UNIONS ON STRIKE
The following unions have been on strike since December 20:
Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union
Local 726 (Staten Island)
Local 1056 (Queens) of the Amalgamated Transit Union

BRIEF BACKGROUND:
The previous contract between the MTA and its workers expired on December 16. On that day, a limited strike began on two private bus lines. Unable to agree on a contract, the Transport Workers Union extended the deadline to December 20. Still unable to reach an agreement, the TWU went on strike at 3:00 am.

DEMANDS AND OFFERS
The TWU's demands included:
an 8% salary increase per year for 3 years

lower the age of retirement from 55 to 50

The MTA's offer included:
3.0, 4.0 and 3.5% raises over the next 3 years, which actually work out to slight pay cuts when taking into account the current 3.39% inflation rates

a two-tiered pension system which would raise the retirement age from 55 to 62 for newly hired workers (the MTA offered to drop this if new employees paid for 6% of their pensions instead of the current 2%)

new employees pay for 1% of their health insurance
(current employees pay nothing for their health insurance)

TAYLOR LAW:
The Taylor Law, officially called the Public Employees Fair Employment Act, was passed in 1967 after transit workers struck the previous year.

Under the Taylor Law, it is illegal for New York state public employees to strike. The fine for breaking the Taylor Law is twice the striking employee's salary for each day the strike lasts.

As of December 20, the New York State Supreme Court, Brooklyn division, declared the Transit Workers Union Local 100 in violation of the Taylor Law, and issued a fine of $1,000,000 per day, pursuant with the guidelines set forth in the law.

QUESTIONABLE SPENDING
In 2004, while the MTA sought to raise fare prices and institute a new state tax, it approaved a 22% raise for executive director Katherine N. Lapp from $192,500 to $235,000

Hours before the contract expired, the MTA voted to spend its $1 billion surplus

INDEPENDENT MEDIA
You can find up-to-date information on the strikes from the following internet sources:
 http://nyc.indymedia.org - of course :)
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2005_New_York_City_transit_strike
 http://www.twulocal100.org/

MAINSTREAM MEDIA PORTRAYALS
The media thus far has presented an astoundingly one-sided synopsis of the strikes. Phrases used to describe the strikes have included "bull-headed," "irresponsible lawlessness," and "a blatantly illegal act of economic sabotage."

Government officials have stressed the "illegality" of the strike in violating the Taylor Law, one of the most blatantly anti-worker pieces of legislation in recent history. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, "There are just laws and there are unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that an unjust law is no law at all."

SUPPORT THE STRIKERS
A list of strike locations can be found here:
 http://twulocal100.blogspot.com/