Do you know how much of the cost savings afforded by jitneys are due to the lower pay their drivers receive? How much do they get paid relative to publicly employed drivers?
Excellent question. I don't know the exact answers. I have the impression that some drivers work as independent contractors: some own their own vans and work as part of a syndicate, others drive the vans and pay either a flat fee or a percentage to the van owner. In either of those cases, they don't have a fixed wage. They may not even earn minimum wage, which I believe is legal for legitimate independent contractors.
In any case, I imagine that the drivers wind up taking home significantly less than drivers paid by the MTA. I also doubt that they get any of the benefits negotiated by the TWU, which just about everyone would agree are quite generous.
I don't feel great about this. As I've said before, I'm a big leftie. My dad was in a union, my wife is in a union, and in general I think unions play a critical role in standing up for workers. I also think that everyone deserves a living wage, decent medical and pension benefits, and reasonable work hours and conditions.
That said, I do have other priorities, as shown at the top of the blog. If it comes down to it, I would have to say that reducing pollution and carnage, increasing efficiency, improving society and providing access for all are more important than labor issues. As long as the drivers aren't being enslaved or abused, I wouldn't insist that they have absolute parity with TWU drivers.
In response to previous posts on this issue, some commenters have argued that the TWU contracts go beyond reasonable. I have to admit that there are several things that bother me about the current contract. The idea that pension benefits are based on the last year's pay including overtime is just preposterous. I didn't appreciate the TWU taking a cost-of-living raise when the cost of living was not actually rising. The relatively young retirement age is also not appropriate.
I wouldn't have a problem with these things if the MTA were flush with cash, but it's clearly not. Why should the transit workers get raises while the MTA is cutting service? The TWU has fought for congestion pricing and bridge tolls, but they haven't put their full power behind that issue. Of course it's not just the TWU, but also the other public employee unions that have demanded more at a time when the government is earning less. Is the TWU really okay with getting hefty raises and benefits in the short term, while putting the government in a position where it won't be able to hire transit workers in the long term?
Essentially, the TWU's first priority is providing for all their members, and transit seems to be only an afterthought. My first priority is providing for myself and my family, but transit comes next. In my priorities the wages and conditions of transit workers are important, but they are a lower priority than the very existence of transit.