Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Strike scenarios

1. Let's say that you have a child and there's a transit strike. Your child's school is a few miles East of your home and your job is several miles Southwest of your home. Your child's school, being a New York City public school, has a 2 hour delay per strike contingency plans. The carpool that your job has arranged for its employees leaves your neighborhood 45 minutes earlier than your normal departure time. Double points if you have 2 children who are young enough to need to be accompanied to school but of disparate enough ages to go to different schools many miles apart. Triple word score if you're a single parent.

And what if you have no vacation or sick days left?

2. Let's say that you work a minimum wage job, no let's specifically say that you work a job where your minimum wage depends on tips. It's the day shift at a diner in midtown. You live way out in Queens. Now, if you walk it's going to take you between 2 and 4 hours to get to work. What time do you start work? 7am? 6? And then you're on your feet at the diner all day. If you take a car service it will cost you between $20 and $40 to get to work, as well as taking between 1 and 2 hours depending on what time you go in and if you drive in between 5 and 11am you'll have to count on the driver finding 2 other people to make the HOV quota. When you get to work there isn't a lot of foot traffic or work so you make far less than you have on non-strike days, the math on that means you're paying for the privilege of going to work. However, if you don't do all this you might lose your job and you can't afford to be out of work either. Does this job offer you a pension plan or paid healthcare? Do you get to retire from this job at the age of 55? I don't think so.

3. Let's say that you're in the middle of a 4 month every other week chemotherapy cycle. Let's say that your chemotherapy is being administered at a hospital 5 miles from your home. How'd you like to walk home after treatment? OK, catch a cab. Wait through the starting and stopping of traffic and while the driver picks up other passengers. Vomit in front of complete strangers but don't give up the seat in the cab because you don't know when you can get another one.

4. Totally different kind of scenario. Let's say that both sides miraculously reach a compromise and sign a contract right now, 11:04am. Can you get on a train or a bus by 11:30? Or even by evening rush hour? No. Maintenance checks, getting workers distributed along all the lines. Signal people, cleaning, and distributing trains along the route. It will take at least 24 hours to get the system back up and running.

There are reasons that striking by public service workers is illegal. I don't dispute anyone's right to strike. I understand that it does occasionally work as a negotiation tool. This doesn't seem to be one of those times. If anything it seems to have marked the point at which both sides are completely unwilling to talk to each other anymore. There have been no talks at all since the strike began. The sides don't seem any closer to a decision and a strike means that no one can compromise without losing face.

I think I'm getting new sneakers for Christmas. Santa knows what every little girl needs.


  1. That pretty much covers the bases. Hope this thing is over soon. I'm thinking of cutting the cables on my Toyota in solidarity!

  2. These are some really good points. I'm generally in favor of unions and workers' rights, but this is really a tough one.