JANUARY 4, 1960
BOSTON—New York City has just gone through one of its periodic transit crises, with a threatened strike averted by an agreement reached only at the last minute in the cold grey dawn of New Year's Day.
As in previous threats of a transit strike, there was the usual cliff-hanging drama staged by the opposing parties at the bargaining table. The Transit Authority could offer only so much, President Michael J. Quill of the Transport Workers Union held out for more, the Mayor intervened with stop-gap measures whereby the city would up the ante, and a compromise was finally reached that will provide an uneasy peace for another two years. Meanwhile, millions of New Yorkers were filled with anxiety, business concerns were uncertain whether employees could get to work on Monday, and vital services for the city's population were in danger of drastic disruption.
In a situation of this kind, of course, one comes up against the question of the public welfare versus private interests. There are strikes that can be conducted without really hurting the welfare of the general public. Unfortunately, the transport workers on buses and subways are engaged in an occupation which does vitally affect the daily life of the general public. I have long felt that all such occupations will have to have a code different from that ordinarily used, where it is simply a matter of collective bargaining between an industry and its employees and not a situation where the everyday life of the citizen is involved.
If no new automobiles are produced over a period of time, for instance, some people may regret it but their daily life can still go on. But to cut off the means of transportation by which people reach their daily employment, to cut off the flow of milk or food into a big city, to cut off power from a big city—all these things adversely affect the daily lives of masses of people not involved in the controversy. The workers employed in such industries should, on the one hand, have special protection and special consideration. But they should also have special obligations, because the welfare of the people as a whole dominates the welfare of any special group.
It was of interest, I think, to see that a woman, Mrs. Anna M. Rosenberg, headed the Mayor's mediation panel in this situation. Mrs. Rosenberg has earned for herself the respect of both labor and management. Busy as she is with her private business, she is always available to do a public job in the interests of the general welfare. We, as women, should be proud of her accomplishments and New York City generally should be proud of her as one of its distinguished citizens.