The Local 100 Transport Workers Union (most of them work at the MTA) will join the “Occupy Wall Street” protest today at 4:00 in Zuccotti Park downtown.

There’s a bit of an irony in the location. The park is named for John Zuccotti. Zuccotti is the former deputy mayor who voted with the TWU in the last contract arbitration, awarding the workers 11.3 percent raises over the three years ending next January.

Moving right along, the bigger irony of a powerful transit union fighting big bankdom was best expressed here a few weeks ago, in a piece from London by Philip Stevens:

Banker and union leader alike operate in industries that rely heavily on state subsidies – the railway industry through grants, the banks via the too-big-to-fail taxpayer guarantee that allows them to fund themselves at below market rates.

This reliance on handouts does not deter them from seizing innocent bystanders as hostages. [The London railway union chief Bob] Crow has extracted enviable pay and conditions for his members by ransoming the travelling public. [Barclays bank chief Bob] Diamond plays with the fortunes of small and medium-size businesses.

Here in New York, many of the artificial profits that a bloated Wall Street throws off go to the public-sector unions. Both industries extract resources from the rest of the economy at the expense of the middle class.

The tax revenues that the MTA collected during the real estate and credit bubble, for example, funded the union’s pay and benefits packages. But when the bubble burst, riders and small business owners had to pay, via higher fares and a new tax on downstate payrolls.

So yeah, we should fix Wall Street — and fix the TWU, too!

In the meanwhile, though, the TWU is protesting against itself, because transit undisciplined by political leadership needs a counterpart in a financial industry undisciplined by free markets (yes, via political leadership).


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