Monday, November 21, 2005

Don't Strike Now That the Iron's Gone Cold

Those Pork Authority employees seem pretty happy about their new labor agreement.

"Obviously, the membership was satisfied and can live with the contract, and today's vote tells the story," said Local 85 President/Business Manager Patrick McMahon. "I think we did a good job for the membership."
Yes, the members are so excited that they are going around hugging one another in celebration over what must be a great victory for them. They aren't the only ones who win. Riders, who lived in fear of a looming strike, can now ease themselves into the comfy seats and relax, knowing that their morning commute is safe. It's business as normal for Pork Authority employees and patrons. One month from now, no one will know the difference.

So who benefits the most? I have a couple of ideas:

The authority board meets at 11 a.m. today and since the majority of the nine members are appointees of County Chief Executive Dan Onorato, who helped broker the deal, approval is considered likely.

The contract, resulting from 47 hours of give-and-take Thursday and Friday nights, is said to contain some things that neither party likes.

"That's a good indication that you've got a fair, balanced contract," Gov. Ed Rendell said. He flew into town Friday night to join Mr. Onorato and members of both staffs to spearhead agreement on the final sticking points.

This is all about re-electing Democrats, isn't it? Try to imagine a Republican-dominated board giving in to union demands without a fight. Try to imagine a Republican governor even trying to involve himself with labor negotiations like this. Rendell's contribution likely went something like, "Go ahead and agree to it now, boys, and we'll be settling in for another four years in Harrisburg. Things will get even better then". The transit strike settlements in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh will be driven home by the Rendell campaign constantly over the next twelve months, mark my words. By coincidence, twelve months is about all we have before it all hits the fan:

As a result of averting a strike that could have occurred as early as Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year, the status quo will be preserved at least through December 2006 for 260,000 daily riders and 3,000 Port Authority employees: No fare hikes, no service cuts and no lost jobs.
Hooray! Ed Rendell saved our Christmas shopping season! No one got laid off! We're not paying more for our bus ride! The bus still comes to the same stop at the same time as usual! Ed Rendell is better than Santa Claus!

And of course by the time December 2006 rolls around, the governor's race will be over, and Rendell might very well be reelected. What timing!

But wait! This deal involved getting money to keep everyone happy. Where did that money come from again?

Until then, the authority's finances are to be bolstered by $113.4 million in federal highway funds "flexed" to transit by Mr. Rendell and $25.5 million in savings and extra state money achieved in the new contract.
Do you think the voters of Pennsylvania are going to be outraged at the misappropriation of infrastructure money to run buses in Pittsburgh? Of course not. They won't care, at least not the one living in the southwestern corner of the commonwealth. All they'll remember is that Santa Rendell saved Christmas in 2005. They won't care how.

Now all of you people from Minnesota who are reading this, and all of you readers from across the United States: Remember where that money came from. Remember where the money went. It's going to be important when/if Ed Rendell decides to run for President. And it won't forget if you drive through Pennsylvania on the interstate and the highway is crumbling. Rendell needs to be brought down and brought down hard in next year's election. If not, we're all going to have to do this together. Let's not allow it to come to that.

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