21 December 2005


It continues, without the promise of a swift resolution. This morning's commute was subdued compared to yesterday's. Both pedestrian and car traffic were considerably lighter, and there were fewer car horn blasts and incidents of road rage than I witnessed on the walk home last night. People are probably working from home if they can, or starting their Christmas holiday early.

Feelings are mixed. I've participated in and overheard many conversations in favor of the strike, or at least in partial sympathy with the workers. Despite the fact that their demands may seem out of line with what non-unionized workers can expect from their employers, it's disturbing to me that the way a lot of people have reacted to their demands is, "who the hell thinks they can get a guaranteed pension and health benefits for life these days?"

But the thing is, just because 21st-century capitalism has turned the United States into a place where no one has job security, retirement is becoming a quaint notion and health care is increasingly out of reach for average people, does that mean we should turn against people who have a means, through collective bargaining and the threat of job action, of demanding those things? Shouldn't we all be demanding them for ourselves?

It's not a level playing field. We don't live in a meritocracy where hard work and smarts are always rewarded. Corporations get massive subsidies from the government, in the form of tax incentives and write-offs, and are bailed out when their corrupt CEOs plunder company assets for their own purposes. The credit card industry strong-armed Congress into gutting the last resort of the desperate, bankruptcy, after years of enticing consumers with more and more easy credit. Not to mention the lopsided tax cuts the Bush administration has forced on us, that benefit mainly wealthy people and pawn off deficit on future generations.

The transit strike could be pitting workers against citizens, which is what the rhetoric of our political officials suggests it should. I'm not unconflicted, myself. It's a lousy time of year for this to be happening, and it's hurting ordinary commuters and merchants hard. But I do think it's worth thinking about whether the people we should be angry at are the ones who are only asking for a decent standard of living. Not extravagant, just decent.


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