Thursday, December 18, 2014

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LIRR Strike Would Have Been Much Different from City's Last Transit Strike

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If there had been a strike on the Long Island Rail Road, it's one that would have been very different from the last transit strike to affect the city. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.

LIRR workers could have shut down the country's busiest commuter railroad without having to face a penalty. But why?

When city bus and subway workers went on strike for two-and-a-half days in 2005, their union got slammed with $2.5 million in fines for violating a state law that bars walkouts by municipal workers.

"They're considered federal employees, where the people who work for New York City Transit are considered to be state workers who are covered under the state Taylor Law," said Richard Steier, editor of The Chief-Leader.

LIRR employees, on the other hand, are covered by the federal Railway Labor Act, meaning they could have legally walked off the job as soon as 12:01 am Sunday, something that labor leaders say gave the union a lot of leverage against the MTA.

"The thing is, workers don't want to strike. We're in the settlement business, just like everybody else," said Vincent Alvarez, president of the New York City Central Labor Council. "But in order to achieve that settlement, there needs to be balance at the bargaining table, and sometimes, having the ability to strike gives the balance that's necessary in order to achieve a successful completion to negotiations."

That came on Thursday, when Governor Andrew Cuomo brokered a peace in the long-running labor standoff between the MTA and the eight LIRR unions.

"This is a compromise by both parties," Cuomo said.

It's a deal that gives workers a 17 percent wage increase over six-and-a-half years. That's close to what a second federal mediation panel recommended months ago, but it also will have them chipping into their health care costs for the first time.

"The mediation panels gave them a big advantage by recommending that they get raises without the loss of benefits that were pretty close to what they actually settled for, that they had that on their side in terms of leverage in their dealings with the MTA and the governor," Steier said.

The labor peace, though, may be short-lived. The two sides could be back at the bargaining table in as soon as 18 months, once the new contract expires. ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP