DECEMBER 31, 1959
NEW YORK—A strike on this city's subways and bus lines, which at this writing seems possible on New Year's Day, would have repercussions which, I think, would affect almost every phase of the city's life.
Representative of the transportation workers will get no sympathy from a public inconvenienced in so many vital ways. It is one thing to inconvenience people who might be able to walk to work or use their own cars, but it is quite another thing to inconvenience people who live so far from work that they have no other means of getting to their jobs.
It has been reported that nobody knows the price of labor peace that the president of the Transport Workers Union, Michael J. Quill, might consider. The Transit Authority, at this point, has offered an increase in wages and a benefit package of $25 million over a two-year period, and this would be about a 30-cents-an-hour increase for the full contract period.
The workers originally demanded a wage and benefit package that would cost the authority about $75 million a year.
Whatever the settlement, the price will come out of the pockets of the traveling public that must use these facilities. Perhaps not many members of the Transit Authority management go to work on the subways or bus lines, and members of the union get a pass for themselves and their families, so to them the rise in cost of transportation may mean nothing.
If the labor leadership knows that the authority, by better management, could pay the workers' demands without increasing fares, then it had better put this information before the public, because my experience has been that the public greatly dislikes being made uncomfortable. And in this case the discomfort may not only involve inability to get to work, but payment of increased fares—a real burden for many working people.
As for the authority management, I think it might well look carefully into its operations and be sure there is no waste so that the authority cannot be held responsible for failing to reach an agreement or arriving at a settlement which would mean higher fares.
Governor Nelson Rockefeller has given his blessing to a bill in Albany which would give county boards of supervisors the power to fill vacancies in elective county offices. At present, the Governor alone has the power to fill these vacancies in most New York counties, and in the last session of the legislature he vetoed a bill that would have given the supervisors the right to fill such vacancies without the Governor's approval.
From my point of view, this is patchwork legislation. There was a time in this country when transportation was slow, but this has now changed and there seems to be considerable doubt as to whether county government is necessary at all.
I have heard this question argued pro and con by politicians for 30 years. But because county government involves patronage, I have rarely heard an argument in its favor based solely on efficiency and real service to the people.
It might be well for the people to add up the costs of their county government and then see if the functions of county officials could not be rearranged in the fabric of state and local governments to save money for the taxpayer.