One of the things that distinguishes New Yorkers from most of our fellow Americans is that we know we're not really in control. Many of us don't drive, and we know that forces far more powerful than ourselves will decide when the bus or subway is going to show up.
Even in our current low-crime era, we're keenly aware of all the bizarre misfortunes that can befall us. People innocently walking down the street can suddenly fall through a subway grate, get hit by a car that decides to jump over the curb, or be shot with an arrow by a mystery archer who's never found. Stuff just happens.
The good-news-bad-news story about the Stella D'Oro strike in the Bronx is a reminder of how institutions that are supposed to protect people from sudden disaster can be undone in a treacherous economy. The workers at the biscuit company have been on strike for 11 months, ever since Stella D'Oro's owner, a Connecticut investment firm, tried to slash their pay and benefits. The union stuck together. They sued the company for unfair labor practices and won in court.
On Tuesday, the workers returned to their jobs, victorious. And the company announced it was going to shut the plant down in 90 days. The union vowed to fight on and some of the workers said the struggle was worth it, no matter what happened. "Even if I go back for an hour, I'll get satisfaction," a Stella D'Oro mechanic told the Times. But the whole story calls up a feeling of helplessness that's not supposed to be the American way.
All around the country, we hear about similar heads-you-win-tails-you-lose situations. States can't come up with budgets because legislators aren't willing to accept heartbreaking options like closing parks and day care centers. That's just one other reason - one of about ten thousand we could name - that the standoff in the state senate in Albany is so maddening. It isn't about the economy. It isn't about lawmakers trapped between choices so impossible they're immobilized. At bottom, it's a bunch of politicians squabbling about who gets to control patronage jobs.
There are so many real disasters lurking out there, it's infuriating when you see people manufacturing one just for the heck of it.
On the blog front, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand writes about the nursing shortage in New York and her proposal for solving the problem. Jarrett Murphy talks about Mayor Bloomberg's high-roller campaign spending and wonders about the long-term impact his spending binge may have on the city's political system.