- Pennsylvania Among 'Terrible 10' Most Regressive Tax States
- February 4 Non-Partisan Training: HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013: HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Republican Governors Opt-In to Medicaid Expansion
- The Reports of Unions' Death Are Greatly Exaggerated
- Ask Allyson Schwartz to run for Governor
- Mind the gap: Opting Out of Medicaid Expansion Leaves Low-income Families Behind
- Jan. 14 Workshop:HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013; HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Seth Williams on Guns, Jasmine Rivera on School Closures @PFC Meetup Wednesday
- PA Revenue Strong Midway Through Year; Tax Cut Could Have Big Impact
- What to Make of the Fiscal Cliff Deal?
SEPTA Strike: Why I support the TWU
My ancestors immigrated to the US for the assortment of typical reasons we all know about, including escaping the hostile climate towards Jews in Eastern Europe, and leaving Ireland in search of a better, more secure life.
It wasn't an uncommon story. My great-grandfather supported my Grandmom and her 11 siblings by driving a trolley for the Philadelphia Transportation Company- the precursor to SEPTA. He and his wife raised my grandmom and her brothers and sisters in a small Southwest Philadelphia row home.
My great-grandfather's oldest daughter married my grandfather at a young age. My grandfather played a little minor league baseball, and with a high school diploma in hand, went to work at the Aerospace program of General Electric (with a trip to the Army mixed in for good measure). Like many Americans in that time, he worked his ass off, never took a sick day in his life, and steadily moved up at GE, receiving promotions and increased responsibilities, letting him provide his 6 daughters, including my mom, with a 1960's style middle-class life, including a suburban home in South Jersey.
My mom put herself through college, and then grad school, becoming a Physician’s Assistant. She married another descendant of semi-recent immigrants (and another grandfather with an education and a home courtesy of an assist from Uncle Sam), and together they raised a comfortable, middle-class family in Germantown. My mom then took a stressful job at Penn because it provided great tuition benefits, which allowed her to send all three of her kids to wonderful, overpriced liberal arts schools. Two of the three of us have graduate degrees, with the third likely on his way. We live comfortable, privileged, middle class, lives.
From each generation to the next, parents worked to make the lives of their kids easier, and to give them more opportunities than they themselves had. And at each step, they were helped with an implicit and explicit social compact: that Americans could work hard, earn a decent living, and make the lives of their kids better. Signatories of that same compact included unions, big companies like GE, the American government, and quasi public employers like SEPTA’s predecessor, the PTC.
I go through this all thinking about the trolley drivers of today, who are out on strike across the city, because SEPTA will not properly fund their pension. (If you don’t think this is a big deal, ask city workers, who are now dealing with the fact that the city underfunded them for years, how employers underfunding pensions works out.) People I like, including some of my friends, as well as our less-rotund, but still bombastic Governor, seem to think it is incredible that the Transit Workers Union would make 'crazy' demands like SEPTA properly funding their pensions.
Me? Despite their poorly timed, late night decision to walk out, I support the TWU. The social compact that existed from the time of my great-grandfather, the working-class, trolley driving father of 12, all the way to my parents, is slipping away. With desperate poverty, crappy schools, and little to no manufacturing base, social mobility is less and less a realistic option for way too many families in America.
Every single job in Philadelphia that still pays decently, is secure, and doesn’t require a higher education, is an absolute blessing for our society, and is an avenue to empowerment for another family. Each one holds our society together. The higher we pay our janitors and security guards and nursing assistants and hotel workers and construction workers and SEPTA bus drivers and mechanics, the better off we all are. That is why I support the TWU.