Roger in the Middle

With a partial strike begun, and a full strike still possible, it’s worth revisiting what some say is a crucial problem in these negotiations: the MTA’s decision to give away $50 million, much of it to tourists, in some sort of seasonal P.R. effort.

This wasn’t so much a bad idea on policy grounds (though it obviously was that) or even in terms of the talks between the MTA and the Transport Workers Union directly, although it has some impact on those direct discussions. The real problem, labor insiders say, is that the gimmick made it much harder for Toussaint to sell any kind of moderation to the rest of his union’s leadership, within which — hard as it is for outsiders to imagine — he is now a moderate.

As often in these negotiations, union leaders are playing to the audience that elected them, their members. And that’s the calculus the MTA’s giveaway really changed. Roger in the Middle