Transit Union’s Toussaint:
Time to Go
Now that members of the Transit Workers Union have foolishly rejected the contract settlement with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, two things become clear: First, the M.T.A. should act swiftly and ask the state’s Public Employment Relations Board to impose binding arbitration and end this charade. And second, the union’s arrogant boss, Roger Toussaint, has got to go.
Mr. Toussaint has been bad for New York and bad for the union. In December, at the height of the holiday season, he chose to break the law by leading his 34,000 members on a strike that was breathtaking in its disregard for the well-being of millions of New Yorkers. The people hurt most by the strike were low-income workers: health and hospital staff, clerks, salespeople, cashiers and others who had to pay exorbitant fares to get to their jobs from the outer boroughs. These are people who, unlike the transit-union workers, don’t have terrific medical benefits or guaranteed public pensions. But Mr. Toussaint and the union members didn’t give a damn about the pain they were inflicting, and in their ignorance they failed to realize that by paralyzing the city, they were endangering the economic foundation upon which their own livelihood depends. The strike was simply a way for Mr. Toussaint to inflate his already bloated ego.
And now it turns out that, having fanned the flames of the strike, Mr. Toussaint can’t put the fire out: His members rejected a solid contract that offered them annual 3.5 percent wage increases, preserved their right to retire with full pension at age 55, and may have reimbursed 20,000 workers as much as $130 million to compensate for prior pension overpayments. Rather than embrace the proposed deal, the union members objected to the contract’s reasonable requirement that they contribute 1.5 percent of their salary toward health-insurance premiums, and they voted no. The irony is that all unions will soon be asked to contribute toward their health care; by saying no now, the transit union is merely delaying the inevitable—and, in doing so, they blew a good deal for themselves. Having led his union into a pointless and self-destructive strike, Mr. Toussaint has now failed to lead them out of the mess he created.
Mr. Toussaint says that he wants to go back to the table with the M.T.A. Well, of course he does. But it’s a bit late for that; New York is fed up with his grandstanding. The authority should ask for binding arbitration; the courts should press forward with their plan to impose fines on the union and its members; and the union should find itself a new leader.
Bloomberg’s New Blood
For his second term, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has appointed several new deputies to go along with the veterans of his highly successful first term. The newcomers to the deputy ranks include the highly capable Linda Gibbs, who will preside over the city’s social-service network, and skilled young operators like Kevin Sheekey and Ed Skyler. Patricia Harris, the Mayor’s new first deputy, played a central, albeit quiet, role as one of the Mayor’s key advisors during his first term. Their energy and expertise bode well for Bloomberg II.
Dennis Wolcott’s return is welcome—he will continue to help implement the Mayor’s school-reform policies. Another returning deputy mayor, Carol Robles-Roman, has an ambiguous role as the person to whom the Mayor turns for legal advice. One wonders if the Corporation Counsel’s office might better serve this function, allowing Ms. Robles-Roman to find another use for her talents.
The Mayor also has a superb team of commissioners, such as Ray Kelly, Joel Klein, Amanda Burden and Nick Scopetta, who are proven and seasoned professionals. Rounding out the inner circle of Bloomberg II is Dan Doctoroff, who will continue as Deputy Mayor for Economic Development with a vastly expanded portfolio.
Over the next four years, Mr. Doctoroff will oversee not only the traditional economic-development and planning departments, but also agencies such as the Department of Buildings, the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Finance. This is a tremendous vote of confidence in Mr. Doctoroff, and it is deserved. During Mr. Bloomberg’s first term, Mr. Doctoroff displayed enormous energy and creativity. True, his dream of luring the Olympics to New York (and of building a West Side stadium) turned to dust. But the economic-development strategies he pursued in all five boroughs helped the city to rebound from the combined effects of recession and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Putting one person in charge of these disparate agencies should make for a more cohesive and more accountable economic-development strategy. The private players in the business and development worlds know who’s in charge, and, even better, they have confidence in that person.
As is the case of any second-term executive, Mr. Bloomberg is thinking of his legacy—of the accomplishments that will be tied to his name by historians and the city at large. His first four years were about consolidating the gains of the previous eight years, rebuilding confidence and the city’s morale after 9/11, and making good on his pledge to change the way New York educates its children.
Those missions have been accomplished. Now Mr. Bloomberg can move ahead with plans that could win him a place among the city’s great Mayors. The team he has assembled for his second term—who are notably free from ties to political clubhouses—will surely help him reach that goal.
Marriage Makes You Money
Do you want to double your personal wealth? Your best investment strategy may be to hang on to your husband or wife. According to a new study from Ohio State University, marriage is good for your bottom line: Married couples increase their wealth by 4 percent a year simply by virtue of being married. And couples who stay married over the long term see their net worth double when compared to couples who divorce or people who remain single.
The trick, according to the research, is to stay hitched for the long haul. Marriages that last for just a few years are worse on your wallet than never being married at all. Couples who divorce experience a whopping 75 percent decrease in their personal wealth when compared to singles. It seems even the hint of trouble can send a married couple’s fortunes lower: When the researchers looked at divorced couples, they found that the couple’s finances had started to decline four years before the actual divorce.
So the next time your spouse is driving you crazy, just relax and think of him or her as a 30-year zero-coupon Treasury.