new members to make retirement age 59 and to accept roughly 1 percent of their own health-care costs. (How much did you pay in deductibles and co-pays last year? I did some research; in my house we paid nearly 11 percent)

The union is demanding an 8 percent raise each year for the next three years (total of 24 percent). They also want to keep retirement at age 55 and want to have zero responsibility toward health-care costs.

But here's the real damning part of the whole thing ...

Because the union can't get its way, it authorized an illegal strike. Public unions in New York have not been allowed to strike given the adverse effect it would have on the security and safety of the city – thousands of people going by foot across the Brooklyn Bridge, 17-degree weather and the loss of between $100-400 million in revenue per day to the city that needs it to jump start much of the rest of the country.

And the cherry on top? Folks like Maria, who called my show this week to explain that she lives across the river in Jersey City because of the lower rent. She has no car and cannot afford one. She couldn't get to her job at one of New York's impressive hotels because of the combination of the cold and the lack of public transportation. She may lose her job because those who never should have been allowed to are holding out for a 24 percent raise on top of the $63,000 they are already making. Maria admitted her salary is in the mid-20s.

The transit workers are solidly middle-class wage earners. Their demands are extortion. And their willingness to make the less fortunate suffer just so they can get their way is completely analogous to people who fly planes into buildings.

Though the effect may be less extreme, the brutality of their method is no less severe.