Does the T Stand for Tone-Deaf?

1219691444We want to live in whatever world MBTA employees inhabit.

In our world, the headlines have been dominated by words like “crash” and “recession.” Banks are falling like dominoes. Instead of investing in stocks like Apple, wise investors are moving their money into fast-growing soup stocks.

But the MBTA drivers’ union doesn’t seem to register the upheaval. Instead of giving the agency the time it needs to scrounge up the money to pay back wages, employees are threatening to slow service until their checks clear.

Which begs the obvious question—how could the service get any slower?

[Boston Carmen’s Union Local 589 president Steve] MacDougall stopped short of saying workers would deliberately slow service down. . . But the effect could be the same if workers decided to take advantage of all rights they have under their contract and to follow often-overlooked regulations: by calling in sick en masse, refusing overtime shifts, obeying speed limits that require significant slowdowns in advance of subway platforms, and holding buses at every stop until all passengers are seated.

Maybe it’s due to our private-sector perspective, but it’s hard to feel bad when an employee that can retire at age 45 doesn’t get his or her back pay immediately, especially when the pay raise is already showing up in his or her paychecks. If the value of our retirement investments keeps falling, odds are good we’ll be blogging to make ends meet well into our dotage.

The union would do well to get in tune with the dire financial news. As the national crisis starts to affect local agencies, politicians will be more willing to take on practices their constituents see as wasteful. Gov. Deval Patrick has already taken on police details—if things get much worse, we’d wager he’d be willing to tangle with the MBTA if he gets enough phone calls from perpetually late commuters.