Free public transit!

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Not "free" the adjective, but "free" the imperative verb. America's most public-transit-dependent city has been hit with a strike of public transit workers, and the solution is to liberate public transit from the state-owned monopoly that controls it.

Karol at Alarming News sees a silver lining in the cloud of the transit strike:

I like that people get to see what Unions really are, and what they really do. What private sector employee gets a mandatory 8% non-performance-based raise each year? What private sector employee has a standard retirement age of 55?

In the comments one of her readers defended the union's strike as an exercise of freedom of association and good ol' capitalism, using the leverage they have to get more money. Here's my reply:

If this were a situation where free markets and freedom of association were at work, the city would be able to fire every worker who didn't show up today and replace them with someone willing to work. Instead, the union can put city government over a barrel because they have a federally-enforced monopoly over the labor supply for the transit system. That, in turn, puts the citizens of New York over a barrel because of laws that keep the private sector out and give city government a monopoly over mass transit.

I linked to a background paper by the Institute for Justice, which was involved in a case in New York defending entrepreneurs who wanted to provide bus service in areas that aren't well-served by the city's system. Click through and read that paper -- these are classic examples of creative people who saw a need and a way to earn a fair wage by filling that need, but they were shut down by unnecessary regulation. Ultimately, state law in New York allows the city to keep private bus companies out, which is the case in most of the country. Laws against private bus companies don't serve the public interest -- they serve entrenched interests like the union and the city transit bureaucracy.

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When I lived in Germany, the situation was similar, except I don't believe there were unions involved. The city ran most local bus routes, and private companies ran routes to nearby towns. The two coordinated together and used the same bus stops. I could take a city bus to one bus stop and 5 minutes later another private bus would arrive and take me to my place of employment. Worked out well.
One fact that is missed is that the international Transport workers union advised to NOT strike. The local in NYC went against that advice.

We have a similar situation in that Tulsa non-uniform citeewurkors in AFSCME cannot strike or hold a work slowdown or stoppage.
I believe the local in NYC should have continued to negotiate. Strikes should be last resort, especially considering all that will be affected. Imagine what would happen to Tulsa if suddenly every city employee decided to strike? These laws are in place for a reason. Protection of the public.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on December 20, 2005 11:37 PM.

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