Blame Monopolistic Unionism For Port Authority’s Outrageous Fees

Just since 2008, the fee for a car to take a Port Authority-controlled bridge or a tunnel into New York City has soared from $8 to $15. Government union bosses who secured a tight grip over the Port Authority of New and New Jersey through a series of strikes in the 1970’s are largely responsible for the outrageous cost of commuting to and from the Big Apple. Image: UPI/Corbis

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. a joint venture between the Empire and Garden States, controls a substantial share of the transportation infrastructure in the New York City region, including bridges, tunnels, airports and seaports.

As Steven Malanga of the Manhattan Institute reports in a new article for the MI-published City Journal,  today  the Port Authority has a workforce of nearly 7800, of which roughly 70% is subject to union monopoly bargaining. The agency is an “easy and lucrative mark” for government union bosses because of the monopoly it holds over assets that vast numbers of people need to use as much as 10 times a week as they travel to and from their jobs.  (See the link below to read the whole article.)

Malanga points out that the Port Authority is “groaning under $20 billion in debt, struggling to make investments in local infrastructure, and levying steep fees on New York and New Jersey residents and businesses to keep itself afloat.”  The agency has “sharply boosted fees on bridges and tunnels, up for cars from $8 in 2008 to $15.”  In 2014, the Port Authority collected $242 million more in aviation fees than it had just five years earlier.

The primary reason the Port Authority is broke despite the enormous sums of money is squeezes out of Big Apple commuters and visitors is monopolistic unionism. Big Labor bosses have exploited their government-granted special privileges to make it effectively impossible to manage the agency’s workforce effectively and efficiently. Consequently, people who have to use its bridges, tunnels, airports and seaports end up paying onerous overtime and benefit costs in addition to the not-inconsiderable base salaries of Port Authority employees.

In 2014, according to Malanga, 100 Port Authority employees raked in so much money in overtime compensation that they effectively doubled their base salaries. That same year,

[T]he 870 Port Authority officers earning the top-tier base pay of $90,000 annually enjoyed an average of $153,784 in total cash compensation, with $46,192 per worker in overtime pay, nearly $5,500 per worker in longevity compensation, and $7,511 per worker in extra pay for working under unusual circumstances.

Even Big Labor politicians in New York and New Jersey recognize that government union bosses’ extortion of commuters and the businesses that employ them has done grave damage to the Big Apple’s job climate and stands to cause even more severe harm in the future. But stopping the shakedowns will require elimination, or at least a drastic rollback, of union monopoly bargaining at the Port Authority.

Given the enormous power union bosses wield over politicians in both major parties in New York and New Jersey, this won’t be easy. But the alternative for New York City is ever-accelerating economic decline.

Bloated, Broke, and Bullied – Steven Malanga, City Journal