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Long Island Rail Road Workers Threatening to Strike

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TWC News: Long Island Rail Road Workers Threatening to Strike
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Long Island Rail Road workers are threatening to strike, which could mean headaches for some city commuters. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.

Long Island Rail Road workers have been without a contract for more than three years, and their leaders say they've had enough. On Wednesday, they told the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board that the clock is ticking toward a possible strike.

"We don't want to go there, but it's going to happen March 21 if they do not move forward," said Anthony Simon of the sheet metal, air, rail and transportation union.

LIRR workers are covered by federal law, not by the state Taylor law that levied big fines on city transit workers for their 2005 strike.

A federal panel recommended retroactive raises for the unionized LIRR workers going back to 2010 and a new contract with raises of 1.5 percent through next year. Workers would also have to chip in for the first time to pay for health benefits.

"It was 6 percent less than what we asked for in raises," Simon said. "It was health care contributions that we didn't ask for. And yet, we're willing to accept these recommendations."

But the MTA isn't, saying its shaky finances can't support the pay hikes for its unions.

"We cannot accept them, and we cannot accept them because of the financial impact they have," said MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast.

While the LIRR is largely a suburban railroad, it does have 25 stations in the city, with 21 in Queens, three in Brooklyn and Penn Station in Manhattan, which serve as transit lifelines for those who don't live near the subway.

It's been nearly two decades since the last LIRR strike, a walkout that ended after just two days. Riders NY1 spoke to who live in the city said that they're not looking forward to the possibility of the next strike.

"I wouldn't know what to do," said one student who commutes to Hofstra University from Bay Ridge. "I moved to Brooklyn because I knew I could get out to Long Island with the railroad, but if the trains were down, I wouldn't have any way to get to school."

At Jamaica, riders could at least turn to the subway, though they'd prefer not to.

"It's a lot to impose upon hard-working folks who need to get back and forth," said one commuter.

As for its next move, the MTA said it's still figuring it out.

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