The Mix

NYC transit strike: morning one

Let's support the working class heroes... like my dad.
It's the first morning on the first NYC transit strike in 25 years, and gathering from watching NY1 and the networks, the so called city planners have sure made a mess of things with their cockamamie plans.

Most New Yorkers are confused about what to do. Nearby at West 96th Street and Broadway, there is total gridlock as the cops refuse to let cars without 4 people in them go south. Yet, there aren't remotely the people around who are willing to jump into a car with strangers not necessarily headed to the same place. The "master plan" is creating gridlock is everywhere in the city, manifesting just the sort of problem that Mayor Bloomberg worried about -- difficulty for emergency vehicles to get around the city. And to think people get paid the big bucks to make life more miserable for the rest of us with their dumb planning. Being familiar with the famous Bay area "casual car pooling," I know that it takes a long time for people to get comfortable with the idea of rising with strangers, or even friends... that's why the HOV lanes across the country are often empty.

As for the striking workers, I'm behind them 100%. I do admit that at dinner with friends last night that I wondered aloud about whether the transit workers should be able to retire with full pension when they are 55, with 25 years work. Perhaps I was jealous of the fact that without a pension, I'll be working so far beyond 55, it isn't even funny. But my friend Frannie upbraided me, putting it all in perspective. She said, "These are the people who make the city work and we depend on them. They certainly should retire after 25 years of spending their lives in the dirty subway, with all that noise and pollution. The garbage men too who have the smell of garbage in their pores 24/7. The cops and fireworkers, yes, them too. You don't want those jobs, somebody has to do them, and the workers deserve all they can get."

Well, OK, yes: "I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night..."

AlterNet got a rather feverous communique from an irate reader yesterday:
"Why aren't you are covering the labor strife in nyc? For all your liberal lip are you afraid to take sides so very close to home? Have you failed to grasp the depth of what is going on in this very bitter conflict? The corruption that is rife in the MTA and the plight of working people in this country? Does anyone associated with this organization have a single callous on their hands? A parent with a callous on their hands? This is the real front in the war on the status quo in this country."

I had to laugh. I had just come from visiting my dad who celebrated his 85th birthday yesterday. Callouses? Dear ole dad worked in a factory as a union guy for more than 40 years and was a NJ volunteer firefighter until they made him retire. His whole body is a callous. But now he and my mom -- just celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary last week -- are living the good life in New Jersey in "assisted living" where they are the only intact couple among more than 125 residents. And this is thanks to social programs -- Medicaid, Medicare, etc. -- that are under attack by the radical right; programs that allow people without much money to live the last parts of their lives in dignity. The system can work, but we often have to fight like hell to keep it.

New Yorkers: stick up for those transit workers. They are your workers, and they deserve what they can get.
Don Hazen is the executive editor of AlterNet.
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