We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
This is a Labor Day reprint of a portion of a post I wrote in 2005, when a transit workers strike was pending in New York City.
The New York Sun’s editorial yesterday said should the Metropolitan Transit Authority “reward the union’s illegal behavior” it would send a “message of appeasement” elsewhere. The Sun continues, that’s “how they used to work in the New York of the 1960’s and 1970’s.” But, the Sun said, “it is not a way to run a successful city in the competitive global economy.”
I laugh, at just 58, at another of my Forrest Gump moments. The Sun’s editorialist missed that this began, actually, back in the 1950’s, and I’m a witness to how.
It was 1958 or ‘59, and my social studies assignment from P.S. 246, Walt Whitman Junior High School in Flatbush, Brooklyn, was a term paper about how local government works.
Not having much of a clue, I went to New York City Hall to find out and wandered about asking people in the halls. They all rushed by, with puzzled and frustrated looks on their faces how to quickly respond. In a big conference room, the famous, feisty, Irish orator who built and led the Transport Workers Union, Mike Quill, a genuine New York-style colorful character, was in one of his fascinating harangues of the press threatening a strike if he didn’t get what he wanted, and he’d bring the city and mayor to their knees as he beat them with his union shillelagh.
As the crowd cleared, I asked Mike Quill my broad question. He flashed his broad smile and said I looked familiar, probably thinking me Irish due to my red hair and freckles. I told him I’d seen him speak years before at the Jewish Workmen’s Circle, while my grandparents’ cousin, David Dubinsky, founder of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, was bouncing me on his knee. I guess that vouched for my membership in the socialist workers movement that Quill had been active in since his youth, so Mike Quill invited me to join him and his crew at lunch, at a neighborhood restaurant on 14th Street that served heaping portions of the best corned beef and cabbage I’ve ever had.
At the table, Mike Quill explained to me how government works: It’s all just politics among friends, all out to make their constituents happy, and to hell with the beancounters, and tories, and other allusions to old enemies and battles.
When I turned in my termpaper, all I got was an incredulous look from my teacher, a shake of the head, and note that I’d missed the assignment’s requirement to discuss the structures and laws. I received a C.
After I told this story to a younger New Yorker last night, I checked my memory online, finding this entry at Wikipedia:
"Quill and the TWU became even more important figures in New York City politics in the 1950s. He was a key supporter of Robert F. Wagner, Jr.’s campaign for mayor of New York and became a lightning rod, based on his radical past, for Wagner’s Republican opponent and unfavorable press attention. While the union repeatedly threatened to take the subway workers out on strike, it managed to settle with the Wagner administration short of a strike on each occasion."
The ground was laid in the 1950’s, as the New York Times reports, that New York City’s current pension outlays for the transit workers have soared to $453 million this year , triple the amount in 2002. The Metropolitan Transit Authority’s director of labor relations summed its negotiation objective: “If you know a tidal wave is coming and you can still play around in the surf because it’s not here yet, anyone would think that’s foolishness.” A two-tier pension plan is offered, trimming costs of pensions for future workers. The current union president says that would “sell out the ‘unborn.’ ” A former NYC labor commissioner reflects the city “might have picked a union that was more willing to consider the subject.”
I've long tried to figure out WHY we celebrate institutions that have wrought so much havoc and corrpuption in our economy. Why should a organization who avoved purpose is to provide a collective source for contract negotiations still be involved in politics?
But what I REALLY don't understand is how we allow government workers join a union? The fact that we should celebrate this organization on the same level as our fallen military members, or our veterans, is abhorrent to me.
Even the holiday itself was granted under duress!
(from Wikipedia) ...the President Grover Cleveland put reconciliation with the labor movement as a top political priority. Fearing further conflict, legislation making Labor Day a national holiday was rushed through Congress