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Comments by YACCS
Friday, December 30, 2005

Three days in December


A $725 a night hotel room

Power is a funny thing, abstract, remote, until you run smack into it.

It was comical to see so many college educated liberals turn into cheap labor liberals without any clear reason. Some was simply astonishment that it took both education and skill to move seven million New Yorkers, shock that their their own crappy benefits paled before union work, some simply astonished that black New York was asserting itself in a serious, city-altering way.

Some of it, a small part, was race, but that was more a function of the media ( which we'll deal with seperately), But since race and class in New York are like an alloy, seperating the two is quite difficult. I don't think all of the people screaming about pensions and firing people were race baiting, but class baiting.

Having been told their entire lives that the only route towards success was through college and a degree, many, for the first time, were shocked to confront the critical nature of the people who really run the city. While we like to pretend it's Bloomberg and Trump, the reality is far different.

And it was black New York, long the quiet undercurrent of New York life, which jumped up and said "not this time"

When faced with the fact that people they thought less about than elves, despite making their economic lives possible, had beneifts long gone from their jobs, many were resentful. After all, they had been told their entire lives that college guaranteed success and confirmed their intellgence.

Which is why so many people were quick to call for the firing of these highly skilled workers and to cut the pay for their replacements.

They simply had no clue what they were saying.

The best example of what underpaying municipal employees can do is the New Orleans police force, which made 13K to start in the 1990's. The force was riven with extreme corruption, to the point that one officer murdered her partner in a stickup.

You want a transit system run by people with an incentive to work elsewhere? Fine, but I'll buy a car first.

While walking around with a Harvard degree may make you feel important, the realities is that anyone can be a bond dealer or Congressional aide with enough training. You need mechanical skill to fix buses correctly. If the aptitude isn't there, you can't do the job.

A lot of the anger was the sudden realization that much of what they had been told was, well, bullshit. College was and is only one route to success. But to the average New York office worker, that was what they were told to expect from life. Go to college, do well. But life is more complicated than that.

However, it is unamerican to turn your anger to parasites like Paris Hilton, the Bush twins and the Princes of Malibu, useless blights on the this country and members of the CEO princeling class. So the TWU stands in their stead. Beat up on the poor transit workers because they defied you. It's fine to joke about the parasitic rich or denigrate them, but to express genuine anger and resentment? Nope. But you can curse and abuse the working class. They have no real voice in the city.

Well, no.

What also amazes me about the lack of support for the TWU among the blogging set was the lack of realization of their role in preserving the city. Their salaries, which stay in the city, have made New York stable and safe. They are the home and car buyers, the people who fill Target on weekends and Sylvia's on Sunday. They made the revival of Harlem and Central Brooklyn possible.

Without those salaries, Billyburg and the LES would be dangerous dumps you'd avoid at all cost.
Why? Because New York has a viable urban inner city. It isn't Washington or Detroit or someother city which was abandonded for the suburbs.

The New York where you live out your Sex and the City fantasies exists because people doing dangerous, unglamorous jobs keep their salaries in the city. Not that many people want to recognize that. They bought into the nonsense pumped out by the tabs and the TV. They recycled the most odious cheap labor arguments without any real thought behind them. It never occurred to them that New York's economics needs well-paid workers at places like Verizon, Con Ed and for the city.

Here's a story on how much New York changed. When my father got out of the Marines in 1958, he was offered a job at Con Ed as a security guard. Instead, he worked for the VA for 40 years, rising from high school dropout orderly to degree holding counselor. My mother went from homemaker to day care provider to degree holding city property manager.

My parents and the rest of my relatives stayed and built New York when they had to fight their way into a decent job over decades.

A lot of people do not realize that their jobs aren't just the result of a degree, but the living city around them. The people who were telling you that the TWU was your enemy were also hoping you were too stupid to figure out that without a stable, reliable mass transit system, you'd be stuck in some office park in the suburbs.

One other thing: don't come looking for support for your causes when you don't support other people's. The reason that Ratner has been so successful in gaining support for his neighborhood-killing stadium is that he's been able to play new white residents against old black residents. Thankfully, some people saw through that.

Be glad the TWU won their fight. Because while some of you bit on the divisiveness of the media, a lot of you realized what it was, a plan to diminish worker rights. It isn't enough to be progressive when it's easy. You have to support progressive causes when it's hard. Because if you don't, people will not support your causes.

posted by Steve @ 5:54:00 PM

5:54:00 PM

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