11/23/2011 01:45 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2012

A Thanksgiving Message to the Transit Workers of New York City

Dear Transit Workers of New York City:

As you sit down to enjoy your Thanksgiving meal, I hope you will take a moment to think about the rest of us here in New York City who depend on public transportation to get to and from work. People like me, for instance. If I can't get to work, I won't get paid. Many of us are in the same situation and a strike by the Transit Workers Union would seriously harm us, your friends and neighbors who cannot afford it. Please understand that we support your right to collective bargaining and we want you to have fair wages and fair benefits for the work that you do. We want your kids to be warm this winter and we want them to have enough food to eat. We even want for you to be able to receive a reasonable pension after a career of serving the people of New York City by providing a vital service to all of us. We really need you to stay on the job, even the three guys who hang around at the track maintenance office at the 59th St. Station on the N and R line in Brooklyn who, incidentally, have never been seen holding a tool in more than ten years. We need all of you to keep getting us to and from work, school and play.

I have just discovered that John Samuelsen, the TWU Local 100 president, believes that a strike may be necessary to achieve the goals of the current contract negotiations. He wants a pay raise for you, among many other things. Okay, fine, if there's enough money left after taking care of all the bills and without another fare hike, then I say yes. By all means have a wage increase. Maternity leave should also be a part of any sane company's benefits plan. So should access to a clean toilet and a workplace as free of rodent infestation as possible. But Mr. Samuelsen seems to not know or perhaps he doesn't care that this all has to be paid for. There is another big thing he seems to believe and I think it will come as a shocker to him to find out that he's wrong.

Mr. Samuelsen apparently believes that we will all support a strike and I have to let you know that this is not the case. I live in working class Brooklyn and while we are all pro-union, we will not support you in this strike. These are tough times and all the rest of us are tightening our belts. We'd like to know that you share in our struggle. I have checked in with my neighbors in an informal straw poll and the early results are not encouraging for the TWU. Not one of my neighbors expressed support for a strike and I am afraid you may be misreading the public mood. I have not had a pay raise in five years. I have no health benefits and no pension to look forward to. My sympathy for you is limited. Most of us are in the same boat here in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. I ask you to think of us as you sit down to your holiday meal and reflect on what a strike would mean to your friends, relatives and neighbors.

The fact that the TWU supports the Occupy Wall Street movement is not going to win you any sympathy where I live. Mr. Samuelsen is miscalculating if he thinks this will get your union broad political support among the 99%. Your wages, benefits and pensions are paid for by us, the working class people of New York City, in the form of ever-increasing fares and taxes. This is not an issue of the 99% so please don't think that you can use that to gain our support. If you strike, you will be taking food out of the mouths of my children. You will be causing harm to your neighbors and their children as well. If you think the working people of New York City are going to support you while their children are going without then you need to re-think your strategy. Far too many of us are only one or two paychecks from the street. I encourage you to stay at the bargaining table and negotiate in good faith and for the good of the whole city. Too many cities in the U.S. and Europe are teetering on the edge of financial ruin because they can't afford to pay for these labor contracts.

All of the unions that represent New York City's essential services such as the NYPD, FDNY, DSNY, healthcare workers, educators and the TWU, need to stand up and say that they care about the future of our city and the future of our country. We don't want you not to be paid. We support your rights. What we want is a city that is solvent and services that work for everyone. What we don't need is a continuation of the principle of selfishness in which each union tries to get as much as it can for its constituents without regard for future consequences. We realize that most of you work very hard and don't earn huge salaries like the useless, fat bastards on Wall Street but we are reaching the limit of how much people can pay for public transportation and how much we can afford in the form of pensions. Waste, fraud and abuse at the MTA must be dealt with to reduce costs. Inflated pensions will also have to be reduced. You need to show us that you are on our side or we will not be on your side.

I wish all of you at the Transit Workers Union Local 100 a happy and safe Thanksgiving and I hope that you will let your union leadership know that you want to stay at the table and negotiate a fair settlement.