Disputes over wages, health insurance and work rules, are nothing new in transit negotiations. But one of the most contentious issues in the latest contract talks between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union has implications that go far beyond the cost of a MetroCard.
Adding to the pressure created by rising Medicaid and other costs, local governments and school districts all over New York are being hammered by massive increases in pension costs for public employees.
When independent "dollar van" operators began to proliferate in Queens and Brooklyn in the wake of the 1980 transit strike, local politicians moved quickly to protect New York's inefficient public (and union) transit monopoly.
The best that can be said of New York City's just-negotiated tentative contract with its principal public-employee union, District Council 37, is that it will expire relatively soon, in June 2002. Meanwhile, the agreement sets a costly precedent at a time when the city's budget picture is dimming.