Fans For Fair Play
Challenging Bruce Ratner’s Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Support the TWU 

There's a transit strike on.

Are you frustrated? Losing money? Tired from the walk, bike ride or three-fare commute?

We are, all three of 'em. But not because of the TWU Local 100 strike.

We're frustrated -- good and angry, in fact -- at the MTA.

Everyone fighting Bruce Ratner's disastrous Atlantic Yards skyscraper superblocs knows all too well how wrong the MTA is in this labor dispute. The MTA's shown what it's made of after two years of ruinious behavior regarding the Atlantic Yards development

The MTA is nickel-and-diming the transit workers while they've spent the last two years:

* wasting millions on their new corporate headquarters;
* ripping off taxpayers by offering the Hudson rail yards to the lowest bidder, the New York Jets;
* ripping off taxpayers to the tune of another $150 million (at least) by accepting another lowest-bid, Bruce Ratner's, at the Vanderbilt Yards here in Brooklyn;
* drooling over the prospects of wasting $400 million dollars to build a concrete platform over the Hudson yards in a dicey and dubious "let's play real-estate developer" bid;
* maintaining separate books for pubic and private dissemination;
* issuing roller-coaster "we're going broke!" or "we're swimmin' in cash!" declarations, particularly galling with the strike, because just a month ago the MTA was bragging about their billion-dollar surplus, offering minimal holiday discounts to straphangers.

That's just a dip in the ocean of the MTA's ethically derelict operations. The MTA is the most insensitive, mixed-up and corrupt public authority in the U.S. of A. And that, fans of America, is really sayin' something.

Governor George Pataki runs the MTA. He appoints the lion's share of MTA board members, which means that he determines all of the the agency's big-ticket machinations. Pataki, who's never known a day of hard work in his life, and who uses the MTA to further his vagabond big-biz initiatives, has abdicated his responsibilities here to do what's best for the citizens of New York. We're used to it with the Ratner battle. Now, New Yorkers across the region get to see it up-close and personal.

Pataki, as any petulant child would, is obsessing over the one thing that's least useful for settling this dispute.

The "TWU's breaking the law" angle. There's a lot of unspoken but clearly-stated "waaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh" coming out of Pataki's mouth.

Every other sentence out of Pataki's mouth contains "break the law," "unlawful," "illegal," or "massive fines."

That's all Pataki sees. He doesn't understand the restrictive work rules TWU rank-and-file are subjected to every day. He doesn't see the working families of not just TWU workers, but unionized workers across the city. He doesn't see transit workers who clean the system, maintain the trains and buses, inhale harmful metal dust, chemicals and toxins, and who safely move seven million New Yorkers every day.

He just sees law-breakers. That's not leadership -- that's your mean-spirited bastard of an uncle, the guy everyone tolerates at family functions.

Pataki's utter lack of leadership during the transit strike reflects his vain, wrong-headed handling of the Ratner Atlantic Yards project. Pataki, who knows nothing of living in Brooklyn, is using the MTA as a cudgel to batter working people in our borough.

The thankfully-for-not-much-longer governor also knows nothing about riding New York City's buses and subways. From his tinted-glass SUVs and limousines, he's issued a decree that says "I am not the governor of all New Yorkers." Pataki will embrace a weasel like Bruce Ratner, who has used intimidation tactics, threats, gag orders and the power of wealth against the people of Prospect Heights, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Boerum Hill and Park Slope. Then, he'll come out against working people who are the city's veins and arteries, the very souls keeping this town's heart beating, whose strike is to protect future generations of transit workers.

Yes...it's the issues that protect future generations and not these very workers who know they'll be fined two-days' pay for each day on strike.

These are the women and men that George Pataki and Mayor Mike Bloomberg criminalize.

At least you only have to see your mean-spirited uncle a couple times a year. George Pataki, sadly, ruins our lives every single day.

Fans For Fair Play supports the TWU. They do jobs that most of us would never consider -- scrubbing dirty subway platforms, picking up trash in tunnels that freeze in the winter and roast in the summer, laboring next to 600 volts of live electricity, suffering 19,000 disciplinary actions a year (for just 34,000 employees -- are two-thirds of the rank-and-file this incorrigible, or does management mete out punishment as though they were Henry the VIII?), and enduring angry straphangers taking their frustration out on the transit workers instead of the real target -- MTA management.

Sure, the strike means getting around town is hard, and in many cases, more expensive. But that's the price we should pay every once in a while for the TWU getting us around town when they're not off fighting the power.

FFFP didn't come up with that. Rather, it's the suggestion in yesterday's editions of Daily News columnist Errol Lewis, who's wrong and misinformed in his support for Ratner's skyscrapers.

But he's right here, though.

And if Errol Lewis and FFFP can agree about supporting the TWU, it's a solid idea.

Besides, biking and walking to work is good for the heart.

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