New York City’s Transit Workers Union Local 100 called a strike last night on the city’s subway and bus lines. As the NY Times reports, this has thrown the city into disarray with thousands of workers walking to work in the frigid December cold. To put a fine point on the matter, millionaire mayor Bloomberg himself walked across the Brooklyn Bridge so he could feel the people’s pain.
The reporting on this is classic for public worker strikes. The emphasis is on the how the strikers are betraying the public trust, inconveniencing regular people (while themselves making good salaries), and breaking the law that prevents them from striking. The union’s president Roger Toussaint said of the strike, “this is a fight over whether hard work will be rewarded with a decent retirement. This is a fight over the erosion, or the eventual elimination, of health-benefits coverage for working people in New York. This is a fight over dignity and respect on the job, a concept that is very alien to the M.T.A.” The reporting doesn’t seem to take that concept very seriously.
The most interesting reading on this so far, however, is in the comment section of the TWU Local 100 blog: twulocal100.blogspot.com. This is where you can read a very visceral dialogue on the strike, including lots of profanity, wide open anti-workerism and racisim, and eloquent defenses of the strike from the workers themselves. As of Tuesday noon there were nearly 700 comments. Typically, the pissed-off communter comments on the fact that transit workers make $50,000 a year–allegedly more than police, firefighters, and teachers–AND that they don’t have as much education as other public employees.
At least one worker has replied:
when you self righteous people have to go to your jobs and endure people spitting at you, assaulting you, cursing at you and simply hating you for having enough sense to take the test to get our jobs than you have aright to your misguided opinions. oh yeah how about when you go to work, is there anybody taking a piss a few feet from you or maybe some pervert playing with himself. how about your bosses do they write you up for wearing scarves in the winter time or maybe take you off the job because your top button on your shirt is not buttoned? you opinion filled people have no idea what we go through on a daily basis. at least firemen,teachers, cops and even sanitation are respected for what they do.
Working for the public does not mean inequality. No decent person can argue that the MTA workers are wealthy enough to be considered greedy. If you can’t see this, you ought to work in the tunnels that are carelessly loitered by riders and infested with rats first perhaps.
For better of for worse, we get this kind of dialogue as an unintended consequence of Blogger. It’s funny to think that Internet comments will be to future historians what workers’ letters to FDR are to historians of the Great Depression.
Addendum: As of 4:15 PM central time, the TWU blog has deleted all comments. So much for history!