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Possible LIRR Workers Strike Pushed Back to Summer

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A potential strike at the Long Island Railroad is on hold until at least July as workers continue to push for raises despite an MTA plan to freeze them for three years. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.

Relax, Long Island Rail Road riders. The trains will still be rolling next month.

"We will not strike on March 21, and we hope they come to their senses and we don't strike at all," said Anthony Simon, general chairman of the Sheet Metal Air Rail Transportation Union. "That's our message, and they should hear it loud and clear."

They are the Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials who in January rejected a Presidential Emergency Review Board's recommendation for a new contract for unionized LIRR workers. It would have given them raises dating back to 2010, provided they chip in on health benefits for the first time.

Management said no.

"This is unprecedented and reckless behavior, and if it's allowed to continue, it will result in a shutdown of vital transportation to the great city of New York," said Joel Parker, vice president of the Transportation Communications Union.

Despite the rhetoric, union leaders and MTA brass agreed to meet next week before the National Mediation Board in Washington. If there's no deal then, the MTA plans to request a second emergency review board, which means that the earliest strike date is July 20.

City residents who use the LIRR at its 21 stations in Queens, three in Brooklyn and Penn Station hope it will be just another summer day.

"They deserve a contract, but it's definitely going to inconvenience a lot of people going to and from work every day," said one rider.

It's been nearly two decades since the last strike at the railroad, one that one longtime Brooklyn rider remembers well.

"A boss, an employer, is not going to be very understanding if you tell 'em, 'Well, I can't get to work because there's no transportation,'" the rider said.

If there is a strike, the city's transit workers, who are barred from walking off the job under the state's Taylor Law, say that they want no part of working as replacements on the railroad.

"We absolutely will refuse to work on the Long Island Rail Road," said John Samuelsen, president of Transit Workers Union Local 100.

As for the MTA, it says it's preparing for how the city transit system would carry riders stranded by a strike.

"We plan for snowstorms in July. We plan for hurricanes when it's sunny outside. So we are planning for anything we could do for service in the event of an interruption," said MTA spokesperson Adam Lisberg.

For now, that's a threat that doesn't appear to be fading.

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