'Twas the Strike Before Christmas

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Dec 21, 2005 8:51 AM

This is interesting. Via Wizbang!, the Wall Street Journal looks at the numbers behind the TWU strike in NYC, particularly the $400 million the city is estimated to be losing per day due to the strike, which I mentioned yesterday:

The higher estimate on transit-strike costs, of $440 million to $660 million, is more nebulous. It's preceded in court documents by the disclaimer that "it is difficult to make precise projections," and followed closely by a recounting of woes suffered during the city's prior two transit strikes. According to the legal filings, the New York State Public Employment Relations Board said that the 1980, 11-day strike cost the city's businesses $1.1 billion -- an average of $100 million a day, far short of the city's estimate for today.

Since 1980, the city's population and economy have grown, but New York has also changed in ways that could mitigate this strike's effect. Services jobs -- which include many white-collar jobs that can be done from home or alternate locations -- represented 52.7% of New York employment in 2002, up from 40.6% in 1980 and 31% in 1966, according to the comptroller's office. (Of course, some services sectors, like restaurants, are severely affected by the strike.) And the Internet has eased telecommuting. (I write this column from my home in Brooklyn and file it electronically, which would have been difficult for me to do in 1980, and not only because I was an infant at the time.)

Also, a strike incurs costs on the public sector that are difficult to measure in the rubric of economic activity. For example, schoolchildren may miss class. According to the city's court filing, attendance at public high schools ran below 50% in the 1980 strike. And the increased use of automobiles could create more polluting emissions, as Brookings Institution fellow Robert Puentes, who studies metropolitan policy, pointed out to me. Measuring the impact of transit, and of transit strikes, is "a very understudied area," he says.

Internet eases strike impact? I hope so.

Bloomberg is laying it on the line again:

"All the transit workers have to do is listen to their international (union) that's urged them to go back to work, listen to the judge who ordered them back to work, and look at their families and their own economic interests," he said. "They should go back to work. Nobody's above the law, and everyone should obey the law."

The sticking point remains pensions:

In its last offer before negotiations broke down, the MTA had proposed increasing employee contributions to the pension plan from 2 percent to 6 percent, said union lawyer Walter Meginniss Jr. He added that such a change would be "impossible" for the union to accept.

"Were it not for the pension piece, we would not be out on strike," union president Roger Toussaint said in an interview with NY1. "All it needs to do is take its pension proposal off the table."

Six percent. How much do you contribute to your retirement plan?

Karol at Alarming News rounds up poetry from the peeved and newly-pedestrian blogger of NYC. This one's hilarious, in the style of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." Read the whole thing.

Flip rounds up links again.

GOP and the City says 800-900 brave transit workers went to work yesterday.