Monday, December 1, 2008

How to Spell Relief: AFL-CIO

I know this is old news by now, but like most Americans I took some time out to give thanks for all the privileges and luxuries I have as an American by nearly eating myself into a coma.

In a surprise turn of events, even as it seemed some sort of work stoppage was inevitable, both sides of the labor dispute, with the help of the AFL-CIO, were able to hammer out a contract in Washington D.C. I won't go into details on the story, legitimate news media such as The Trib and Post Gazette have done that sufficiently enough.

There are however, a few points that I find interesting, and that I hope more information will come to light about.

#1. The involvement of the AFL-CIO. Not too much has been said about this other than they really brokered the deal. This is surprising because they do not normally become involved in individual contract disputes, let alone help broker a deal. Joe Grata of the Post Gazette assumed that if the imposed contract were to hold up in court (which they must have thought it would have) it would have huge implications for organized labor in America. I think that is pretty plausible, in addition to an over-all environment in the U.S. that is not terribly friendly towards unions right now. People who are struggling to hold jobs for little money don't have alot of sympathy for bus drivers making $50,000 + a year, for example.

#2. The terms. Not too much has been said about the terms of the contract, and that is understandable because the contract hasn't been presented to the union members yet. Nonetheless, I'll be interested to see how close to the fact finder's recommendations the proposed contract is. Up until now, I've been pretty impressed with the way the Port Authority has handled the whole thing, not giving in to Union posturing about "we've negotiated to get to this point, we're not moving back" yada yada yada. It would be a shame if they threw it all away at the last moment just to avert a work stoppage. To me, that would serve as a textbook example of why we do not move forward as a region. It's early to be so pessimistic, and we will see when the actual terms come out.

The initial news is good, obviously, there will be no work stoppage. Hopefully the Port Authority can use this contract as a foundation to right the ship, and help to bring about the end of business as usual within the Port Authority and Allegheny County agencies.

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