Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard that yes, Toronto's transit workers staged an illegal strike this morning, costing everyone their morning commute.
Before I begin: Yes, illegal strike, yadda yadda. Petulant union, yadda.
But once again, we're seeing the stupid suggestion that transit workers be regulated as an emergency service, thus denying them the right to strike. We've previously seen this logic applied to teachers, and I imagine we'll eventually see it applied to Baristas and pizza delivery boys.
Why? Not because people actually couldn't live without these services - like the ambulance*. No, what bothers people so much is the idea that they might be inconvenienced for living in a society that is unwilling to pay the necessary costs of modern civilization. They're unwilling to elect politicians who honestly promise tax increases to fund proper transit spending, so transit gets cut. Then transit workers - upset at doing a pretty unappreciated job, and wary of being crapped all over - do something foolish. The final act comes when - unwilling to pay people what they're worth, and offended at the very idea of inconvenience - we demand that workers be stripped of their rights. Brilliant. Even more depressingly, I see that even alleged progressives are gravitating to this idea.
Blech. This whole phenomena could roughly be described as the "unless it affects me" crowd: I'm for workers rights, so long as I don't have to pay more for t-shirts, or be inconvenienced when management acts like the tools they always are. I'm for renewable energy, unless someone wants to put a wind turbine in my town.
If you dare to offend me in even the slightest way, this crowd says, then I'll throw any and all of my principles out the window and scream bloody murder. I'll go so far as to call the armed might of the state down on you, because you made me carpool with a stranger, you bastards.
Of course, stripping workers of their right to strike will do absolutely nothing. If your complaint is that the TTC workers are overpaid or lazy, well, congratulations! Making them emergency services is likely to do only one thing - increase their compensation. Mayor David Miller has said this repeatedly: Emergency workers have all their contract disputes settled by arbitration, which historically means that workers demands get met more quickly and fairly than if management gets to make workers strike for their demands publicly.
Of course, Mayor Miller sees the added expense of fair compensations as a bad thing, so he's opposed to making transit workers emergency personnel.
Shorter David Miller: If we paid these people what they're worth, we couldn't afford it.
So please, everyone screaming for the head of the union leaders, I dare you - make the TTC emergency workers. They'll be even better paid, and it still won't shut you up.
*I'm actually sympathetic to the idea of labelling the TTC an "essential" service, if only to recognize the reality that Toronto basically doesn't function without it. This is what everyone who laughed at Toronto missed a few years back when we had a big snowstorm that shut down the city - if the subways don't run, this city stops working. But to pursue this as a form of union-busting is repugnant.