When consumer prices are actually declining, wage settlements at the levels proposed by the majority would produce unprecedented inflation-adjusted wage increases for the TWU membership.
The union contends that New York City’s labor settlements should serve as pattern for this award. In my view, no pattern can apply in this unprecedented economic environment: We should treat the TWU-MTA award as the first independent settlement to reflect the current downturn.
Two important issues would remain unresolved in my formulation: the proposed cap on health-insurance contributions by workers, and management’s hope to move forward on one-person train operations, an initiative which can have a transformational impact.
The provision to cap union contributions for health benefits has impact and salience beyond its economic value. It reflects a key concession by the TWU after the strike of 2005 and provides protection against sky-rocketing costs of health benefits. A reasonable settlement would lay aside both key issues to be revisited by the new leadership teams of the MTA and the TWU.
Finally, I believe that the wage increases required by this Award are simply too high in this environment of economic decline and flat or falling consumer prices.