An Act of Civil Disobedience

by Ken Werner, Trinity Plaza Tenants Association (TPTA) on October 15, 2009

Unless you’ve been without media connection for the past year, or longer, then you have been reading about or listening to news stories of angry Americans who have been asked to give more to support those who are far from needing monetary gain. From Mona “The Hammer” Shaw of Bristow, Virginia who lashed out at Comcast for failing to provide the service they promised and failed to deliver to the people on the East Coast who protested outside AIG executives’ homes in Connecticut, Americans are rightfully angry at the failed trickle-down economic policies that the Bush Administration forced on the nation, bringing our country and, indeed, the world to near financial disaster. The new Democratic Administration has to deal with the failures of the past while hoping the nation will eventually recover.

Hard-working Americans believe union members obtain the most beneficial salary packages, that union membership enables its members to possess extra strength when negotiating for salaries and incentives. But even unions have been forced to commit to reductions in wages and/or other perks that constitute a salary package. My own union, SEIU 1021, gave up a pay raise and a cost of living increase (COLA) this year but added an extra “floating holiday” for its members; we also had to agree to another paycheck deduction: paying a small percentage for health coverage.

However, another “local” did not fare so well in its negotiations — the employees of the Department of Parking and Traffic. According to several employees I talked with, the union conceded 10 — yes 10 — holidays while adding 5 “floating holidays” to its package. What this means is that the DPT front-line workers work the holidays, but it’s at their regular hourly wage; no overtime, no double time. The 5 “floating holidays” are days off with regular pay. Meanwhile, DPT’s upper echelon still receive salaries starting at $100,000, with its head making over $300,000 a year. And let’s not forget the Mayor and his highly-paid staffers, those making over $100,000 a year.

A DPT worker is expected to write 150 to 200 tickets during the course of their work week with tickets ranging from $20 (talking on a cell phone while driving) to more than $300 (tow-away), money that goes into The City’s coffers; it’s cash that the Mayor hopes will help guide our city out of the Great Recession. Even on holidays, DPT employees are expected to whip out their pad of paper tickets (or their electronic pad) and write tickets to those transgressors of parking regulations.

During the struggle of the birth of our nation, the people of Boston protested British taxation without representation by dumping crates of tea into Boston Harbor. Enter today’s protesters, the employees of DPT who choose an act of civil disobedience to protest cuts in their salary package while upper echelon rake in six-figure salaries. Some are choosing to ignore those who violate parking regulations and instead of producing the daily quota of tickets will not write any tickets at all, or in the least submit considerably fewer tickets (one officer wrote only 60). The production of front-line workers affects the job security of those in higher positions: if quotas aren’t being met, then the prevalent thinking is that management is to blame.

While this probably means less money flowing into The City’s budget and, hence, possible future cuts to services, what’s more important is the act itself. It is a willful protest based on the principles that founded our nation, that when confronted with inequity, Americans will exercise their right to free speech, or in this case, their right to an act of civil disobedience.

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