YO, SEPTA WORKERS.
As a fellow trade-union member, I'm having a big problem with you, solidarity-wise.
Not only is your strike strangling the city - keeping kids from school, people from jobs, patients from doctors' appointments - but it's a thumbed-nose to something for which most folks reading this paper would give their back molars: The promise of a paycheck for the next 60 months.
I'm thinking about the 400 employees at Crozer Chester Medical Center who lost their jobs this year. And the 22 staffers axed last Thursday at Drinker Biddle & Reath. And the Comcast employees who learned on Wednesday that the cable giant plans to pink-slip a number of workers, even though the company is enjoying a fabulously profitable year.
Hell, it's a promise I wish we had right here at the Daily News.
We've lost dozens of staffers in recent years, and the paper's possible demise is a topic of endless speculation.
So let me get this straight: Unemployment is rampant in this region, and your union actually chose to strike rather than continue hammering out the details of your already excellent jobs? Jobs that we, the transit-dependent public, need you to perform so that our own financially teetering lives don't crash and burn?
Where do you people get off?
Your good jobs would only get better with SEPTA's opening offer - a deal that Gov. Rendell rightly described as "sensational." The contract calls for you to pocket a signing bonus of $1,250, just for agreeing to the damn thing. It would give you a 2.5 percent raise next year. And a 3 percent annual increase for three years after that.
The proposal doesn't require you to donate even a nickel more to your health-care plan. Do you have any clue how sweet that is?
It even comes with an offer to increase pension contributions to 11 percent over the next five years. I know, your leadership disputes that figure. But at least you still have a pension to argue about. Not everyone is so lucky.
Yet you looked at all of this and said, "Let's walk out."
So, please, tell me: When you're behind the wheel of the bus, what planet are you driving on?
This is the part of my rant where I think I'm supposed to toss you a bone. To concede that interacting with the city's rough citizenry can be punishing to even the sunniest people in the transit business. That moving millions of people from here to there is so much more grueling than we could ever know.
Sorry, no bone.
Your 3 a.m. walk-off, which left tens of thousands of us stranded without notice, was outrageous. It cemented the worst belief about SEPTA workers - that you hold us, the people who pay your wages through taxes and the fare box, in contempt. Good luck trying to improve that image once the wheels start rolling again.
Sadly, your strike also unfairly strengthens the perception that all unions are as entitled and grabby as you are. Your president, Willie Brown, actually said, "We agreed not to strike during the World Series. We took people to the game because we are professionals. Now it's time to reward us."
Reward you? For doing the jobs that we pay among the highest fares in the country for you to do?
Can we wipe your noses for you while we're at it?
You also have a bizarre notion that you're in some sort of profit-sharing relationship with SEPTA. Brown has pointed out that, while the economy is doing badly, SEPTA is not. Ridership is up, and the agency has gotten money from state and stimulus funds. So, your warped thinking goes, you're entitled to a fatter slice of the pie.
News flash: It's not your pie. It's ours. If SEPTA is flush, it's incumbent on the agency to plow that money back into new equipment, improved routes and - here's a fun idea - customer-service training for workers whose job protection keeps them from caring whether they snarl or smile at us.
Are there some outstanding issues you have with SEPTA management? No doubt. All grown-ups have issues with the boss. Unlike you, though, what we don't have is the ability to hold a city hostage for as long as our tantrum lasts.
So, please, get back to work. And admit that your negotiating hasn't been just about getting more for yourselves.
It's been about getting more - much, much more - than the rest of us.
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