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NYC Transit Strike Possible on Friday

Old 12-14-05, 11:46 AM
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NYC Transit Strike Possible on Friday

Here's one article on it, which sums up the three sides pretty well:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/14/ny...l?pagewanted=2

City Seeks Stiff Fines for Workers And Transit Union if They Strike

By STEVEN GREENHOUSE
Published: December 14, 2005

With three days to go before a threatened transit shutdown, the Bloomberg administration stepped into the middle of the fray yesterday, asking a judge to fine the transit workers' union $1 million and each striker $25,000 on the first day of a strike and to double the fines successively each day after that.

The city's request would mean that on the third day, the union would face a $4 million fine and each striker a $100,000 fine. Transit workers' average pay is $55,000 a year, including overtime.

The union has been negotiating with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, a state agency, whose initial wage offers have been forcefully rejected. The contract is set to expire at 12:01 a.m. Friday. By filing the suit, the city put itself squarely in the fight.

"A strike would pose enormous risks to the city and impose serious economic losses on all businesses and residents," said Michael A. Cardozo, the city's corporation counsel. "The city intends to hold the union and its members responsible for their conduct to the full extent provided by law."

The city's suit is identical to one it filed three years ago during similar transit negotiations - the judge never ruled on it - and the new lawsuit came on a day of fast-moving developments.

Earlier yesterday, a judge granted the state an injunction barring the 33,700 subway and bus workers from going on strike, which is prohibited by state law. Then, at 4 p.m., more than a thousand workers gathered outside Grand Central Terminal for a rally, one of several around the five boroughs.

The city's lawsuit was the target of withering criticism at the rally, suggesting a sharp intensification of tensions with City Hall.

"They're not going to force a lousy contract down our throats," Roger Toussaint, president of Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union, told the crowd. "We have told them from the beginning that this contract will be negotiated by bargaining in good faith and not by threats and not by intimidation."

To end his speech, Mr. Toussaint said, "If Mayor Bloomberg wants to know what we think about this lawsuit, I'll show you." With that, he tore the lawsuit into little pieces, to thunderous applause from the crowd.

Top union and transportation authority officials resumed negotiations at 8 p.m. yesterday. In the 75-minute session, the union presented ideas on improving the health plan for workers and retirees, and then the two sides broke for the night.

Late Monday night, the authority altered its wage proposal, which had called for a 3 percent raise in the first year of a two-year contract and 2 percent in the second year. The new offer includes a 3 percent raise in the first 15 months and a second 3 percent raise over the last 12 months of what would be a 27-month contract.

Under that proposal, the contract would expire in March rather than in the middle of the holiday season in December. To explain why the authority sought to change the expiration date, Tom Kelly, an authority spokesman, said, "You get it away from this frenzy of the holidays."

Negotiations for the current contract went down to the wire in 2002. The last time the union went out was in 1980.

The dominant development of the day was the city's lawsuit. Justice Theodore T. Jones of State Supreme Court in Brooklyn is scheduled to hear arguments today. Officials said they were seeking the fines to reimburse the city for economic damage that the city and its businesses would suffer during a strike.

Justice Jones also issued the preliminary injunction requested by the state barring a transit strike or slowdown. State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer filed the suit under a 1967 statute, the Taylor Law, which bars strikes by public employees, including transit workers.

Justice Jones did not spell out what fines he would impose if the union violated his injunction. The Taylor Law seeks to discourage and punish illegal strikes by calling for fining unions and fining workers two days' pay for every day on strike.

The city joined Mr. Spitzer's lawsuit, asserting that it would lose $440 million to $660 million a day in business activity each day in a strike. It also said that it would lose $8 million to $12 million a day in tax revenue and that police overtime would cost $10 million a day.

"If there were ever irreparable harm, this is it," Mr. Cardozo told Justice Jones.

By seeking huge fines, the city's lawsuit adopts the same strategy that Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani used to discourage a strike six years ago.

"What the city said today is, in effect, 'Hey, judge, that's great you granted the injunction, we hope it stops the strike, but we have these independent claims,' " Mr. Cardozo said. "We want the union and its members to understand the economic consequences in addition to the Taylor Law penalties."

The union and the authority have many issues to sort out, among them the union's demand for full pensions at age 50, down from the current 55, and the authority's demand for raising the retirement age to 62 for newly hired employees. The union has demanded improved health benefits for retirees, while the authority is demanding that new workers pay 2 percent of their wages toward health insurance. Transit workers pay no premiums now for health coverage.

At the rally, Mr. Toussaint said that what the authority was seeking to do with pensions and health coverage would make things worse for future generations of workers.

"This is the fight of every working person in New York," said Dennis Rivera, president of 1199, the health-care union.


Among the rally's speakers were the Rev. Jesse Jackson; the Rev. Al Sharpton; City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr.; Brian McLaughlin, president of the New York City Central Labor Council; and Randi Weingarten, president of the teachers' union.

Ms. Weingarten stepped up her call for Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein not to keep the schools open in the event of a transit shutdown.

"Since transit negotiations generally go down to the wire, most students, parents and educators would not know if there is a strike until they wake up Friday morning," she wrote to Mr. Klein. "To say there will be chaos on the first day of a transit strike is an understatement."

The chancellors' office said it still planned to keep schools open, with the starting hour delayed two hours, should there be a strike.

Keith Kalb, a spokesman for the Department of Education, said: "The right thing for our children and their families is to keep our schools open and to remain flexible. We trust the judgment of our parents to decide whether it is best to send their children to school. If we close the schools, we remove that option and make things harder on our families."

The authority specified plans to use Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road trains to help Bronx and Queen residents get into Manhattan. Metro-North will run dedicated shuttle trains between the Bronx and Manhattan.

Earlier yesterday, the authority's finance committee voted to approve the budget for 2006, which calls for spending $700 million of this year's $1 billion surplus on a combination of pension payments, holiday fare discounts and security and service improvements.

Ed Watt, the union's secretary-treasurer, who sits on the board as a nonvoting member, denounced the action as "a $1 billion spending spree" and called the vote "an insult to every single one of the more than 33,000 transit workers."

The authority's board is scheduled to give final approval to the budget this morning, capping a year in which the authority reaped an unexpected windfall.

Mr. Kelly, the spokesman, said the timing of the board meeting - less than 48 hours before the contract deadline - was decided weeks ago.
Leaving aside the city's Taylor Law grandstanding, which probably won't have an effect on any decision to strike, I grudgingly have to support the MTA on this. I'm generally a supporter of unions, but they're being completely unreasonable. Their members already have it much better than most blue-collar workers. I don't think asking them to pay 2% (up from nothing) towards their health care is unreasonable.

The biggest thing seems to be the pension- the MTA wants to raise the age of eligibility to 62 from 55, while the union wants it lowered to 50. This is only valid if you have 25 years in. I'm not a pension expert, but I would think that being able to collect half-pay at 50 would seriously jeopardize the entire pension scheme.
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Old 12-14-05, 11:47 AM
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why does Al Sharpton put his two cents in everything... man......
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Old 12-14-05, 11:50 AM
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My prediction, there won't be a strike. The union is on thin ice as it is. They'll work without a contract for a while and then bring up the strike talk again later.
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Old 12-14-05, 11:52 AM
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the sloths want an 8% annual raise each year for the next three years

if they strike i hope bloomberg pulls a reagan and fires them all
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Old 12-14-05, 11:53 AM
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Originally Posted by VinVega
My prediction, there won't be a strike. The union is on thin ice as it is. They'll work without a contract for a while and then bring up the strike talk again later.
That's what I'm thinking too. From what I've been reading, the union doesn't have a lot of support from its members anyway. They'll probably pull a 2002, stop the clock, and come out with a contract in a few hours.

They definitely wouldn't work without a contract, though.
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Old 12-14-05, 11:54 AM
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i just hope i don't have to drive in starting next week. I don't feel like paying $10 a day for parking.
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Old 12-14-05, 11:56 AM
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Originally Posted by al_bundy
the sloths want an 8% annual raise each year for the next three years

if they strike i hope bloomberg pulls a reagan and fires them all
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Old 12-14-05, 11:59 AM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
Do you think a 24% raise over three years is justifiable?
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Old 12-14-05, 12:02 PM
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From what I understand the MTA is semi-private. Can't they just give in to the pension demands like the airlines did and when it comes time to pay just declare BK to have it wiped away?
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Old 12-14-05, 12:14 PM
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Originally Posted by al_bundy
i just hope i don't have to drive in starting next week. I don't feel like paying $10 a day for parking.
That's pretty cheap for NYC, no?

I remember the Express bus strike a few years ago. Man the LIRR was packed with all those bus people having to ride the trains. I can't imagine a full MTA strike.
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Old 12-14-05, 12:17 PM
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They might as throw in requests for ivory back-scratchers too; I think they've asked for everything else.
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Old 12-14-05, 12:19 PM
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Originally Posted by VinVega
That's pretty cheap for NYC, no?

I remember the Express bus strike a few years ago. Man the LIRR was packed with all those bus people having to ride the trains. I can't imagine a full MTA strike.

this is for queens and its pretty good, although I've seen a few lots in manhattan charging around $11 a day. If there is a strike there is a mandatory car pool rule and no one will be let into manhattan if there is less than 4 people in the car
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Old 12-14-05, 12:42 PM
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I just found out that schools are starting to close on friday in preparation. Eek. Not good.
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Old 12-14-05, 12:46 PM
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Someday robots will replace these guys.
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Old 12-14-05, 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by digitalfreaknyc
I just found out that schools are starting to close on friday in preparation. Eek. Not good.
Doesn't necessarily mean anything. There were complaints made about the decision to leave the schools open on Friday because no one will know anything until they get up on Friday morning. Klein's just caving in to quiet them, I bet.

If there is a strike, I don't think I'll be coming to work Friday. I'll figure out some way to get to work on Monday and hope they get a contract by then.
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Old 12-14-05, 12:54 PM
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The MTA wants to have trains with only the operator. Currently there is also a cunductor in the middle of the train to open and close the doors. The union is fighting it. What happens is you always have people trying to keep the doors from closing and the conductor is there to watch for anyone being dragged by the train in case they get caught in the doors.
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Old 12-14-05, 12:59 PM
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Once on the Boston subway, the doors were only open for two freaking seconds for my stop and I didn't get a chance to get out.
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Old 12-14-05, 01:27 PM
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At least NYC transit system works. Communism has a better public transit than San Francsico.
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Old 12-14-05, 01:35 PM
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The MTA is RIDICULOUSLY fucked up. In this day and age, they want to have less people working in the subways, less people ON the subways, no people DRIVING the subways...and they want a raise.

Makes complete sense.

I can't imagine anyone making sense out of any of this.
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Old 12-14-05, 01:39 PM
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I see the MTA and the union combined really have won the hearts and minds of hardworking NY-ers.
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Old 12-14-05, 01:39 PM
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Originally Posted by digitalfreaknyc
The MTA is RIDICULOUSLY fucked up. In this day and age, they want to have less people working in the subways, less people ON the subways, no people DRIVING the subways...and they want a raise.

Makes complete sense.

I can't imagine anyone making sense out of any of this.
The MTA doesn't want the raise. The union does.
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Old 12-14-05, 01:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Myster X
At least NYC transit system works. Communism has a better public transit than San Francsico.

from what some family members tell me, the Moscow subway was very nice.
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Old 12-14-05, 01:49 PM
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fire them all...... i see a freaking threat of a strike almost every year in NY
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Old 12-14-05, 01:54 PM
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Originally Posted by al_bundy
from what some family members tell me, the Moscow subway was very nice.
NYC beats Rome any day of the week. They have filthy trains and there are no cops in the subways at all there. You really need to watch your belongings in the Roman Metro.
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Old 12-14-05, 01:56 PM
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My sister seemed to think that the train in Paris was the best. Said it was very fast.
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