This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
Harris J. Klein answers questions about the city's transit problems.
Marvin Sleeper hosts.
Panelists: Jim Farrell, Michael Spielman, and Ruth Corsnick
The people of the city of New York were the losers in the transit strike. Makes recommendation on how the contract negotiations should go for the Transit Workers Union. Craft unions should set up a committee for negotiations. Walter Reuther's tactics for negotiation. There is no right to strike in the transit union. Last week's strike put 8 million people in a terrible spot. The subway system was once a private business, but the city took it over and created a quasi public organization. They should have maintained their right to strike.
NYC should enact a transit system labor act, like the railroad, to define rights of the employee, set up a mediation panel, and a buffer between the strike and the final decision of the authority. Transit authority should be given back to the people of New York. Transit authority has more than $75 million in the bank, a profit of close to $20 million. Some of this profit could be given back to the straphanger in many forms, including allowing free rides for school children. The subway strike has cost $2 million. The authority can't go in the red with a 15 cent fare. A reserve set up by the city for pensions. Objects to the Mayor's claims he can't do anything about the transit strike. Wages. Attitude toward Commissioner O'Grady. Private bus lines have brainwashed New Yorkers. We don't have rights to examine their books.
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 72066
Municipal archives id: LT8599
This is a machine-generated transcript. Text is unformatted and may contain errors.
Who won the battle of the subways should stop going to work and sign a systemwide contract with the transit authority with a fifteen thousand fare be increased for the answers to these and other questions listen now to your city stations campus press conference each week at this time in this transcribed discussion editors of college newspapers question a newsworthy personality Marvin's sleeper award winning reporter and columnist for The New York Journal American is the moderator of this series now to introduce the panel and tonight's guest here is Mr Slipper Good evening and welcome to another edition of campus press conference our guest tonight is Mr Harris J. Klein a prominent New York attorney a transit expert and a former member of the New York City Transit Authority Mr Klein has been a secret severe critic of the way the transit authority has run the city's transit system in recent years so the city running into all sorts of Trantor difficulties these days let's find out what an expert has to say here to question him our campus press conference reporters Jim Farrow of the Fordham lexigram Michael Spillman of the C.C.N.Y. campus of course neck of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and what about the first question from you Jim feral almost a crime just about everybody in our city but our high school students have gone through an ordeal with the subway strike who didn't win the battle of the subways I can't tell you who did when I can tell you who did lose I think the people of the city of New York taxpayers of subway straphangers And that's our beings lost in measurable What do you think the bottom is benevolent association or get out of it I think that the monuments Benevolent Association will eventually be recognized as a craft with and in the scope. Of an over no overall union bargaining agency What do you mean by that is that they will be able to bargain for their own particular rights for their own particular pay raises within the T.W. rabbit net whether it be to W. or any other union it would be within the scope of an overall union committee for example we have the root supply and in the United Auto Workers each craft is represented on the negotiating committee but after the final acceptance of the employer's offer or the union demands the majority of that overall negotiating committee is the final judge as to whether or not they accept the plan but I sample in this system and the transit system we'd have the motormen represented within the framework of a large committee the conductors the bus drivers now if the bus drivers outnumber the bottom moment they eventual it would have a large of vote in the overall vote as to whether or not to accept a plan or a settlement as to wages or hours and conditions but we still would have only one dominant union on the other side of the bargain type of course are you suggesting that another industry wide election to have a single representative for all the subway and transit workers but I don't know whether you consider the so-called election which has just been completed as a real election we find that only ten thousand out of thirty one thousand workers voted certainly I mean voted for the T.W. certainly it's not a clear cut majority on the other hand I think that all the craft unions can set up a panel or a committee to negotiate with the transit authority. One of the most prominent pioneers in this type of proposal that you're an elf suggesting sir is water Ruth or of the United Auto Workers he has an industrial system in which he permits the various craft within the system to vote and bargain at the table within this one overall industrial framework that is however in order to give them teeth in order to give them some power to. Whether or not vote to reject or accept on the final bargain he has recognised in them the right to strike as a separate unit then the overall industrial unit do you think this sort of a device should be integrated into our programme while you must remember that in the transit system there is no right to strike at this moment we have a law which is known as the Condon wildland Act which for beds a strike on the part of transit workers was very law itself to come under some sort of scrutiny as a result of the strike while I've never been in favor of the law at the same time so long as that law is on the box we must obey it actually Mr Klein. Was there someone remiss in not putting that law into effect and as much as it goes into effect automatically when someone leaves the job they're automatically fired aren't they were right at the time it was an act Yes but you can't be. Take the law and literally read it in the situation which involves the strike as it existed last week you must remember that eight million people were put into a terrible terrible situation you can't take human beings whether read the wrong or otherwise and put them in jail problem are jobs farm some of these modern men have been in that system for upwards of forty years certainly he is an American has a right to strike. Remember that this subway system even though it's owned by the city was at one time a private enterprise they did have the right to strike for thirty years suddenly the city took it over they formed this quasar. Public agency called the transit authority and then read into it the kind of modeling that if they had the right to strike under private management they should normally have that same privilege in connection with the subway system now I think that the officials of the city were roommates and allowing the situation to go on and on and on without bringing it to an immediate head might still for a number of points come up but let me just ask you this first do you think this will set a precedent for other groups perhaps to strike against the city governments such as Well I can't think of anybody when you and I had a plan to turn the firemen annotation. Those are lose groups which you mentioned which I mentioned riot police firemen sanitation are employees who have always worked directly in the city government. The transit system is not normally part of city government it normally was a private enterprise and it is still for all intents and purposes a private enterprise because the transit authority is a Natanya and Thomas party which has powers and unto themselves but they're striking even though at one time they had been it had been a private industry causes as much disservice to the people of the city as you would the firemen if they went on strike with a policeman so don't you think that now they come under the same category No they do not but I say that there should be another law put into effect which would put you prevent situations such as this in other words I say that New York City should act a little Railway Labor Act just as we have to lay a road system after all the transit system is nothing wrong than any other event a miniature railroad carrying more passengers than all the railroads in the United States put together just briefly what would you what would you put in this little room where in a real little railway act it would define the rights and privileges of the employees it would have a cooling off process what have a mediation panel outsiders those who are not now members of the authority for example in this last situation Mr Jealous of our great he was the commissioner he was the negotiator he's the man to hire and fire he had a matter of life and death of each and every employee he was judge he was jury he was prosecutor and then he was the appeals court was a little Railway Labor Act we are what happened now outside agency passing upon the merits of these various charges and countercharges. Record In other words we would have a buffer between that strike and a final decision of the authority this worked in the railroad industry and it certainly should work in New York City late but railways relationship rules coroner says Mr Klein you've been rather critical of the Transit Authority and from several different aspects do you feel that it would be a more effective and a more powerful organization and would you recommend that it's been made a more fully public rather than quite high public body I would recommend that the transit authority give up its present situation and that the system that given back to the people well that's namely the people of the city of New York and there are many reasons for that state the first of which is as follows but transit us our day to day has on the hands as the June thirtieth nine hundred fifty seven more than seventy five million dollars in the bank it has acknowledged in its own ideals statements that it had on hand a profits of close to twenty five million dollars since one nine hundred fifty three now if this system water within the framework of our city administration some of that property could be given back to the strapping up and the farm of many many types of the evidence the first and most foremost of which would be to allow all school children to ride to and from school without any charge once a while that is done in many communities of our country and I don't see why schoolchildren should have to pay for the privilege of driving to a high school or a public school. That responsibility lies within our Board of Education and if the system were owned by the city they could cut out all school fare at once well why is it more desirable than reducing the fares for the whole paying public by a small amount I think that could be done and we would spend all evening and I think that I could convince you that the fair can't you Alliance arm that I will be rid of Jim Farrelly by the same reasoning sir concerning this twenty five million dollars surplus twenty four is the transit riders promise up of They've announced this week that the subway strike it's cost them twenty million dollars two million dollars a year and right Jim was to run I'm running I well if in any event they said they were going to use this they were going to absorb a great deal of us out of this twenty four that they psychology only take two billion out of twenty Enron we still have twenty million I went further on to say that this would help in paying off whatever cost to develop suppose this said the city continues to suffer losses in the way of the transit should our other facilities in the city suffer for losses made by the transit authority or. Does it suffer now by losses made unfortunately the premise is wrong the transit authority from the very end section has made substantial profits it has hidden profits which I make if you ask me divulge what even though they are on their own record to acknowledge that French nineteen hundred and fifty three and as of June thirtieth fifty seven they have earned a profit all over and above operating expenses of approximately twenty five million dollars So the circuit was second pointed question was. Doing Lu is now in other words were we to get one of the transit authority to go into the red now there's a city on the right anyway this is a guy with a major you know it's a self sustaining autonomous body. You presuppose that they will go in the rents I do not presuppose it because I know with a definite the greats of knowledge that they cannot now or ever going to the red with the fifteenth that say it's my experience Mr heresy said you would divulge some of these hidden prophets if we ask you I'm asking you sir why we have some reservists. We find that in the fifteen years we had was a reserve set up by the city when the city operated that's for pensions those reserves never amounted to more than four or five million dollars per year it's the Transit Authority now has set up reserves which totaled approximately seventeen million dollars a year that is money it's taken from one accounts mail a deposit and another out legit and a reserve a liability a set ups now when I was a member of the transit authority the majority of that authority claims throughout the tenure of my office that the transit I Sally was not making substantial profits and that the day before they resigned in math or better still they were replaced they merely changed the bookkeeping system and overnight a nineteen million dollar profit was acknowledged by the times of the thoughts I was there when it happens the same thing exists today it's within the framework of the present tragedy starts with what's happening all this money is just lying Do I miss made a statement that they now have seventy five million dollars on hand it's still left it's just lying dormant it's well in human bank it's in Treasury bonds but it is not being used otherwise. Rice isn't there some regulation in the transit authority charter or learned corporation papers and one of that whatever they're organized under that something has to be done with this money public record has to be made of it all as a public record like issue a statement every year as to how much money that I have on hand but that's the extent of the public record I say that money should be used to give back to New York City straphangers who paid this money some dividends if they refused to decrease the overall fair let's at least allow our school children to ride without charge now they are not obligated to use this money for capital improvements are they not only still there whenever they need new subway cars that are not ready doesn't pay for them the city must pay for that but I learn a new page for all capital improvements such as new subway cars lighting systems etc This money is used and comes out of. They are really fund they have operating purposes and by the same token their money that the city spends for new cars has not all effect is on the law by the city if either city are gathering money by the taxpayer that's correct that's correct through corpsmen Mr Klein little earlier this evening you were somewhat critical of the city administration for not handling the strike with speed I believe you implied and not bringing matters to a head what specific things do you think could have been done by the administration in terms of the situation as it existed then which could have brought things to a head while happened like they could have done on Monday morning wrong Monday afternoon the day of the strike the same thing that they did a week later the marriage did not or a single right from Monday I believe until Thursday and they are solid days elapsed before them I have even made a public statement it wasn't until first day that the manner of his first public statement loans off along this Astra stayed on the subway ride or wasn't he relying on the transit authority for sure and that this strike was know that it was going to come off that it was just going to be a token thing a man would be back to work pretty fast movement what they advise the mayor is and well I don't know what play advised American but Mayor always a responsibili